Friday the 13th, black cats, evil eyes, kajal tikas, sacred trees, haunted bungalows….the list is endless. Let’s face it, for all our proclamations of modernity, we’re still a very superstitious lot. We love hearing stories about the supernatural, never mind that we won’t be able to sleep for days after that. We loudly proclaim our atheism, yet we all have these secret charms and habits that we keep for ‘good luck’ especially if exam season is around the corner. We haven’t spared our animals either, there are countless superstitions related to animals and the things they can do or symbolize, and it’s not just us. All over the world, people have quirk superstitions about animals, some spooky, some quirky and some just outright gross.
Let’s start out with one that seems to be common to a lot of cultures, the black cat. Considered by a few, especially in the olden times, as the Devil incarnate, or his little helper at the very least, black cats have always had a bad reputation. Black cats crossing the road are still considered a bad omen by many, who turn back if it should ever happen. A few find the act so disturbing that they even go back and take a bath if it should ever happen. Poor kitty. What did it ever do to deserve such ill treatment?
Mariners, however, view these felines with a more favorable eye. Although saying their name aloud was considered taboo, and an invitation to misfortune by many sea-farers, actually having a cat on board while on a voyage was considered a lucky charm, and was said to bring good luck to the voyage. Although the practice probably began as a measure of keeping the rat population on board in check. Regardless, mariners often deliberately brought a cat to the ship ( i wonder how the cats felt about this, surrounded by water all the time) and that’s why so many books and movies about sea voyages in the olden times feature a cat on board.
Next, something bizarre.
Although not a very popular superstition in India, it is certainly well heard of (but not really practiced) in the West. Rubbing a rabbit’s paw is considered lucky in many parts of the world. Let’s face it, how can a creature as fluffy and adorable as a rabbit have any negative superstition attached to it’s name? But here comes the gross part. Apparently, it wasn’t uncommon in old times for people to carry around a rabbit’s paw, which they would kiss for luck before any event that so required. Now come the even grosser part. A short snoop around the repository of all things strange and gross that is the internet reveals that these things are still available fro sale. Yes, an actual rabbit’s paw that you can just carry around, usually in a decorative pendant setting so you can wear it around your neck, next to that vial of basilisk blood you’ve got. No thanks, kind sir, I’ll just take my spoonful of sugar before setting out of the house if i need luck that bad. Or just kiss a live rabbit. That should work, right?
Ahh another one, and this is one everyone who’s had a childhood should be familiar with. So everyone, yes. Remember looking for ladybirds in the grass in the school sports grounds, when you were actually supposed to be taking laps? And then if they flew off the tip of your finger, good luck was guaranteed. If they just fell off or refused to fly, no luck for you. In the most common version, the bug flying off is a guaranty of finding true within the week or something like that. I think most people back then just asked to pass in the upcoming test though.
Another common one. The bat. Personally, I find bats quite adorable, besides the whole leathery wings that look like they’re made of human skin thing of course. Unique in the kingdom Mammalia for their ability to fly as birds do, and not just glide, bats are fascinating creatures. But most people can’t seem to get over the fact that they supposedly want nothing better than to bite into their necks and suck their blood. To be fair, they’re confusing bats with Count Dracula, and no, the two aren’t synonymous. Most bats species don’t even drink blood, and the few that do the infamous Vampire bat for example, stick to cows rather than transforming into mysterious men with high collars, preying on unsuspecting women for sustenance. They may carry rabies virus though, so don’t try and cuddle one anytime soon.
The next is a sad, terrible one.
Meet the Slender Loris. This shy, nocturnal creature live in the forests of South India and Sri Lanka. A perfectly harmless animal, it has been put on the UN’s list of endangered species due to severe of habitat. As if that wasn’t enough, the Loris has now fallen prey to human superstition too. People use these animals as living voodoo dolls. If they wish harm to befall an enemy of theirs, they take these animals to a black magic practitioner, who then proceeds to mutilate the animal in the same way as the desired injury. As a result, there have been numerous cases of Lorises showing up with missing limbs, eyes, or other mutilations. It might be hard to believe that anybody would be cold hearted enough to harm such a gentle creature, but it is a sad reality. Animal shelters, in the city, however, are aware of the horrendous practice, and give shelter and run rehabilitation programs. These animals are also torn away from their natural environment and sold as pets, illegally. Despite the endangered status, the trade is lucrative and alive.