Superstition describes the human tendency is to project feelings, desires,
fantasies and dreams into the world. Humans have always invented stories to
explain what occurs and why events happen. A variety of explanations involve
invisible agents that animate the world. You could argue that all humans are
superstitious; it is a matter of degree.
Numerous spirits have been invented for thousands of years that occupy a
nebulous parallel universe that intersects with the human world in curious ways.
The soul, for example, may be portrayed as a miniature person that lives within
and can escape. Death was explained as the escape of the soul and healing
methods included efforts to prevent the premature escape of the soul. Fraser, in
his rich compendium of human beliefs, The Golden Bough , stated: ”As the savage
commonly explains the process of inanimate nature by supposing that they are
produced by living beings working in or behind phenomena, so he explains the
phenomenon of life itself. If an animal lives and moves, it can only be, he
thinks, because there is a little animal inside which moves it. If a man lives
and moves, it can only be because he has a little man or animal inside which
Magic consists of suggestions, tricks and healing rituals. A shaman is a
trickster who can convince the local group that he has special powers. He can
create magic tools and objects that transfer his powers to others, often with a
price attached. Protective objects are amulets, necklaces, bracelets, lotions
and potions. Totems and other blessed statues protect houses, crops and
property. Social magic can protect an entire village or influence natural events
such as rain. Fertility is a major concern among humans who have always used
magic, rituals and sacrifices hoping to ensure healthy offspring and abundant
food crops. Hunting groups addressed animal spirits to avoid being punished for
Evil shamans can do harm, by making real poisons or offering harmless
potions that carry the suggestion of harm. Divination and prophesy are
extensions of the tricksters art. Witches are women with malevolent, magical
power. Some witches fly at night and attack sleeping victims, stealing their
life force (soul). The victim becomes ill and dies. Other witches make doll
surrogates of intended victims and enact on the doll the harm intended for the
human victim. For every evil there is someone who offers an antidote.
Witch-doctors discover witches, by ordeals, torture and poisons, and try to
liberate the captive souls of their victims.
You could argue that superstitious explanations are early attempts to
explain what happens and that gradually, more rational, demonstrable
explanations have emerged as science. Scientists often despair when they
encounter people who are not educated in current science and rely on
explanations that were already obsolete 3000 years ago.
The sad realization is that old superstitious beliefs and practices
continue to be expressed, often with new names and cleaver disguises. Real
magicians are skilled and honest people who entertain with tricks. Fake
magicians use tricks but claim real supernatural powers; gullible believers
follow them and pay good money for phony goods. You have to consider that
superstitions are based on a deep flaw in the human mind.