Bushwise Field Guides

Charles Darwin never warned us against black cats crossing our paths, nor walking under a ladder. However, his theory of natural selection could very well explain why people believed in such fallacies.

So what is a superstition in actual fact? Basically it can be described as the tendency to falsely link cause to effect.

Just imagine a prehistoric human sitting around a fire, exposed to all the natural predators and other dangers in the area. This human might have associated rustling grass with the approach of a predator and then get to a shelter. Most of the time, the wind will have caused the sound, but if a group of lions is really coming there, it would be a huge benefit to not be around to be eaten.

With this example we can see exactly how such potentially false connections could have contributed to the survival of superstitious humans.

Here are a few of the more common superstitions of the western world.


A rabbit’s foot will bring good luck but other cultures believe rabbits bring bad luck! Some thought of rabbits to be witches in disguise, there are still some people who do not own rabbits due to this belief.


Known to bring luck good and bad, owls have been written into the oldest of folklore. In many culture, it is believed that the sight of an owl brings death to you or your closest relatives or friends. Some natives believed if you dream about an owl death is coming. Other tribes believed that owl calls were from spirits and if you replied with a whistle and didn’t get an immediate response, your death was inevitable.

Owls are associated with a wide range of superstitions concerning magic, prophecy and witchcraft. People have persecuted owls for these beliefs across the globe. Scientifically there is no basis for such cultural superstitions which leads to incredible cruelty to these animals. Owls in South Africa are deemed vulnerable and certain species are listed as threatened.


Black Cats

The superstition of black cats bringing bad luck is one of the most well known in modern day society. Unfortunately, this unfounded superstition leads to black felines being the least adopted in animal shelters across the country.

Bee Superstitions

If a bee lands on your hand, you are very lucky indeed! Sit quietly and don’t frighten the bee. A bee on your hand is a sure sign that money is on its way to you!

Bee Superstitions If a bee lands on you head, you can expect to be congratulated. You are going to have great success!

In conclusion

I have come across many people from western cultures that laugh about the traditional beliefs of African people. But they forget that not too long ago their very own ancestors needed these to be able to stay alive.


Blog by Gerhard van Niekerk