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9 Popular Superstitions For Our (Ir)Rational Minds: Do You Believe?

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By Ashutosh Kumar:

Superstitions can be defined as the irrational belief in the existence of unseen forces controlling people’s fates or the outcomes of events, with negative effect, unless particular actions are taken to prevent the ill effects or to produce the desired Good effects which may involve a person’s behaviour and actions or places etc. Not only the illiterate, but also many educated, intelligent people still believe in a variety of superstitions in the world. But it’s not easy to dismiss something that has been practiced for several centuries. These beliefs have been transmitted from generation to generation. Some of the most common superstitions of the 21st century are:

1. Black cat crossing the path — When a black cat crosses a path, people don’t want to continue on that path because they think that something bad will happen to them. Black cats are a sign of bad luck. This belief also has Christian origins as the Egyptian goddess Bast’s symbol was a black female cat so Christian priests, who wanted to wipe out her influence once and for all, claimed that a black cat cuts you off from God and blocks the entrance to heaven. Also during the witch hunt, black cats were believed to be personifications of more experienced witches.

2. Why is Friday the 13th a day of misfortune? Jesus was crucified on a Friday and he was surrounded by 12 disciples, one of them out to betray him. Noah’s flood supposedly started on a Friday; Adam and Eve were apparently expelled on one such day. Also, it is said that whenever 12 witches get together, their 13th member is the devil himself.

3. Knocking wood three times– You must knock on wood 3 times after mentioning that good fortune or the evil spirits will ruin things for you. The American version is “knock on wood”, while the British version is merely “touch wood”. The tradition traces back to an ancient pagan belief that spirits resided in trees, particularly Oaks, and that by knocking on or touching the wood, you were paying a small tribute to them by remembering or acknowledging them, and could call on them for protection against ill-fortune. Also, you were thanking them for their continued blessings and good luck.

4. Sneezing once when you make a statement indicates that what you said is true– This tradition is not new at all, but if anyone finds it true in 21st century then the era is definitely full of irrationality.

5. Open an umbrella indoors and bad luck will “rain” on you: Some people believe that if there is a sick person indoors, opening an umbrella indoors will make them sicker. Strangely, it is not considered to bring an already open umbrella which has been left so to dry. The most common reason stems from the days when umbrellas were used mainly as protection against the sun. To open one indoors would be to insult the sun god and invite his anger on everyone in your household.

6. Walking under a ladder – Walking under a ladder has long been regarded a bad luck. Some believe that in the medieval times, a leaning ladder was thought to resemble gallows, so if you walked under a ladder you were guaranteeing your own death by hanging. Another, more likely reason is that the shape formed by a leaning ladder is a triangle, and the triangle is the symbol of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, by walking through the triangle, you are violating and desecrating God.

7. If you spill some salt, you must take a pinch of the spilled salt and throw it over your left shoulder. Historically, salt has been highly valued and considered to be a purifying substance, capable of driving away evil. The Romans paid their soldiers in salt —hence the word “salary”. It has long been useful as a preservative, in medicine, and is also used in magic, ritual, and thus also in superstition- to purify, bless things, and drive away evil.

8. Crossing your finger– Crossing two fingers (the middle and pointing fingers) on one hand as a sign of hopefulness or desire for a particular outcome. By making the sign of the Christian faith with our fingers, evil spirits would be prevented from destroying our chances of good fortune.

9. And finally, breaking a mirror brings you bad luck. Before the invention of mirrors, humans gazed into their own reflection in ponds, lakes, and clear surfaces. If the image they see is distorted, they believed that it is a sign of impending disaster. When the unbreakable metal mirrors were invented in the Greeks and Egyptians, it was valued and was believed to be magical. When the glass mirrors were invented, the Romans began to believe that breaking it will cause impending bad luck to reverse the bad luck, you are supposed to bury the pieces, sometimes by moonlight.

The world moves and civilization progresses, but in this modern era old superstitions remain the same. “As human nature does not change, and the superstition is a part of human nature.”

Image courtesy: http://fromkoreawithlove.org/2010/12/07/superstitions-in-korea/

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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