Superstition has been around a long time.

A horseshoe. There is a superstition that it is unlucky to hang them upside down.

A horseshoe. There is a superstition that it is unlucky to hang them upside down.

Superstitions were once part of the culture and you can expect them to appear sometimes in historical novels. Of course, as many people believe in some superstitions today to varying degrees, don’t be too surprised to find some also in books with contemporary settings.

Ancient superstition

When I was researching the Iron Age for Spirit of Iron and its sequels, I could not separate Celtic religion and superstition. Beliefs in gods, ancestors and spirits existed side by side with beliefs in fairies, mermaids and monsters. I think the same was true of the culture of the Angles and Saxons, having read The Last Kingdom and its sequels by Bernard Cornwell as well as his trilogy about Arthur, beginning with The Winter King.

Mediaeval Christianity

It appears that many pagan beliefs and practices continued alongside, or rather beneath, Christianity from late Anglo-Saxon times onwards. I don’t know how many Celtic superstitions survived alongside Anglo-Saxon ones. Some superstitions appear to have Christian origins, but they may predate Christianity.

The Enlightenment

From the 16th century onwards, science and reason began to compete with religion for the hearts and minds of the people. However, superstition remained a powerful influence for many regardless of their official stance right up to…? Let’s just say it has been a gradual process.

The Divisions of the Modern World

I think there are at least three kinds of people today. There are atheists who say science and reason rule the universe and deny any god or supernatural force exists. For them, the laws of probability determine future events, not any religious or superstitious observances. On the other hand, there are still plenty of people who follow one religion or another, while acknowledging that science and reason explain most things, but see prayer as a worthwhile activity.

 What about Superstition?

The third kind are people who still observe some superstitions with varying degrees of conviction. Strangely, some who deny the existence of any god believe they can influence the future by things they can do or things they must avoid. Similarly, some practicing Christians also follow their pet superstitions, despite claiming the future lies in God’s hands. I expect the same will be true of followers of other religions. This may seem illogical, but when did logic determine belief?