Let's be honest, almost everybody is superstitious about something. Maybe just a "lucky shirt" you wear to job interviews, or maybe you spent all weekend making sure that voodoo doll of your ex looked just right before ramming pins into its crotch.
Where do superstitions come from? And could their origins be more logical than we think? Is it possible that the superstitious old neighbor of yours who runs off black cats and wails over broken mirrors isn't retarded?
Well... sort of.
Recently a whole stadium full of Cub fans held their breath when a cat raced onto the field during the game. They let out a sigh of relief when they realized it wasn't black (and articles the next day were sure to mention its color). After all, every Cub fan knows that a single visit by a black cat cursed the entire 1969 season.
Where the Hell Did This Come From?
So how did something oh-so-cute and fluffy get associated with misfortune, death and witchcraft?
Saints preserve us! It's a basket of Satan!
First of all, cats have always had a few habits that have a tendency freak people right out. They like to seek sources of warmth (sorry, Mister Fluffynuts doesn't like sitting in your lap just because he loves you) and have an odd fascination with examining human faces. Often when a person passed away from fever or a baby died mysteriously in the night, they'd find a cat perched on their chest or in the crib staring into their face, and the logical assumption was made that cats were harbingers of death that could suck the very life from your body.
I can has ur soul plz?
It didn't help that a number of pre-Christian peoples such as the Norse, Celts and Egyptians had cat gods, or at least considered the animal sacred. Once Christianity became the sexy new religion in town, old beliefs were branded witchcraft and cats found themselves guilty by association. Often simply owning a cat was considered proof of witchery. There was even widespread extermination of cats during medieval times, which kind of backfired when they were no longer around to kill plague-infested rats, which in turn wiped out half of Europe. Whoops. But hey, at least they were safe from those goddamn witches.
As for why black cats specifically were feared, well, you don't need us to tell you that black has traditionally been associated with eeeevil. There's a reason Darth Vader didn't spend his time strutting around in a sporty magenta or mint green get-up.
Every year on February 2, people put their faith in the amazing weather predicting abilities of the noble groundhog, hoping he won't see his shadow and doom them to six more weeks of snow, ice and numb testicles. A town in Pennsylvania has become world famous entirely based on this ridiculous ritual. But, hey, why not? Its predictions are probably as likely to be accurate as any weatherman's.
"Now as you see here, my weathercock is just balls deep in Indiana."
Where the Hell Did This Come From?
Folks have always kept their eye out for the reemergence of hibernating animals, logically seeing it as a sign that spring was on the way. February 2 is also the date for Candlemas, a holiday mostly celebrated in Europe--yes, there's another Christian holiday out there that starts with "C" and ends in "mas," please don't tell Hallmark.
Like most Christian holidays, Candlemas is basically an old Pagan tradition with fancy new Jesus decals slapped on. While the holiday is officially devoted to the purification of the Virgin Mary, in practice it's the due date to throw out your Christmas tree and start thinking about Spring while watching furry critters emerge from their holes.
Germans had Candlemas traditions similar to Groundhog Day--except they used hedgehogs--and when they immigrated to America they tossed out all the religious parts of Candlemas, keeping only the fun "waiting around a varmint-hole and drinking" stuff. The groundhog was chosen since it hibernated in the winter, sort of looked like a hedgehog--which aren't native to North America--and presumably because too many people got eaten when they tried it with bears.
But why does the groundhog seeing its shadow and returning to its burrow mean six more weeks of winter? Well there's actually some meteorological truth to it. A winter day sunny enough to allow a rodent to see his shadow is likely to be colder than average since cloud cover actually insulates the earth. In other words, there's nothing mystical going on here, Mr. Groundhog just went back inside because he was freezing his furry little ass off, and if it's still too cold for him there's probably more winter coming.
That, and there's a town in Pennsylvania that really, really needs the tourist dollars.