Part 27: Superstitions
If ever there was a creative playground for the writer of new worlds,it is superstition.
What fallacies do your people believe in? Do they think there is such a think as luck? How about fate? Are their lives run by the stars? Are they perhaps controlled by seasons or the migratory paths of the beasts of your world?
An important rule of thumb is that many common beliefs which have no apparent meaning or impact on people spring from a time when the belief system, no matter how facetious it might seem at the present-day, was based upon some fact. In the series, “The Sword of Truth“, by Terry Goodkind, the people of the Midlands would not eat apples, because in the past there was a red, apple-like fruit that would kill. I think of this as “original need” or “original truth”.
Keep this original need concept in mind as you create the superstitions of your people. While there is no real need to explain the source of each of your peoples’ foibles, having a reason for such behavior can strengthen the “look and feel” of your world. Also, don’t forget that you can actually use these origins in your story. Imagine a school setting where a child asks why he must close his eyes when he first puts his foot into a river, for example.
Stories about the flaunting of superstition and getting away with it (or not) can liven up the mythos of your world.
What habits of superstition will you add to your world? Some possibilities:
- The closing of the eyes before first stepping into moving water
- Asking a meal forgiveness for eating it
- Planting crops in the dark so the trickster in the sky won’t know to send his birds to eat the seeds
- Burning only candles and lamps which give off no smoke
- Pounding the ground to ward off earthquakes
- The killing of a village chief if the village is attacked by marauders
There is no apparent end to the possibilities for new superstitions. Especially if you wave a lit match over your keyboard before you start to type.
Continued in Part 28