By Bryce Bower, Staff Writer
I have spilled salt, walked under a ladder, broken a mirror, and had a black cat cross my path. To the best of my knowledge, I did not receive any extra bad luck because of these things. As an American, and having spent nearly 2 years in Europe, I feel I can confidently say the West has lost a lot of its mysticism. Still, some animal shelters will not let black cats be adopted in the month of October. Some people still knock on wood in hope that nothing bad happens to the plans they just mentioned. The occasional hotel will skip number 13 on the buttons of an elevator. But these are few and far between, and everyone on the 14th floor knows what floor they are REALLY on. Nowadays, if someone avoids stepping on cracks, it’s because they have OCD—not because they fear for their mother’s spine. I tend to forget that superstitions exist most days. However, being at Thunderbird and meeting so many people from other continents and countries has shown that belief in superstitions is still very alive in the East.
American superstitions are rather plain and boring to me, but the ones from Asia are wild in my opinion. My friend from Taiwan told me some of the beliefs from her country, and I knew I had to write about this for Das Tor’s Halloween issue. It started during one of the first weeks of school. Some people from my cohort were walking around campus in the evening, and the moon was full. Someone had pointed at it, and my Taiwanese friend became very worried.
“Don’t point at the moon! It will make your ear hurt!” she said. We thought it was a joke, but she seemed genuinely concerned. She explained, “My mother told me to never point at the moon, and one time when I was little I did. The next day my ear really hurt!” Apparently, this only happens if you believe the superstition—otherwise these forces will leave your ear unharmed.
Another interesting Taiwanese belief I learned is that you should not eat duck eggs before your big, end of high school test. The shape of the egg is like the number 0, and if you want to avoid that score, you should avoid the eggs! Instead, it is lucky to eat triangular rice cakes and bread filled with meat, as the Taiwanese name for this meal has a double meaning of (loosely) “what you desire most”.
Another friend of mine regaled me with tales of her travels in Thailand. She said as she was sightseeing and exploring the cities and temples, she saw the red-colored, strawberry-flavored Fanta placed everywhere. People in Thailand place these bottles of Fanta as treats to ghosts and spirits that can help them. As many of the ghosts are children, sodas and candies are common offerings. And, as in a lot of Asian countries, red is a very lucky color. This culminates in the placement of red Fanta all over Thailand. If something bad happens to you, some Thai people would say that it is because you did not give enough gifts to the spirits. If something good happens, it is because the spirits are happy with what you brought them.
A classmate of mine from China explained that this year, the year of the Rooster, is her year. Every twelve years completes the cycle of animals, and when it is your animal’s year it has the potential to be very lucky for you. She said that it is very lucky to wear red underwear, and good things are more likely to happen to you if you wear red. Wearing red is especially lucky if you want to win at Mahjong (not to be confused with the much simpler Mahjong Tiles computer game).
Colors and food tend to have a lot of power in Asian superstitions, and my favorite Chinese superstition involves noodles. If you have a noodle in your mouth, and bite a chunk of the noodle off, you will lose a portion of your possible lifespan equal to the percentage of noodle that falls to the plate. If this is true, eating at Olive Garden has shortened my life considerably.
Perhaps there is a bit of superstition left in America—it is just harder to see. I mean, every time I find a penny on the ground that is heads up, I can’t help but think “It’s my lucky day!” Also, I often hear of a “mystique” that graces those who are a perfect fit for the Thunderbird School of Global Management—is this some type of spirit as well? If so, it must be a benevolent one.