Harmful Superstitions

Toren, Joe, and Kevin talk about the psychology of superstition, harmful superstitions around the world, the unlucky numbers 13 and 4, sati, albino body-harvesting superstition, and more!

Music: “I’m Making Believe” by Ella Fitzgerald and The Ink Spots



21 Responses

  1. Regarding the Korean fan-death superstition, my husband just told me that some of his Korean friends told him that this is also used to cover up suicides: “Oh, no, it wasn’t suicide, it was totally fan-death.” He also said that some have told him that fan-death is totally a real thing and it will kill you dead. I don’t have numbers on which ones of these friends have family members or friends that have suffered fan-death/suicide. This is all third-hand, though, so take it with a grain of salt.

  2. Hi Guys
    Really enjoyed this one and the image of taunting albino hunters at their trial using their own surgically grafted limbs had me laughing pretty damn hard which is perhaps a worrying commentary on my sense of humour.

    Couple of harmful traditions I have come across.
    Many European nations apparently had the tradition of warding off fairies with iron in some form or another. However in certain parts of Scotland the proper from of protection from fairy abduction was to carry an Iron knife or Dirk about your person. Apparently the fairies would sense its presence and avoid you and if they didn’t well at least you had a big knife to put up a fight with.
    The harmful side of this was that living in a time before street lights it was fairly easy for a superstitious Scotsman to be startled at night by a presumed fairy and go for his knife. The superstition was reportedly responsible for a great many accidental stabbings. On the upside muggings were uncommon.

    In Poland it is customary to celebrate Wet Monday the day after Easter. On this day boys traditionally throw buckets of water over girls they are fond of and spank them with pussy willow branches.
    Now I learned that this becomes a harmful tradition, rather than a slightly kinky wet t shirt contest, from a co-worker of mine because her home town had a number of canals and each year dozens of girls would be hurled into them by overzealous boys. Apparently the local fire department was on standby all day for the inevitable near drowning’s that would occur.

  3. I demand to see a selfie of Kevin and Toren doing their “stink eye” and “evil eye” faces! You guys know, of course, that this is an audio podcast and we can’t actually see you making these faces. A golden comedy opportunity was missed when you did not whip out your cell phones and take a picture of yourselves! 😉

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaps#Non-equestrian_chaps

      Chaps are also popular in fetish fashion and the leather subculture, where they often are tightly fitted and worn without jeans or other garments layered beneath them other than a codpiece. They can be made of leather, patent leather, or vinyl and are worn for decoration serving no protective purpose. Worn in this manner, they are colloquially referred to as “assless” chaps, despite the redundancy of the term.

  4. I can tell you right now that baby fingernails are like little razors! Just think of kitten claws. They’re pretty weak, because they’re thin, but because babies can’t control their limbs, letting the nails grow is a recipe for a kid covered in tiny slices. Many mothers actually bite the nails rather than try to use nail scissors because the things are so small, so letting them grow until the kid is one sounds like a pretty silly thing to do. And that’s ignoring the damage to breasts while feeding. But that’s just my experience – maybe Romanian babies are all given gloves.

    I also think the cheese superstition would be pretty unhealthy, especially if the cheese has to be big enough to have a rind through which a Christened baby (say 12 months) can be passed. That’s a lot of cheese to get through, unless you can eat it over that 12 month period prior to the Christening.

    I tend to “knock on wood” quite often (or my head if no wood is available), but I don’t think I actually think it makes a difference to anything. It’s a bit like saying “Fine” automatically to the question “How are you?” – it’s more of a common ritual than anything meaningful. That said, by doing these things (and by architects and engineers designing buildings and aircraft around people’s phobias of 13) are we not actively perpetuating these myths, potentially to the detriment of society? Should we not call them out and refuse to participate to encourage others to actually consider what they’re doing?! Just a thought that struck me while listening.

    I loved that you put the discussion about Christianity being the source of the fear of 13 in the pop culture section too. Well played, sirs. 🙂

    This was a great ep that started off very funny, with all the wacky things people believe, but then became gobsmackingly caustic towards the end (thanks for that inline trigger warning, Joe). Definitely one for a unicorn chaser!

  5. Can you give the source(s) of the german superstitions? I have never heard of them before and I was born here and all that jazz. Cheers.

    1. I’d affiliate with that, and would be interessted if that’s true or not.
      Never ever heard of all these “beating your wife/cook” stuff.

      The only one I recognize from home is the one with the baby fingernails. But I says, you should bite away the fingernails and do not use scissors in the first year, to provide the baby becomming a thief.
      Being a father of two little girls I can say using scissors will probably not lead to being a thief, but you easily cut away a little too much since the baby normally don’t hold possition during nail-cutting. We’re still hoping that the little-toe nail of our older daughter will grow normal again soon 🙂
      Biting it away is much safer and easier during the first year or more…

      Great and amusing Ep. again!

  6. Interestingly, a lot of the superstitions, especially with regards to driving, were ones I’ve heard of– but when I was a kid they were just presented as games. I definitely remember being the car with friends and holding our breath through tunnels and past graveyards, lifting up our legs when crossing train tracks, etc. But I never remember anyone claiming actual consequences, negative or positive, with the actions– they were clearly just games for bored kids in the car.

    In high school I came across a variant on “touching the roof of the car going through a yellow light”– instead, my friends would “kiss the sky” going through a yellow light, by kissing their hand and touching it to the ceiling. This one is probably more clearly a superstiation, as it was definitely a good luck/jesus-take-the-wheel type gesture.

    Great stuff guys!

  7. Milk and mango? here’s have a worse superstition , wants to see a Brazilian “everyone” loss your sanity?
    turn any shoes with soles up, and see they running to this shoes to turn on the ground.
    According to superstition, it is desired that the mother dies.

  8. Kevin, I’ll have sex with you and hopefully get you pregnant with a Caustic Soda Baby. 2 Birds with one stone!
    Full disclosure, I am a straight male… but if you don’t have any better offers you got to take what you can get, right?

  9. When I was about kindergarten age, the ‘step on a crack, break your mother’s back’ superstition/rhyme was prominent. Playing with my friends outside one day, we bumped into an old telephone pole that was left standing at the edge of my yard. It fell over and hit my mother square across the back. She was not seriously injured it turned out, but still had to be taken to hospital on a spine board. I was absolutely inconsolable since I thought I must have stepped on a crack somewhere and made her back break!

  10. Oh OH I have information to add. I live in Oregon, and commute to the 26 tunnel every day. While it is short, the three lane highway splits into three one-lane roads, each in a different direction. This causes a massive amount of traffic at just about every hour of the day. It can take a very long time (like 15-20 minutes) to make the short distance. This doesn’t change the fact that he is literally too stupid to breath, but it explains how he could have passed out.
    Cheers to social Darwinism at its best.

  11. Regarding the movie 1408, I had heard it was actually about depression. Made more sense to me when I watched it again with that in mind.

  12. In regards to the Evil Eye superstition, when I was in Middle School, about age 14, two new girls were transferred into the school. They were both Native Americans, and had gone to school up to that point at a small school just north of town that was for the NA kids only. Needless to say, they didn’t mix well with the other kids in my school, and mostly kept to themselves. One day, just out of the blue, they began picking on me: running up behind me & pulling my hair, getting in front of me & tripping me, pulling on my backpack (with me wearing it!) & swinging it around, etc. This continued to escalate until one day they caught me at the top of a flight of stairs and pushed me down it. Although I was very shy as a teen, that was the last straw. I went & talked to the school counselor & told her what had been going on, and she promised me she would take care of things.

    I have to assume that she was true to her words, since the attacks stopped, but I found out later that their excuse for doing those things to me was that I had put the “Evil Eye” on them one day during a class we shared. When I thought about it, the only thing I could come up with was that I had probably been staring off into space at the time they claimed I had done that. Either that, or they were just bullies who used a handy cultural superstition as their “out” for doing those things. In either case, I was grateful for no longer being a target!

  13. 1408 is a lot of fun to watch. The fact that that room was described as “fucking evil” leads me to think that, as a permanently stationary sentient being powerful enough to manipulate reality within itself, it was probably bored out of its mind. The way I see it, the room is as much a prisoner as anyone foolhardy enough to enter it. So it toys with people, because what else is it going to do? I mean, I guess it could give every guest the best hallucinogenic experience ever, but it’s much more fun to watch people flipping their shit than staggering around, all googly-eyed with bliss.

    Plus, watching John Cusack being psychologically tortured for an hour and a half is oddly satisfying.

  14. “Let’s get together a group of mercenaries to hunt these fuckers down and put them in a mental institution where they belong” OR let’s support the police and judiciary of Tanzania in addressing this issue? Maybe you were thinking those darkies don’t have a proper legal system like you have in North America where nothing bad ever happens (TIC).

  15. Beaten until it stops supper stops bubbling? Monday is now official salad for dinner day. HA!