My daughter once phoned in distress. She and her roommates had become convinced that a ghost was haunting their apartment.
“That’s ridiculous,” I responded. “Please tell me you are not so foolish as to believe in ghosts.”
She explained that she didn’t know enough about ghosts to form a conclusion, but she had a friend who was quite informed about the supernatural and would be bringing over her Tarot Cards to do a reading.
“Don’t do that!” I begged.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Because you might summon a demon!”
My hypocrisy laid bare. It is fascinating how many contradictory ideas and beliefs we can hold in our hearts and minds. Especially when they are as deeply embedded and emotionally charged as superstitions.
I thought of this recently because I received an exciting inquiry at NestStory this week. A researcher in Brazil is interested in using NestStory to study Burrowing Owls there.
While NestStory can help them collect more data about the owls, they actually have a much bigger problem in Brazil; they need to convince people that the owls are even worth protecting. Because it turns out that in Brazil, and in many places around the world, owls are considered to be bad luck.
I had never heard of such a thing. So I did some research. What I found left me with more confusion than clarity. Try it for yourself. You will discover what I did: that there are as many articles titled the “Top 10 Reasons Owls are Bad Luck” as there are articles titles “The Top Ten Reasons Owls Are Good Luck!”
It seems even each of our individual superstitions can be as muddled and contradictory as our collective ones.
I love the winter beach, so I have seen many, many owls. Many good things have happened to me in those winters. And many bad things have happened too. So I’m not sure. Maybe there are just owls, and maybe there are just things that happen to me. Maybe that is all. Maybe there is no problem.
And so if our superstitious beliefs can be so arbitrary, I propose we look at them in this way: if a superstition causes us to treat other living things with respect and compassion, then it is probably OK. But if a superstitious belief causes us to neglect or do harm to other living things, then we should probably find another to believe in.
And now I have to go set up this new NestStory for Burrowing Owls in Brazil.
And maybe help that Snowy get away from those crows. Crows are bad luck. They are harbingers of death!