Students and Superstitions


What are Superstitions?

A Superstition is an irrational belief arising from ignorance. Superstitions are based on a belief that future events are influenced by specific behaviours, without having a causal relationship. Many superstitions deal with important events in a person’s life such as birth, entering adulthood, marriage, pregnancy and death. Most of superstitions involve ensuring good luck, avoiding bad luck or making good things happen.

Some superstitions are blatantly obvious to us while some are subtler, more deeply ingrained in our everyday way of life. There are so many of your daily activities which are affected by inherited superstitions. There are endless number of superstitions. Some are good, some are bad and some are nothing but neutral. Some of these superstitions have originated from our cities or towns, while others have their origins in a foreign land and have been adopted without any rhyme or reason. Either way, one thing is for certain, superstitions do have quite a significant power over us. One doesn't need to believe in magic or negative karma in order to fall prey to superstitions. If normal people believe in superstition then how can students escape such irrational and illogic beliefs. Even though the students live in an age of advanced technology and science and have an endless supply of scientific information at our fingertips, they still believe in some or the other superstitions as a way of explaining and dealing with the unknown. Many students think that some superstitions are unscientific.On the other hand, millions of students still believe in astrology and base important decisions on the position of the sun, moon, planets and stars. Even the one's who don't believe tend to get caught up in the complex web of superstitions, one way or the another.

It is a common belief that Westerner think of asians as being very superstitious, but that is far from the truth as there is a long list of beliefs which the developed western world still believes in. The advancement of knowledge and intellectual integrity is promoted by all educational institutes and yet many college students routinely put themselves in the hands of Fate. According to a study the, odds an undergraduate will wear lucky clothing as part of a behavioural ritual or superstition are 1 in 3.26 and the odds that they will strive to avoid “jinxes” are almost double, i.e 1 in 1.66 (60%). Superstitious beliefs and behaviour are common among different groups of high school and university. According to another study it was found that superstitiousness was more prevalent amongst females and arts students than males and science students. According to a 1910 study from the American Journal of Insanity, “There is infinite rest in believing in something,” writes the author of the study, “even if that something will at some future day prove insufficient.” The study is full of seemingly quaint superstitions. One student said that toothpicks made from a tree struck by lightning will ward off dental problems. Another said that “If you will carry a potato in your pocket, it will cure rheumatism.” Though these ailment-focused beliefs are different from today’s pre-exam rituals, they illustrate the longevity of superstitious practices.

Some popular superstitions among students

  • The most common and the most ancient superstition is black cat. It is considered a bad luck if black cat crosses your path. According to the superstition if a black cat crosses your path, it creates a barrier of evil and cuts you off from God and Heaven. Black cat is considered as a shape-shifter which is capable of transforming into a witch or some sort of demon.
  • Totally opposite to the black cat is the black dog. If a black dog crosses your path it is good luck.
  • Crossing your fingers before the start of the exam or before the declaration of the result is the most common superstition during exams.
  • In North America, the number 13 is avoided at all costs. North Americans have done their best to eliminate the number 13 to the extent that skipping a non-existent 13th floor in a building no longer stirs up much thought or questions.
  • The Scandinavians believed that the number 13 was ‘evil' due to their 12 Demigods being joined by a 13th evil one. In the Bible, Christ was said to have been crucified on a Friday and the number of guests at the Last Supper were 13. In fact, did you know that the  of ‘Friday the 13th' is diagnosed as a phobia called Paraskevidekatriaphobics
  • Eating curd before going out for new work or exam brings good luck
  • If someone sneezes right before you are about to start or do something is considered a bad omen
  • If your eye lid pulsates, it can be a sign of upcoming good or bad luck depending on whether it is your left or right eye
  • If you wear the clothes that your sister has purchased for herself during exam days it will bring good fate
  • Not shaving during exams is considered another charm.
  • If the first paper goes well one shouldn't change anything about his or her looks
  • There are also certain exam clothes. Wearing same pair of jeans in all exams or the same sweater helps in getting good results.
  • Using same pen in all exams is another popular belief. According to this belief if you use some one else's pen or some different pen then your paper will not go well.
  • Then there are exam pens. Some are the big, fluffy pink variety or the one that has been blessed by the priest.
  • Some students arrive early to an exam to sit in certain places in the hall where they feel lucky.
  • Others sleep with the textbook under their pillow, hoping to absorb information while sleeping.
  • Some believe that a coin in the left sock, touching the sole of the foot, will help reduce tension before an exam.
  • Red is a favourite colour for the superstitious.
  • In the University of Texas at Arlington rubbing bust of Dr. Hereford’s head gives good luck on exams. Dr. E.H. Hereford was one of the heads of the university from 1946-58.  His sculpted likeness still watches over students from its perch in the University Centre. The university website had featured him on their home page to distribute 'Good Luck during Exams'.
  • In Asia, the number 4 strikes up fear and nervous anxiety.
  • According to certain Korean superstitions in relation to exams: if you eat Mi-Yuk soup on exam day, you will drop the exam, if you dream of pig in the night before exam day, it will be lucky for you but if you dream of dog in the night before exam day, it would be unlucky, if you shake your leg, fortune will go away and if you drop a pen, you will spoil your test.
  • And, If you don't wash your hair, you will listen a pleasing result.
  • Even in technologically advanced nation like Japan, students are prey to superstitions. According to their belief 'KitKats' sound like 'Kitto-Kattsu' which means “Definitely Wins” or in classroom lingo, “I will pass my exams’. 
  • Entering the college from the same entrance, establishes a good flow of good luck. Entering from any other entrance will bring bad luck.
  • While filling personal particulars like roll no. etc., if you make a mistake your paper will go well.
  • The horseshoe and the four-leaf clover are also lucky charms for the superstitious

