Very Superstitious...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Superstitions and omens have a important role in Southern Conjure and Folk Magic.  Rather many spiritual beliefs and practices stem from what most consider superstitious.  After coming across several such superstitions in my studies, I decided that it would be a good idea for us to discuss them here.  The purpose of this particular blog is to look at what a superstition is.  Then, every two weeks or so, I will present a particular superstition or set of superstitions for us to discuss.

So what is a superstition?  According to Wikipedia:

Superstition is a credulous belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge. The word is often used pejoratively to refer to folk beliefs deemed irrational. This leads to some superstitions being called "old wives' tales". It is also commonly applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy and spiritual beings, particularly the belief that future events can be foretold by specific unrelated prior events.

Well, according to that, we are all pretty superstitious, in one way or another, no?  And that's one problem inherent with superstitions, what constitutes a superstition in one culture, religion, or path is accepted belief and practice in another.  Many atheists or agnostics would consider any religious belief to be supersitions.
Yet, on the other hand, many Abrahamic religions, such as Islam and Christianity, try to sperate, within their own religions, accepted doctrine from the belief in superstition, as they define it.  They declare superstition a sinful practice.  They do this, in my opinion,  for two reasons. First, Abrahamic religions fear that the open belief in such "old wives tales" will only further hurt the credibility of their religionr. Secondly, they connect the belief in such superstitions, which they deem irrational and religiously unfounded, to a belief in magic. They believe that participating in superstitions, such as knocking on wood or throwing a pinch of salt over your shoulder, shows a lack of faith in one's god.  In the Catechism (para. #2111), Catholicism attempts to address this issue stating:

Superstition is a deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand is to fall into superstition. Cf. Matthew 23:16–22

According to The Modern Religion:

The Arabs were as superstitious as anyone before Islam. They would not undertake a journey or do anything important without first "determining" that it would be safe to do so -- by looking at birds and beasts. If a bird flew from right to left in front of them, that was a bad omen: flight in the other direction was a good omen. During travel, if a deer crossed going from right to left, the trip was cancelled. When they reached a destination, they would seek protection of jinn by supplicating to them. Yet, such deeply held beliefs and practices were uprooted completely by Islam in a very short period.
Now, I am not intending to say that all Abrahamic practitioners share this adversion to superstition and omens.  As a vast number of rootworkers and folk magic pracitioners are Christian, this would be a silly assertion.  Such statements, instead, apply only to mainstream doctrine within those religions.

So why is conjure so different?  Why do rootworkers not only embrace a number of superstitions, but also look for them?  To this I can really only speculate. 

First, it is possibly the lack of a centralized deity, who is responsible for all the comings and goings of our lives and to whom we must give unconditional alligance and faith.  For some religions, Abrahamic in particular, the absence of faith comes with a cost, a punishment.  Conjure is free of a universal obligation to a supreme deity.  Individuals may choose one or another, but there is no dogma to that end within conjure.  A rootworker can believe as they choose without the fear of eternal damnation.

Secondly, it is the nature of conjure to believe in spirits.  These spirtis may be ancestors or not; benevolent or manevolent; human, animal, or other.  Because conjurers believe that spirits actively move among us, tansversing worlds, from ours to the otherworld, it is easy to believe that these spirits would have knowledge that we do not, knowledge of the future, the unseen present, ect.  Sometimes these spirits give us messages, in the form of omens or superstitions.  Abrahamic religions have a tendency to mark all spirits as demonic, and therefore any messages or help would be of the devil and sinful. 

Finally, personal empowerment plays a large role in conjure.  Each individual has their own unique mojo, or power.  We have the power not only to read the signs, but to influence the outcome.  This belief encourages us to look for those signs; to pay attention to the subtle world around us; to look for consistencies, anomalies, and confirmations; to communicate with both our world and others.

Now, enough speculation. :)  I'd like to wrap this post up by telling you why *I* believe in many superstitions and omens. Some of my reasons are the same as above, some a different.

1.  I believe that spirits, regardles of their nature, transverse the worlds and *are* privy to knowledge we are not.  I believe at times they attempt to convey this knowledge to us, often through what might seem unrelated circumstances or mere coincidence.

2.  I believe that all things are connected, whether that be by universal energy, a common psyche, or mojo.  I believe we have the ability to see glimpses of the other worlds and also the ability to influence ours.  I believe we are more powerful than we imagine.  And because we are connected, the world *talks* to us.  We just need to "have our listening ears on," as my four-year-old says. 

3.  I believe that there are universals in the human psyche, regardless of location, culture, or circumstances.  It accounts for the commonalities we find in myth and legend.  It also accounts for commonalities we find in superstitions.  For instance, the owl is assocaited with death and the otherworld in numerous cultures across the world.  To hear it's screech (not hoot) is a portend of death or severe illness.  I believe that it is through these commonalities, hidden within our higher selves that we find the codes to understanding not only our world but those beyond. 

4.  I believe that a lot of conjure is attitude and instinct.  I believe that believing is important, if that makes sense.  If you have enough faith in something you can make it work for you.  For instance, if I believe that a cat walking towards me will bring me good luck that day, that belief or attitude, if strong enough, can influence my day for the possitive, the same as me believing that nailing railway spikes into the ground at my house's corners will protect me.  If I don't believe, it means nothing.  Does this mean that I think we should, or that I do, believe in everything??  No, of course not.  It simply means that I view some superstitions simply as additional tools for my conjure arsenal.  If they make sense to me, or I can relate to them, I will utilize them in my practice to reinforce my faith in the work. 

So please share in the comments section below.  Do you believe in superstitions and omens?  Why or why not?  Any particular superstitions that you put great stock in?  I'd love to here your opinions and experiences.


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