People are so reasonable these days, what with all their “research” and their “evidence” and their “facts”. Bring back the good old days, we say, when how we lived was governed by misinformation, shonky guesswork and an all-consuming fear of the supernatural.
Just kidding. It’s nice to live in time when, overall, the big and small choices we face in day-to-day life are influenced or determined by investigation, testing, and lessons learned from experience. But it wasn’t so long ago that superstitions we’d now dismiss as absurd were more universally informing people’s actions.
As Slate reports, a study conducted by the impressively named Fletcher Basslam Dressler at Berkeley in 1907 asked 875 students to write out a list of superstitions they’d heard, and then to rate how much they believed them. The findings showed that while many were not rated as believable, there was a strong enough following of others to make Fletcher conclude that superstition was alive and well.
Some of these notions would be familiar, even practiced by many of us today, like knocking on wood, or throwing salt over your shoulder, to prevent bad luck. But the more bizarre among them are sure to leave the level-headed, modern reader grateful to be living in what is, perhaps, a more sensible time. Examples include:
- if you kiss a baby’s feet, it will not live to walk on them
- if you drop a dish rag, someone dirtier than you is coming
- for every white horse you see, a red-headed girl will appear.
Though our favourites (perhaps because they're so clearly dated) are the ones about horses: