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Fear of the Unknown: 10 Surprising (And Exotic) Superstitions Around The World

Fear of the Unknown: 10 Surprising (And Exotic) Superstitions Around The World

Most people make mountains out of mole hills about superstitions. With minds like a steel trap, we give in to various (sometimes unfounded) superstitions, for no logical reason. The human psyche is a powerful cauldron of experiences, emotions, and forces. Some of those forces in our psyche lead us to happiness, fortune, and to see the sunnier side of things. Like opposite ends of the same coin, some of those forces are out of our control, and sometimes devastating.

Let’s take a look at 10 exciting, exotic, and surprising superstitions from some countries around the globe!

1. The Classic Ladder

Some superstitions, like walking under a ladder, are right on the nose. In my younger, defiant days, I did just that. I was proud as punch and willing to put ages of superstitious “hokum” to rest.

After I ventured the “danger” of walking under that ladder, readily laughing my way to the bank, a man bumped into me. He apologized profusely and groaned about how clumsy he was. I didn’t even realize, until hours later, that he nicked my wallet.

Some say that the two sides of a ladder form a triangle. Triangles are a sign of the Holy Trinity. Makes sense, right? Don’t walk under ladders or you’ll disrupt God, The Father, and The Holy Ghost.

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2. “Eat Your Carrots So You Can See Better!”

Mothers adore this old wives’ tale to get their children to eat carrots. It comes from the World War II era.

It turns out that this superstition was started in World War II. British pilots didn’t want people to find out they were using radars to shoot down enemies. Pilots told the public they were eating a massive amount of carrots. Imagine that! Figuring out that you can save your country from doom by eating carrots!

Knowing that there’s more than meets the eye, we’re going to look at the lion’s share of these beliefs that span many countries on our expansive and beautiful Earth.

3. “Who-Who” Is That!

In Egypt, it’s said whoever sees or hears an owl will get bad luck. What kind of bad luck? That’s hard to say.

What’s even more interesting than this sad omen is Egypt’s thoughts about scissors!

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4. Scissors

Some say it’s bad luck to open scissors (and close them) without using them for their cutting purpose. I can see that preventing people from using something other than it’s supposed to be used is a good idea, can’t you? Especially, if that “something” is sharp.

Let’s see what other countries are up to!

5. “Suffocation, No Breathing”

If you’re susceptible to sweating during nights, and need the soothing comforts of a whirring fan just to fall asleep, then you’ll want to stay away from Korea (especially North Korea). It’s said that sleeping with a fan on, suffocates you.

6. Happy New Years!

The next time you want to have an extraordinarily lucky, vibrant, and happy New Years, go to Spain and perform the superstitious tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight.

If you’re the type to eat food at night, be sure and stay away from Turkey…

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7. …Or You’ll Eat Flesh

In Turkey, it’s said that eating bubble gum after dark, turns that gum into dead flesh – human flesh. If you don’t mind being a cannibal, by all means: eat! Chew! Milk that gum for all its worth! That is to say, if you don’t mind offending (and terrifying) thousands of Turks.

8. Graveyards

Graveyards are where the dead (Lord rest their souls) sleep peacefully. Everyone who’s anyone has someone they love in a graveyard. Thankfully, we also have friends and family still in our lives.

In Japan, when you walk past a graveyard, you’d better tuck your thumbs into your fist, otherwise your parents may meet an unfortunate end years sooner than they were supposed to.

9. Break Your Mother’s Back

This one dates back all the way to the late 19th century. Hoo boy! Sadly, this one’s a bit racist. The original phrase was, “Don’t step on a crack or you’ll turn black.” Its origin was a sign of unfortunate times.

10. Do You Fear The Devil?

Be careful when you venture through Portugal. Some say walking backwards will directly show the devil your path, leading him right towards you.

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Do Superstitions Bring Us Together?

This list is just the tip of the iceberg. However we feel about superstitions, whether they’re silly wives’ tales, or grounded in reality and (in all seriousness) making a lot of sense, there’s no denying that every single person, on every single country in our massive world, is affected by superstitions. The same things we fear or love today, are possibly the same “life lessons” our ancestors lived by thousands of years ago.

If superstitions are one of the few remaining links we have to our ancestry, then what’s the harm in believing something, no matter how “outrageous” or head-turning it is, to be connected to our past? A belief is a belief, and no one can undermine someone’s deeply-held belief.

Now, I’m going to go to Russia, where it’s believed that if a bird drops a “gift” on you, your car, or your property, you’re on your path to riches.

Featured photo credit: Superstitions, via prezi.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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