Causes of superstitions among students

Fear of examinations - With the semesters exams in full swing, students are not just indulging in last-minute cramming and borrowing notes, they’re also turning to rituals and superstitions to help them pass the exams with flying colours. Student superstitions have always been motivated by the same thing: fear of the unknown. According to various researches made over the years, it has been established that superstition is tied to anxiety. And it tends to be readily communicated by the young mind. Examination season brings about out a host of strange behaviours amongst them. Students would start to avoid any cracks in the gym floor, cutting hair short to let the knowledge flow freely,  growing hair long to keep the knowledge in while others focused on eating certain food during exams for success.

Lucky Experiences - Most of the superstitions are based on indulging in a certain pattern of behaviour which are a result of experiencing success while indulging in them on earlier occasions. Like certain student who was not good at mathematics, happened to wear black clothes on the D-day and he happened to have a good go at the exam. Or some student who as a kid remembers eating orange ice-cream bringing good result just before his test which became a norm for him in due course of time. It can also be a person with whom if you stick along until entering the exam room will result in an easy paper are some of the examples.

Obsessive compulsive disorder - It is a type of mental disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce anxiety, by repetitive behaviours aimed at reducing anxiety, or by combinations of such thoughts (obsessions) and behaviours (compulsions). These behaviours have also been found a remedy to beat exam blues by the students.

Foreign or outstation students - Many students who are immigrants to English speaking countries from all corners of the globe tend to find a support in the a foreign land. More often than not they tend to end believing in local superstitions. These divergent backgrounds also provide fertile ground for stimulating discussions of superstition and belief.

Study of tradition and culture - Our traditions and cultures are full of stories like tooth fairy, vampires, werewolf's etc. that they create a long lasting impact on minds which have been exposed to such beliefs since childhood. Certain stories are just made up by parents in order to make their children obedient towards them.

Role of  T.V. - Certain T.V. programmes are totally focussed on witches, vampires, werewolf's, demons etc. These confuse the students as to what is the exact reality. Real life like effects used in these affirms the young minds belief in these things. News channels also play a big role in making a mound out of a mole hill. Repetitive and the mere fact that those dealing in information are themselves promoting superstitions in te name of TRP, makes one believe in them even more.

Superstition based movies - There is no dearth of movies which are based on number 13 or any other number or any other superstition. These also assert the fake reality of supernatural powers based on certain false beliefs.

Novels and literature - Similar is the case of tons of literature and books which form the basis of existence of superstitions in our society. While the publishers and authors are making money they are also making a certain section of society believe in their fiction

Human tendency - It is a human tendency to fear the unknown and form opinions which shape up to become non existent realities.

Personal anecdotes -  People from the earlier times were uneducated and created their own lucky charms and tales of horror and bad luck merely out of the lack of education and improper understanding of things around the. Our grandparent's beliefs have been passed onto the next generation and most of us not only remember them but also believe in them.

Effects of superstition on student Life

Loss of concentration - Indulging in activities of superstition can have negative impact on the study of a student. A mind which waivers towards beliefs and curriculum lacks concentration. One may not be able to give his full output or may fail in his or her exams.

Lack of interest in studies - The knowledge of unknown becomes a matter of excitement for kids. They might start finding the discovery of something different more interesting as compared to the repetitive school curriculum. This can lead to lack or total loss of interest in studies

Mental disorders - When a person's personal experience in superstition leads to a strong belief, it becomes a tough task to make him or her realise the reality from truth. The foundation of a personal experience is more closer to one's intellect than other's fact based realities. It can result in paranoia and other mental conditions which may inhabit unnatural behaviour and unknown fears

Hampering the development of an individuals personality - Change of focus amongst the students hampers the development of one's personality. Instead of acquiring virtues necessary for an individual to live in a society, the individual is seeking in seemingly beneficial tasks.

One's belief strengthens another's - Just like a communicable disease superstition can manifest itself through the word of mouth. For a teenager who has a slight inclination towards such beliefs, a casual conversation with a superstitious can spread and strengthens his or her's own personal beliefs in such matters.

Proposed Remedies

Thinking positive - One should think positive and try to develop positive attitude towards challenges and arduous tasks. This can be achieved through reading, listening and watching positive material in form of books, biographies, audio-video means etc.in order to get rid of the ‘failure’ syndrome.

Parental guidance - Parents play an important part in removing all the fears and beliefs in superstitions through personal guidance and real life examples.

Teachers guidance - Teachers should encourage healthy discussions in the classroom to get a clear picture of what's the truth and what's a lie. This can dispel student's beliefs in superstitions.

Campaigns and other events - Government and other non-governmental organisations can enlighten the clouded minds with various events and campaigns which can be effective tools in eliminating myths.

Role of media - Various means of media can contribute to a large extent in bringing a change in attitude towards these beliefs. The media should act more responsibility towards the young generation rather than worrying about their TRP's.

Consulting specialists - Researchers and intellectuals can also play a vital role in making superstition actually a superstition through debates and presentation of actual facts.

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  Page Views: 14671 | Updated On: 13-Mar-2012