By: Greg Elliott
Believing In Magic walks the reader through various explanations on why people may believe in superstition or even religion. Stuart A.Vyse takes a very analytical approach in attempting to explain many everyday superstitions, delving into what kind of person may be predisposed to be superstitious and how that predisposition can be reinforced by either family or society as a person grows up. Different themes are tackled in different chapters ranging from why different social groups are far more predisposed to have rituals and superstitions as well as how once you become superstitious the human mind will always find a way to amplify those beliefs. Vyse even goes on to discuss how superstition may even be a natural product of the human brain grabbing proof from various mental disorders and the manifested problems they produce. Overall an easy and fast read, at times dry with a little to much focus on becoming somewhat of a statistics text book, it still offers up a wealth of information on a topic that touches everyone’s life.
A favorite part of mine would have to be the bit in chapter 5 “Growing up superstitious” where the various ways children use superstition are explained. It really supported the idea that superstition may be a natural occurrence in all humans, just because of the way we’re designed. People naturally gravitate towards “higher powers” in times of reduced control, and what time is less controllable than when you’re a child? It was also strange to me the similarity of the sayings the children used as the area from which the information for the study described, was taken from various places sometimes very far away from each other. Rather than only focusing on the use of certain oaths, rhymes and superstitions, it would be interesting to see how those beliefs carried from place to place holding such similarity. This chapter probably influenced me the most in thinking about superstition as a biological construct rather than a social one. The behaviors of the children were learned but the readiness which they were accepted and believed in is something I had never thought of before.
This book actually fits nicely into our course as a missing “chapter” from the development portion of our textbook. I think much of what is said by Vyse is important but it leaves me wanting more. I feel it covers a very basic common version of superstition. Just reading this book would make me want to go out and read more on the topic but included in this course it adds to the whole topic of this course nicely. I think the perfect spot for this information would be in the child development portion of the textbook as it really explores superstition as a natural construct and almost a tool in human adaptation/development on a large and small scale. As an creature it helps our race survive, but on an individual level superstition/religious beliefs shape our lives and how we live them. As mentioned before this book covers much common superstition but something a little on the darker side, a use for superstition that most in our part of the world never see, is needed to show all that superstition can be. Its no always the happy thing that we do to help us win a baseball game, superstitious beliefs for centuries have been used to control people and hurt others at times. A video link I have included at the bottom is about this very topic in India. Apparently superstition is so wide spread it has become a serious problem, watch and I think you’ll agree that superstition needs to be eradicated sometimes.
the series is broken into 4 parts(just click on the one with the successive number at the end)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkeT0UX7Opg