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「為什麼我們會迷信?」- Where Do Superstitions Come From?


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Are you afraid of black cats? Would you open an umbrella indoors? And how do you feel about the number 13? Whether or not you believe in them, you're probably familiar with a few of these superstitions. So, how did it happen that people all over the world knock on wood or avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks?
你會害怕黑貓嗎?你會在室內開傘嗎?你對 13 這個數字有什麼想法?不管你相不相信,你可能都很熟悉這些迷信。那到底全世界的人是怎麼開始敲敲木頭,或是避免踩到人行道的縫隙的?

Well, although they have no basis in science, many of these weirdly specific beliefs and practices do have equally weird and specific origins. Because they involve supernatural causes, it's no surprise that many superstitions are based in religion. For example, the number 13 was associated with the biblical Last Supper, where Jesus Christ dined with his 12 disciples just before being arrested and crucified. The resulting idea that having 13 people at a table was bad luck eventually expanded into 13 being an unlucky number in general. Now, this fear of the number 13, called triskaidekaphobia, is so common that many buildings around the world skip the thirteenth floor, with the numbers going straight from 12 to 14. Of course, many people consider the story of the Last Supper to be true, but other superstitions come from religious traditions that few people believe in or even remember.
雖然這些迷信都沒有科學根據,許多這些特定得很奇怪的信念跟行為的確是有一樣奇怪又特定的起源。因為它們包含了超自然因素,可想而知許多迷信奠基於宗教。舉例來說,13 這個數字常與聖經裡的「最後的晚餐」聯想在一起,耶穌基督在被捕與釘上十字架之前,就是跟他 12 個門徒吃這頓飯。一桌有 13 個人就代表不幸的這個想法最終演變成 13 通常就是個不幸運的數字。現在,對 13 這個數字的恐懼,這被稱為「13 恐懼症」,已經普遍到世界上許多建築物會跳過第十三層樓,數字直接從 12 跳到 14。當然,許多人認為最後的晚餐這個故事是真的,但其他迷信來自於少數人相信或甚至記得的宗教傳統。

Knocking on wood is thought to come from the folklore of the ancient Indo-Europeans or possibly people who predated them, who believed that trees were home to various spirits. Touching a tree would invoke the protection or blessing of the spirit within. And somehow, this tradition survived long after belief in these spirits had faded away. Many superstitions common today in countries from Russia to Ireland are thought to be remnants of the pagan religions that Christianity replaced.
一般認為,敲木頭是來自古印歐人或更早之前的祖先流傳下來的民間傳統,這些人相信樹木是各類神靈的家園。觸碰樹木能祈求樹裡神靈的保護或庇佑。而不知怎麼地,就算對這些神靈的信仰早已逸散,這個傳統仍然留存了下來。許多現今在俄羅斯到愛爾蘭普遍流傳的迷信,都被認為是異教徒遺留下的,只是後來這些宗教都被基督教所取代。

But not all superstitions are religious; some are just based on unfortunate coincidences and associations. For example, many Italians fear the number 17 because the Roman numeral XVII can be rearranged to form the word "VIXI," meaning "My life had ended." Similarly, the word for the number four sounds almost identical to the word for death in Cantonese as well as languages like Japanese and Korean that have borrowed Chinese numerals. And since the number one also sounds like the word for must, the number 14 sounds like the phrase "must die." That's a lot of numbers for elevators and international hotels to avoid.
但不是所有迷信都與宗教有關;有些就只是立基於不幸的事件跟聯想。舉個例子,許多義大利人很害怕 17 這個數字,因為它的羅馬數字符號 XVII 可以重新排列成 VIXI,意思是「我的生命結束了」。同樣地,數字 4 在廣東話裡聽起來也幾乎跟「死」這個字同音,且在受中文數字影響的日文以及韓文等語言裡,也有這種諧音。而因為數字 1 也聽起來像是「一定」,數字 14 聽起來就像在說「一定死」。電梯跟國際旅舍要避免的數字可真多。

