Superstition, a belief or practice generally regarded as irrational and as resulting from ignorance or from fear of the unknown. It implies a belief in unseen and unknown forces that can be influenced by objects and rituals. Magic or sorcery, witchcraft, and the occult in general are often referred to as superstitions. Examples of common superstitions include the belief that bad luck will strike the person in front of whom a black cat passes or that some tragedy will befall a person who walks under a ladder. Good luck charms, such as horseshoes, rabbits’ feet, coins, lockets, and religious medals, are commonly kept or worn to ward off evil or to bring good fortune.
In general, superstitious practices and beliefs are most common in situations involving a high degree of risk, chance, and uncertainty, and during times of personal or social stress or crisis, when events seem to be beyond human control. The question of what is or is not superstitious, however, is relative. One person’s beliefs can be another’s superstitions. All religious beliefs and practices may be considered superstition by unbelievers, while religious leaders often condemn unorthodox popular practices as a superstitious parody of true faith.