How to Understand the Superstitions of Different Cultures

Understanding superstitions requires an appreciation of a culture's ancient traditions.


  • Step 1: Realize that one culture's organized religious beliefs may be viewed as superstitions in another culture if they go against scientific and rational knowledge. Now you can look for superstitions close to home.
  • FACT: 19th-century romantic nationalism -- which focused interest on the culture, religion, and customs of a country -- inspired the collection of folktales of the Brothers Grimm.
  • TIP: The number 4 is considered inauspicious in Japan and China because the number sounds like the word for death in Japanese and Mandarin.
  • Step 2: Recognize that superstitions often deal with food, names, animals, child rearing, marriage, and specific number associations or constellations.
  • TIP: Often superstitions are passed down from generation to generation.
  • Step 3: Understand that most superstitions result from speculation in the absence of complete information about a topic. In ancient times, much of the speculation was done by shamans, fortune-tellers, and other tribal or kinship leaders.
  • Step 4: Know that superstitions are common irrational beliefs peculiar to specific cultures. They may be of ancient origin, but may still be adhered to.

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