Kimmy Sophia Brown

Curses, Superstitions and Old Wives' Tales

Jul 6, 2003
People are empowered nowadays. We have self help books. Norman Vincent Peale, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and James Allen were the pioneers. Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, John Gray, Oprah Winfrey, Barbara DeAngelis, Gary Smalley, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Harville Hendrix, Thomas Moore, Shakti Gawain, Sarah Ban Breathnead and countless others have succeeded them, with advice on how to conquer every human malady from business to the bedroom.

The theory of positive thinking is so common that almost anyone you know may be reading books or listening to tapes by one of these authors. The consensus that "I am the sum of my thoughts," "I can do whatever I set my mind to do," "I have nothing to fear, but fear itself," is almost yesterday's news.

In the midst of all this positivity let's harken back to the days of the little village, centuries past. The local free thinker who grew herbs around her house to treat ailments often became the village scapegoat. Locals accused her of casting an evil eye on their sick cow, or fraternizing with the devil when she happened to know how to swim. There was no one for her to turn to in her defense. No American Civil Liberties Union, no Anti-Defamation League, no NAACP, no Judge Judy.

Nowadays if your village is narrow and heartless, you can move to a new village and update your resume. In the olden days, you were lucky to get out of town. Maybe they branded you with a letter A. Maybe you had to wear striped prison clothes and carry a prison pass for the rest of your life. Maybe you were tarred and feathered. Drawn and quartered. Burned at the stake. Hung from the neck until dead. It was hard to get into a witness protection program if things went that far.

People of long ago had superstitions. They carried a rabbit's foot, or a four leaf clover. They knocked on wood. (Some of us still do.) They had sayings. Some sayings were direct and to the point, like: "Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Nail the devil to a post." That one doesn't need explanation! How about the Christian expression, "God bless you" after a sneeze? It was originated in Italy by Pope Gregory. They were suffering a virulent plague that was accompanied by sneezing, and then death. It was an economic way to pray for the sick!

Other sayings took the place of facts. They made people feel better. Like the well known saying that states if your nose itches it means you will kiss a fool. Now everyone knows that a saying like that is antiquated silliness. Modern people know that if your nose itches, it means you put your nose in some itchy stuff.

People didn't have access to empowering wisdom in the olden days. People were hostage to the minuscule musings of the mob mentality. For example, if a person did something that piqued the ire of local citizens, such as having an original thought, then another villager would submit a suggestion to the mob such as, "Let's get 'em boys!" and the suspect would soon be laid to rest. This helped to eliminate the conflict in the village that resulted from intelligent conversation.

There were few books for people to turn to for self help. Most people couldn't read anyway. Barnes and Noble only carried a few titles then, such as: "How to Interrogate a Heretic", by the Catholic Arch Diocese of Spain; "The Flat Earth and other Facts" by the Enemies of Columbus; and "Finger Pointing, Rumor Mongering and Other Old Wives' Tales" by Some Old Wives.

It's a great relief to know that now all mankind believes in women's rights, racial equality, the preciousness of the earth, and of course, that we are all brothers and sisters under God, regardless of religion, creed or national origin.

We should really thank our lucky stars that human ignorance is a thing of the past. We all know now that being superstitious is completely irrational. And if you don't believe it, may your innards wither and fall out before night falls. Cross my heart and hope to die. And, God bless you, of course.

Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.