The Mammoth Book of Superstition
From Rabbits’ Feet to Friday the 13th Roy Bainton Robinson 2017 Pb, 376pp, bib, refs, ind,£13.99, ISBN 9781472137487 This doorstop of a book by FT contributor Roy Bainton opens, appropriately, with a quote from Charles Fort’s Book of the Damned: “Science of today – the superstition of tomorrow. Science of tomorrow – the superstition of today”.
In the first section, Bainton discusses the need for, efficacy of and categories of superstition; and the supersitions of Europe and the USA, including Native American and African-American superstitions. Oh, and Thailand’s lucky penis. He then covers the origins of superstition, and its tricky intersection with religions, along with curses, bad omens… and Creationism. The animal, vegetable or mineral of superstitions includes terrific bird myths… and crystal therapy. In his introduction, Bainton admits to a fondness for straying from the point, which is part of the book’s charm. I hadn’t known, for instance, that on the night before his wedding, the friends of a South Korean groom will beat the soles of his feet with fish. Tuija brides from Sichuan have to cry for an hour every day in the month leading up to their marriage.