The Difference Between Myths and Superstitions

At first glance, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a myth and a superstition as they are both similar in that they entertain a concept of belief. In most cultures, a myth is understood as a traditional type of story which may or may not have supernatural elements to it but is not historically accurate. A myth is often considered to be a social construction that contains a moral but does not provide factual information. A superstition, however, is a strong belief in that there are supernatural influences or practices at play. Let’s break this down further into their definitions, rationalization, moral, and culture connections.

What Is Considered A Myth?

Myths are often long-lost fables that are told about early history, ancient legends, or supernatural beings. For instance, tales about the Greek Gods, like Heracles the Greek demi-god, Zeus, or Odysseys are some of the most well-known tales to humankind. These myths were created as a way to explain a natural event that involved supernatural beings so that one could rationalize the world around them. Other than this, myths contain a moral and were often told through societal traditions, customs, and rituals as a way to sustain social order.  Popular myths involve King Arthur, Robin Hood, and the parable of Atlantis. Myths can be origin stories, archetypes, dreams, pre-scientific explanations, and sacred histories.

What is Considered A Superstition?

In its simplest form, a superstition is a belief in supernatural influence where practices are based around this sole belief. A superstition can involve witchcraft, religious ideals, and even evil spirits or ghosts. A lot of the time, superstitions found throughout the world are embedded within the cultural beliefs of that particular society, which is often why you see a wide range of superstitions when you travel from one region to another. Beyond this, a lot of superstitions revolve around luck, which is why you come across superstitions involving black cats, mirrors, and salt despite there being no factual or rational basis for them. In older days, superstitions were heavily relied upon, but with the development of scientific research, beliefs in these are dwindling.

How Are Myths and Superstitions Rationalized and What Are There Focus?

With a myth being a story or fable that is used to explain a natural event, their primary focus is to center around events that involve supernatural beings that need to be rationalized because they are unknown to humankind. A superstition, on the other hand, is a belief or practice that is based within supernatural influence and focuses directly on objects and animals that signify the supernatural or bad luck and are used to embrace the supernatural rather than to rationalize it. Myths will often support the societal order through morals, whereas, superstitions will not have a moral or lesson behind them. You will come across myths when reading about long-lost civilizations, cities, and cultures, but with superstitions, you will often find these embedded within the cultural beliefs of more rural communities, settlements, and tribes.