Archive for April, 2013

“If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.” 
Groucho Marx

As soon as we saw a little black cat darting across our path, all three of us in the car screamed “black cat”!!  Probably the cat heard us too; anyway it had second thoughts and darted back to the safety of the curb.

Laughing at having narrowly averted the alleged bad luck, I couldn’t but wonder how come the three occupants of the car, from three different countries with totally different upbringing can still balk at the sign of a tiny little black cat.

Most cultures have certain beliefs, notions or in some cases fears, not always based on reason or knowledge.  It is quite fascinating to see when and how some of these beliefs came into existence but the whys are not always answered.  Black cats have always been the protagonist of most folklore beliefs in most countries, and yet not many can say from where the myth originated. Meanwhile even the most rational amongst us, given centuries of unexplained superstitions ingrained into us, shy away from the alleged harbinger of bad luck.

However, sometimes there seems to be reason in madness too; some customs that came into practice to address certain problems or at times merely the symptoms cannot be simply pushed aside as mere mumbo-jumbo. Some of them seem to have plausible scientific explanations to them.

While growing up, I was constantly admonished by my mother never to lie on my back after a meal.  Of course, try telling a body especially in sleep consciousness state not to lie supine.  I later found myself having several traumatic episodes unable to wake up and sensing an alternate presence in the room.  As these so called experiences were few and far between, I didn’t freak out much. Instead, I submitted myself to further such beliefs thrust upon me by my protective parent to thwart such experiences, including her constant insistence on changing my sleep position.

It was only in the last few years, I realised I was suffering from “sleep paralysis”, sadly the recurrent type.  Even though not the slightest dangerous as a health problem, it is extremely tiresome and insanely frightening especially given the hallucinations and inability to wake up immediately from such a state.  However, the not so funny part about this is that sleeping in the supine position is the prominent trigger for such episodes.

It is said that some cases of recurrent sleep paralysis may involve a genetic factor.  So ironically all those years of mindlessly following a custom handed down generation after generation seemed to have some kind of influence on keeping such episodes at bay.  Quite the light bulb moment for me!!!

Over the centuries, symptoms of sleep paralysis have always been attributed to paranormal or evil presence plaguing the hapless humans at night.  Having read only abridged versions, I wouldn’t be the one to know but looks like even Shakespeare had borrowed the Old Hag for his “Romeo and Juliet”; ever wondered about the expression “hag-ridden”, well it was an old term for sleep-paralysis.

Almost all cultures have had stories of shadowy nocturnal creatures associated with such episodes; but now most of these cases of magical and spiritual possession can be explained including some of the so called ‘alien abductions’ and ‘out of body experience’ stories as well.

While not all practices have a rational side to them or can be easily backed with scientific explanation, some of them do leave us surprised and in better appreciation of our ancestors, provided we cut through the miasma of fear and weirdness factors associated with these beliefs.

Pictures: Sourced from the Net


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: