Superstitions, Old Wives Tales, and the Christian Life

Superstitions and old wives tales can be found in different cultures around the world. Chances are, you may know one or a few people who allow these irrational beliefs guide their lives and everyday actions.

Growing up in a Slavic community, I’ve learned my share of Russian superstitions and old wives tales.

  • If a black cat crosses your path, expect bad luck. (This one is not specific to Slavics but a well-known one in the Slavic community).
  • If someone sneezes while talking to you, it means he or she is saying the truth.
  • If you have the hiccups, someone is thinking of you.
  • If you keep dropping something unintentionally, unexpected guests are coming.

Then there are the health superstitions:

  • A girl should not be sitting on a cold surface because she will have problems with kidneys, or her ovaries will be frozen, or something along those lines.
  • Do not be sitting in the way of a draft (or skvoznyak) or you will get sick.
  • Under no circumstances get your feet wet and cold while outside or you will get sick.

And there are just plain weird superstitions or old wives tales, some of which I’ve heard in the recent years throughout my three pregnancies:

  • Apparently a pregnant woman should not visit the zoo because her baby will be born looking like the animals she looks at.
  • If a pregnant momma wants her baby to have curly hair, she should hang pictures of curly haired children all over her house and keep looking at them. Same goes if she wants a straight-haired kid.
  • Under no circumstances should a pregnant woman put her hands over her face while being shocked or surprised or her baby will have an unattractive birthmark on his/her face.

This list can go on and on.

“The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses.” (Francis Bacon)

Americans have their own bag of superstitions such as fearing Friday the 13th, walking under a ladder, or celebrating Groundhog Day.

Superstitions can appear harmless and just plain fun. How many of us take part in those chain-link emails or Facebook shares that promise something good if you forward an email or share a picture?

And what about Christian superstitions? Do you avoid anything that has to do with the number 666? Are you a bride that believes seeing a groom before wedding will bring bad luck?

Before having a personal encounter with Jesus and giving my life to Him, I used to take small superstitious precautions. You know, just to be safe in case some of these superstitions or old wives tales do turn out to be true.

However, after surrendering my life fully to God, I could no longer hold on to these pseudo beliefs. And after getting a nursing degree, I had a problem with all of the health-related old wives tales that just didn’t make any sense.

Moreover, as a believer, I could never understand how could the old wives tales and superstitions hold any place at all in a believer’s life.

I was perplexed, trying to comprehend how a Christian woman who believes in the sovereignty of a mighty God, could fear something that would allegedly be caused by looking at gorillas at the zoo or by covering one’s face while carrying a baby.

And so I argued with women who believe such tales and superstitions. However, these debates would often turn into “I know such and such person who had this exact thing happen to them when they did or didn’t do this” or “you think you are so smart.”

“Superstition is the religion of feeble minds.” (Edmund Burke)

I had to remind myself to be loving and respectful, especially while debating this issue with older women. I also found that I can’t really give my honest opinion to women without hurting their feelings. Or can I?

Not sure.

Hence I gave up fighting against those who staunchly defend their superstitions and the trusted old wives tales.

Recently I decided to take a look at this issue from a Biblical point of view.

What does the Bible say about superstitions and old wives tales? Does it even say anything in regards to this issue?

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV).

We should place our faith into our sovereign Lord and Savior. We should not let man-made traditions, superstitions, and old wives tales guide our actions or allow these to bring fear of what could happen.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority” Colossians 2:8-10.

So, how can we respond in love next time we hear another “don’t stand in the draft” or “don’t visit the zoo while pregnant?”

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2 thoughts on “Superstitions, Old Wives Tales, and the Christian Life

  1. Ya budu pisat po russki mne tak legche. Pochemu ty dumaesh chto skvoznyak eto sueverie? Razve esli tebya produet ty ne zaboleesh? Mne esli v litso duet AC to u menya prostuda a pryam pered rodami glaz vospolilsa i prishlos antibiotic pit. Sueverie pro beremenost konechno zvuchit daje glupo, i voobshe v nih ne veriu, no pro skvonyak ya tak ne dumaiu. Ya sama zametila chto amerikantsy v skvoznyak ne veryat i dlya menya eto bylo ochen strano. Hochu znat etomu obyasnenie.


    1. Thank you for your question, Olya. My mom actually called me right after reading this post and was asking me the same thing. She also said that a cold draft almost always makes her sick. We had a pretty good conversation about it ?
      The reason why western doctors consider this a myth is because science proves that infections of any kind are caused either by viruses or bacteria. A cold draft by itself DOES NOT and CANNOT cause sickness. Most common colds are always caused by rhinoviruses while the flu is cold caused by the influenza virus. However, cold air may contribute to you getting the common cold. This is a good article that summarizes the issue very well.
      Maybe I shouldn’t have included this particular myth in the list of “health superstitions and old wives tales.” Only because some people may argue that it’s all in the symantics. Or they may say, “well, if you say that the cold air may contribute to having the common cold it’s the same thing as saying that it caused me to be sick.”
      The point I always try to make is that it’s inaccurate to say that the cold air caused you to be sick. The best prevention against sickness is hand washing ?

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