Orthodox "Myth Busters"
Superstition has been defined as a belief, a half belief, or a practice for which there appears to be no rational substance. Those who use the term imply that they have certain knowledge or superior evidence for their own scientific, philosophical, or religious convictions.
An ambiguous word, it probably cannot be used except subjectively. With this qualification in mind, superstitions may be classified roughly as religious, cultural, and personal.
Superstitions that belong to the cultural tradition (in some cases inseparable from religious superstition) are enormous in their variety. Many persons, in nearly all times, have held, seriously or half seriously, irrational beliefs concerning methods of warding off ill or bringing good, foretelling the future, and healing or preventing sickness or accident.
Current behavioural research that suggests that everyday superstitions are the natural result of several well understood psychological processes. Fear of the unknown, especially the desire to avoid misfortune, illness or accident which lead to paradoxical human behaviours are being examined through scientific investigation. Ultimately, science can evaluate these behavioural elements but only the True God can offer the confidence and certainty to confront life without phobia.
The Church does not accept superstition. We invite you to submit any questions you may have and a list of the most asked questions will be displayed here with the appropriate responses.
And of course, all enquires will be treated in the strictest of confidence with no personal details displayed. So go ahead - ask away.
To learn more about Tradition in the Orthodox Church, please read our article here.
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Myths 'busted' about Marriage and Newlyweds
Two children of the same family should not get married in the same year because it will cause bad luck.
The Orthodox Church does not accept superstition. Orthodoxy says that one, two, three or more children can get married in any one year. Marriage is a Sacrament and, therefore, blessed by God Himself. The notion of bad luck is rejected by the Church.
Don’t get married in May. It’s bad luck.
For the Orthodox Church every moment and every day of every month is blessed by the Holy Spirit. Many weddings are conducted in May which is neither less nor more blessed than any other month.
If you’ve been koumbaro (best man or matron of honour) at someone’s wedding don’t make them koumbaro at your wedding or something will go wrong.
There is no impediment in the Orthodox Church to one koumbaro being koumbaro to the other. This is superstition.
It’s a sin for newlyweds to go to Church during the first year of their marriage.
Nonsense. The couple has been blessed by the Grace of God in His Church. Their relationship at all levels has been sanctified. If a couple ever needed to attend Church it is precisely in their first year when they are still discovering each other and are in need of God’s enlightenment.
Newlyweds should not receive communion in the first year.
Nonsense. This goes back to the notion that essentially ‘marital love’ is a sin at any time. The Orthodox Church teaches that newlyweds should receive Holy Communion regularly, throughout their life, with the appropriate fasting. Their physical union is not a sin. It is a blessing.
Newlyweds should not attend a funeral in the first year.
Nonsense. The Orthodox Church would encourage them to attend, especially in the case of a loved one. Should they not attend the funeral of a parent, a grandparent or a friend? Of course they should.
Newlyweds should not attend memorial services in the first year.
Nonsense. The Orthodox Church would encourage them to attend because a Memorial Service is prayer.
The bride should not plant a tree in the first year of marriage because her fertility will be transferred to the tree.
Nonsense. The whole of creation is sanctified by God. What fault of the poor tree is it if human beings adhere to such ridiculous superstitions? If this superstition was to be thought out rationally, the tree should give birth to babies.
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Myths 'busted' about Birth and Baptism
For 40 days after birth the mother should not leave the home.
This is a misrepresentation of a practice in the Old Testament. The Orthodox Church says the mother can go anywhere she likes during the 40 day period, apart from the church.
For 40 days after birth a mother (‘lehona’) should not visit anyone else’s home.
For the Orthodox Church this is superstition. Common sense, however, would dictate that the woman should avoid upsetting herself by visiting homes that are superstitious and will be offended by her visit.
During the first 40 days the mother should not walk to a crossroads.
Nonsense. The Orthodox Church has no issue with crossroads.
The new mother should not receive a 40 blessing on the exact day but should do so a few days before.
Why not? Jesus was blessed on exactly the 40th day. If it was appropriate for Jesus, then it is our responsibility to emulate His example.
The new mother should ask the priest for a “half” blessing so she can go out of the home.
There is no such thing as a ‘half blessing’ in the Orthodox Church. This is a fallacy created for social reasons e.g. wishing to attend a wedding or christening of a relative or friend. What does exist, however, is a blessing for the child, brought to the church by the father or grandparent on the 8th day, for the naming of the child.
A pregnant woman should not be a godparent. It’s not good for the child.
Orthodoxy has no problem with a pregnant woman becoming a godparent.
If someone’s christened your child don’t christen theirs or else “you’ll take the oil back”.
This is entirely foreign to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. The ‘annointing oil’ cannot be taken back by anyone. It is indelibly and permanently ‘sealed’ on the body of the person who has been baptized.
After a Baptism, the child should not be bathed for three days.
Whilst the number 3 is symbolic of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), for the Orthodox Church there is no reason why the newly baptized child cannot be bathed even on the same evening of the Baptism, so long as the water from the bath and from the washing of the baptismal clothes is not poured down a common drain, but is emptied somewhere where it will not be trodden on – such as a hole in the yard of the home or down by the sea.
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Myths 'busted' about Funerals
Cover the mirrors in the house so that death won’t look at anyone else in the home.
Superstition. Christ has defeated death by His own death. Covering mirrors won’t protect against the loss of life.
When someone dies, place a glass of water next to the oil lamp in the home so that the soul of the departed might drink of it. One priest reported that a parishioner notified him that the deceased had consumed all the water in forty days.
Water, as in H2O, is of no use to someone who has died physically. The soul, which never dies, however, ‘drinks’ of Christ’s ‘living water’ in the Kingdom of God.
At the graveside the priest should break a plate so as to smash any further visitations of death.
This is a strong superstition on a number of Aegean islands. Breaking a plate will not stop the visitation of death. The Orthodox person says with certainty “I expect the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. Amen”.
Don’t hold the 40 day memorial service on the day. Always hold it several days before because the soul will be anxious.
The soul of the deceased is now in the timeless dimension of eternity. Time counts for us. Not for the deceased. If we wish to adhere to Orthodox practice, we should arrange for the priest to conduct a ‘Trisagion’ Memorial Service at the graveside on exactly the 40th day. It then does not matter whether the Mnimosino is held at the church a few days earlier or a few days later.
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Myths 'busted' about Women
During menstruation, women are not allowed to go to church.
Nonsense. Menstruation is a natural process established by the perfect wisdom of God. A woman is not ‘unclean’ during her period. She certainly can attend Church.
During their period, women must not kiss icons or other sacred objects.
Why not? The woman herself is an icon of God created in His “image and likeness”. Some Fathers of the Church, however, specify that during this time the woman should not receive Holy Communion.
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Other Myths 'busted'
Chain letters should be forwarded according to their contents in order to win the lotto or for some loved one not to die.
One manifestation of fear is the ambiguity displayed towards chain letters. Now, if only two of twenty recipients would actually continue a chain letter, it is estimated that in one year 35,184,372,088,832 (this is thirty five trillion) letters would have been sent across the world. Obviously, this number far exceeds the population of the planet (which is approximately 5.3 billion).
The so-called chain letter attributed to St Nektarios and circulated by certain superstitious Christians, is totally and utterly rejected by the Orthodox Church.
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