And believe it or not, some superstitions actually make sense. Or, at least they did until we forgot their original purpose. For example, theater scenery used to consist of large painted backdrops, raised and lowered by stagehands, who would whistle to signal each other. Absent-minded whistles from other people could cause an accident. But the taboo against whistling backstage still exists today, long after the stagehands started using radio headsets. Along the same lines, lighting three cigarettes from the same match really could cause bad luck if you were a soldier in a foxhole, where keeping a match lit too long could draw attention from an enemy sniper. Most smokers no longer have to worry about snipers, but the superstition lives on.
信不信由你,有些迷信是滿合理的。或至少在我們忘記它們原本的起源之前,它們都是合理的。舉例來說,劇院佈景以前都是由大型繪製背景幕所組成,由舞台工作人員調整升降,他們會吹個口哨來跟另一邊的工作人員溝通。其他人無心的口哨聲可能會導致意外發生。但在後台吹口哨的禁忌仍然流傳到了今日,那是遠在舞台工作人員開始用無線電耳機之後。同樣地,用同一根火柴點三支菸可能真的會招來厄運,如果你是散兵坑裡的一名士兵的話,在散兵坑裡火柴點太久的話可能會引起敵軍狙擊手的注意。大多數抽煙的人不再需要擔心狙擊手,但這個迷信仍繼續存在。

So, why do people cling to these bits of forgotten religions, coincidences, and outdated advice? Aren't they being totally irrational? Well, yes. But for many people, superstitions are based more on cultural habit than conscious belief. After all, no one is born knowing to avoid walking under ladders or whistling indoors. But if you grow up being told by your family to avoid these things, chances are they'll make you uncomfortable even after you logically understand that nothing bad will happen. And since doing something like knocking on wood doesn't require much effort, following the superstition is often easier than consciously resisting it.
那為什麼人們還是深信這些被遺忘的宗教、事件還有過時的建議呢?這樣難道不是超不理智的嗎?嗯,是沒錯。但對許多人來說,比起一種有意識的相信,迷信更是種奠基於文化上的習慣。畢竟,沒有人一生下來就知道要避免走在梯子底下或是避免在室內吹口哨。但如果你在成長過程中都被家人教導要避開這些事情,很有可能做了這些事情會讓你不太舒服,即使理智的你知道沒有什麼壞事會因此發生。而且反正像是敲敲木頭的動作也不費力,遵循這些迷信通常會比有意識地去避開它來得容易。

Besides, superstitions often do seem to work. Maybe you remember hitting a home run while wearing your lucky socks. This is just our psychological bias at work. You're far less likely to remember all the times you struck out while wearing the same socks. But believing that they work could actually make you play better by giving you the illusion of having greater control over events. So, in situations where that confidence can make a difference, like sports, those crazy superstitions might not be so crazy after all.
此外,迷信很多時候的確好像有用。你可能記得穿著你的幸運襪的時候打出了全壘打。這只是我們被心理上的偏見所影響。你不太可能記得你穿同一雙襪子被三振的次數。但相信它們有用其實會讓你表現得比較好,因為它給了你錯覺,讓你認為你有更好的掌控能力。所以在那種自信心會有所影響的情況裡,像是運動,那些很瘋狂的迷信到頭來又好像沒那麼瘋狂了。

  • 「同樣地、類似於」- Along The Same Lines

    Along the same lines, lighting three cigarettes from the same match really could cause bad luck if you were a soldier in a foxhole, where keeping a match lit too long could draw attention from an enemy sniper.
    同樣地,用同一根火柴點三支菸可能真的會招來厄運,如果你是散兵坑裡的一名士兵的話,在散兵坑裡火柴點太久的話可能會引起敵軍狙擊手的注意。

  • 「繼續存在」- Live On

    Most smokers no longer have to worry about snipers, but the superstition lives on.
    大多數抽煙的人不再需要擔心狙擊手,但這個迷信仍繼續存在。

  • 「堅持、深信(信念等)」- Cling To

    So, why do people cling to these bits of forgotten religions, coincidences, and outdated advice?
    那為什麼人們還是深信這些被遺忘的宗教、事件還有過時的建議呢?

  • 「可能」- Chances Are

    But if you grow up being told by your family to avoid these things, chances are they'll make you uncomfortable even after you logically understand that nothing bad will happen.
    但如果你在成長過程中都被家人教導要避開這些事情,很有可能做了這些事情會讓你不太舒服,即使理智的你知道沒有什麼壞事會因此發生。

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