Maybe you’re the type of person who knocks on wood to stop yourself from jinxing. Or you keep an amethyst crystal on your nightstand in hopes of absorbing anxiety to help you nod off. In one way or another, these behaviors are linked to capturing positive energy.
"Superstitions give one a sense of control in a complex, apparently impersonal, and largely unpredictable world," says Phillips Stevens, Ph.D., professor of Anthropology Emeritus, State University of New York at Buffalo and author of forthcoming book Rethinking the Anthropology of Magic and Witchcraft (Routledge). The idea that an action or an object can prevent something bad from happening is a type of magical thinking. When it comes to the home, certain cultural do's and don'ts are tied to the idea of universal order—balance and harmony, the yin and the yang. The inside of a home should be peaceful and comfortable, to counteract the potentially risky and unpredictable outside world. As a result, each culture has created rituals, ways that capture the transition and transformation from outside to inside.
Take the ubiquitous superstition: opening an umbrella inside. Everyone knows it’s bad luck, right? But why? Stevens explains that, since an umbrella is an object related to bad weather, bringing it inside is akin to inviting the storm in. Better leave it in the foyer, closed, until it's needed.
In addition to magic superstitions, there are also sign superstitions that believers interpret as messages from the universe, such as seeing a black cat cross one’s path. "Some prefer the term 'folk beliefs', as superstitions can be a pejorative term," says Tok Thompson, PhD, professor of anthropology and communications at University of Southern California in Los Angeles and author of Posthuman Folklore. "Some superstitions are later proven by science to be true, and then are no longer superstitions but scientific belief. Likewise, science can change its mind, and what is scientific belief at one point can become superstitious belief later. In general, superstitions are beliefs about the world, and about what causes what, that are not approved by science."
One of the reasons people still believe in superstitions today is habit and routine. Think of it this way, if you always get up on the same side of the bed and get coffee but one day you crawl out on the opposite side and skip your coffee, your day might feel a bit off. Or if your favorite team wins the playoffs when you're wearing a particular t-shirt, you might feel inclined to wear it again the next time they play. "Persistent behaviors give you a sense of control and that’s terrifically important when processing the world at large," Stevens continues. That's why if you do something out of turn and the day isn’t great, it can be attributed to the anomaly, especially one that is dubbed a taboo. "Superstitions are a part of folklore, and have been around for a long, long time. Way longer than writing," Thompson continues. "But they change, die out, and new ones emerge."
The bottom line in our view: Better safe than sorry! To keep your household running smoothly, read on for 11 things to try so that your house is full of good juju.
Make the most of mirrors
Keep hats off the bed
Bring in some horns
Give Ghosts something to read
Arrange flowers in odd numbers
Never put shoes on a table
Powerfully position your bed
Save the spiders
Don't dine in the dark
Clean the commode