It’s Friday the 13th. I’m not really superstitious. But if I’m not, why do I still like to find four-leaf clovers and say they’re good luck? I found (I kid you not) at least 12 yesterday and then two more that actually had 5 leaves. Maybe some of the luck I found yesterday carried over to today…
Superstitions are an interesting world building aspect. They go hand in hand with religion, oddly enough. It boils down to what does your character believe. I enjoy world building religions. I’m writing a cult in my new book (I sound way too excited about this).
But superstitions aren’t something I’ve really thought about before in terms of world building. But lots, if not most, societies have their own superstitions. Four-leaf clovers are lucky. Black cats are not. Some people believe rabbits feet are lucky (but look what happened to the rabbit!).
Once you pick a superstition for your society, you can dig deeper. Why do they believe that turnips eaten during a full moon are bad luck? (But are turnips ever lucky?) The origin for black cats being bad luck started because people believed that black cats were witches’ helpers or the witches themselves in disguise– a very big deal in the Middle Ages, which is when the superstition came about.
So. Using the above example, why is it bad luck to eat turnips during a full moon?
It goes back to religion. A lot of the superstitions we believe go back to what we believe in our religions. Good and evil are part of your religion. If you believe witches are evil (as many people did in the Middle Ages), then black cats were a big deal.
Maybe one of the prominent figures in your character’s religion (a prophet, for example), was, according to the myth, eating turnips during a full moon and then he died that same night. Or maybe they believe that you’ll turn into a monster of some sort if you eat turnips during a full moon, due to several cases of odd behavior after people did so.
Superstitions are a good way to flesh out characters and a good method for making plot points. Does your character believe in the local superstitions or not? Why? What do others think of him because of his beliefs? (A plot point here could be that because your character does not believe the way everyone else does, he’s considered evil and then they try to imprison/torture/kill him.)
Go wild with this. Have fun. And will someone please tell me why exactly collard greens are the chosen food of luck on New Year’s Eve?