|Religion 21st Century|
Superstition describes the human tendency is to project feelings, desires, fantasies and dreams into the world. Humans have always invented stories to explain what occurs and why events happen. A variety of explanations involve invisible agents that animate the world. You could argue that all humans are superstitious; it is a matter of degree.
Numerous spirits have been invented for thousands of years that occupy a nebulous parallel universe that intersects with the human world in curious ways. The soul, for example, may be portrayed as a miniature person that lives within and can escape. Death was explained as the escape of the soul and healing methods included efforts to prevent the premature escape of the soul. Fraser, in his rich compendium of human beliefs, The Golden Bough , stated: ”As the savage commonly explains the process of inanimate nature by supposing that they are produced by living beings working in or behind phenomena, so he explains the phenomenon of life itself. If an animal lives and moves, it can only be, he thinks, because there is a little animal inside which moves it. If a man lives and moves, it can only be because he has a little man or animal inside which moves him.”
Magic consists of suggestions, tricks and healing rituals. A shaman is a trickster who can convince the local group that he has special powers. He can create magic tools and objects that transfer his powers to others, often with a price attached. Protective objects are amulets, necklaces, bracelets, lotions and potions. Totems and other blessed statues protect houses, crops and property. Social magic can protect an entire village or influence natural events such as rain. Fertility is a major concern among humans who have always used magic, rituals and sacrifices hoping to ensure healthy offspring and abundant food crops. Hunting groups addressed animal spirits to avoid being punished for killing.
Evil shamans can do harm, by making real poisons or offering harmless potions that carry the suggestion of harm. Divination and prophesy are extensions of the tricksters art. Witches are women with malevolent, magical power. Some witches fly at night and attack sleeping victims, stealing their life force (soul). The victim becomes ill and dies. Other witches make doll surrogates of intended victims and enact on the doll the harm intended for the human victim. For every evil there is someone who offers an antidote. Witch-doctors discover witches, by ordeals, torture and poisons, and try to liberate the captive souls of their victims.
You could argue that superstitious explanations are early attempts to explain what happens and that gradually, more rational, demonstrable explanations have emerged as science. Scientists often despair when they encounter people who are not educated in current science and rely on explanations that were already obsolete 3000 years ago.
The sad realization is that old superstitious beliefs and practices continue to be expressed, often with new names and cleaver disguises. Real magicians are skilled and honest people who entertain with tricks. Fake magicians use tricks but claim real supernatural powers; gullible believers follow them and pay good money for phony goods. You have to consider that superstitions are based on a deep flaw in the human mind.