Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fortune telling- is it cultural?

Is your native culture superstitious? Do people rely heavily on fortune-telling? We might associate divination with certain cultures and religions, but I think there is evidence in all cultures to suggest that we all long to know what our future holds…

When I took a quick look at my own culture, I realized that there are quite a few forms of entertainment that have a link to fortune telling, and, directly or indirectly, devil worship.

American culture
-Ouiji boards
-Daily horoscopes and other forms of Astrology
-Chinese fortune cookies
-Tarot reading
-TV shows and other portrayals of psychics...
Continue reading/-

-“MASH” and other games to find out about one’s future spouse, etc.
-Chain games which involve uttering certain words; passing on a message to get a certain effect...
-Misuse of prophecy in the Church
-References to bad luck and bad omens
-Personality “tests” and a multitude of other attempts to analyze one’s behavior and chances for certain outcomes in life

Russian Culture
–having not grown up here, I miss a lot of the subtle references. But Astrology and other attempts at determining the future certainly abound.
-A woman in the metro once gave me a “gift” of an Astrology magazine.
-A few women (looking like they were from one of the southern republics) once came up to me asking directions and suddenly started speaking words over me about the future, which actually sounded more like a curse, but I ignored them and walked away without determining what they had said.
-I heard that the period of Yuletide (after Christmas on Jan.7th) are very popular for fortune telling.

Meanwhile, my teacher for Culture class is a very enthusiastic educator and tells about everything as though she is telling a story, with much description and emotion. But unfortunately, she seems just as passionate about paganism as about Christian traditions in Russia.

We had a very odd reading this last week about “evil spirits.” This was an article that she had written herself. She began by stating that the Russian understanding of clean and unclean spirits arose only after the advent of Christianity. With no apparent transition, the text then launched into a description of Russian folk traditions for keeping away evil spirits, including brandishing a cross, the most potent instrument of magic (!).

Okay, so we’re not quite sure where Christianity ends and “folk” traditions begin…not uncommon…
But that isn’t all.

A description of “Russian fortune telling” warned that it was dangerous and sinful, due to the fact that you are entering into contact with an unclean spirit.

The NEXT page gave recommended times and places for practicing divination, including instructions for calling up an evil spirit! I have run into paradoxes in Russian culture before, but it’s been awhile since anyone instructed me in witchcraft! Unless, of course, you count Massachusetts public schools, but that’s a different story…

I have to be fair and say that this isn’t about culture, and it isn’t even really about religion, as far as comparing them with each other. Yes, Christianity has the answer, but it is because only in Christ are we able to feel secure about our future without knowing all the answers. It is nothing to do with rituals.

Tendencies to find out the future can seem a little desperate, or even demonic. Indeed, any spirit that is not from the Lord is from Satan. But I do not think there exists a people group who worries about the future more than others, or on the contrary worries less. It is something we all seek and we can be sure that those around us who do not know Christ are looking for their future by way of other means.

Starting from Creation, we have gone looking for ways to learn more than we need to know at a specific moment in our lives. The Bible warns that this is not God's desire for us.


"Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come." (Rev. 2:24, 25)

4 comments:

  1. As always, Liz, you offer very interesting articles on which to reflect. I hope my response is not too long or offensive to some. If so, please delete. I am sure more will come to mind once I post this list.
    Growing up in Georgia I was surrounded by numerous “Old wives tales” and concepts. I think my Mom tried to counter some of these, but it was part of her heritage, too:
    1.Broken mirrors caused seven years of bad luck,
    2. black cats, especially if one ran across the road in front of a car, the number 13, an open umbrella in the house, rocking a rocking chair with no one in it, and walking under a ladder caused bad luck,
    3.snapping turtles will not let go until it thunders,
    4.breathing in air near earwigs will rot one's teeth, so hold your breath when you see one,
    5.working in one's garden or washing one's car on Sunday shows a person is not a Christian,
    6.only true Baptist will go to Heaven,
    7.drinking river water will cause gall stones,
    8.all sins in the sight of God are equal,
    9.Jean Dickson, Edger Casey, and Ouija boards could see into the future,
    10.stepping on a crack could break my mother's back,
    11.carving three notches over and inside a front doorway would bring a soldier back through that doorway to his wife, but because of war wounds, some wives would regret that action,
    12.rubbing a gold object 21 times on an eye sty without blinking will cause it to go away (Maybe I still believe this one.),
    13.seven beans buried underneath a house (Houses in the south were once built up on posts.) will stop a woman's bothersome menstrual flow during the change of life, but she may regret the years of pain that follow,
    14.the Bible says that sex with a whore is less sinful than masturbation because no semen is lost and the misquote was: “It is better to fill the belly of a whore than permit any to fall to the ground.”,
    15.the sex of a child is determined by the spouse who enjoys sex the most,
    16.there is no Hell, we get enough of it here on earth,
    17.drunks don't get hurt when they fall down stairs which shows God loves a drunk,
    18.washing clothes on New Year's Day will result in a family death that year: “Washing out the old with the new.”,
    19.each black eyed pea that one eats on New Year's day will be an extra dollar earned that year,
    20.writing “xmas” at Christmas time is a sign of the Devil, because on has taken “Christ” out of Christmas.
    21.when it is raining outside, but also bright and sunny, the Devil's wife is hitting him over the head with a frying pan (No idea where the concept of a wife for the Devil came from.),
    22.throwing salt over the shoulder will prevent rain, not sure if this was the left or right shoulder,
    23.not to touch the soft spot on a baby's head,
    24.mirrors attracted lightning and it is best to cover them during a storm,
    25.living on the other side of a very busy street was the home of Soap Sally and if a child went across that busy street she would make that child into soap,
    26.once a splinter is removed, it should be rubbed into the hair on the top of the head to prevent it from returning,
    27.a cat sleeping with a baby could take the baby's breath away,
    28.not lifting one's feet when another person was vacuuming would result in becoming an old maid,
    29.“birds of a feather stick together,” thus there should be no racial mixing,

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Liz...thanks for writing about this article.
    As an Asian who grew up in Asian country, I used to hear lots of superstitious tales that are against the Word of God.
    Sadly enough, many christians (i'm sure they're not born-again christians) also still believe in such things and practice witchcraft, for example:
    - when a couple want to get married, they go to ask the fortuneteller to see when is the best date for them to hold the wedding.
    - when a person want to start his/her own company, he will go to ask the fortuneteller to see when is the best date to start it and where he suppose to build his company building.
    and this list still goes long....

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  3. Wow! I've learned some new ones. I would probably divide them into fortune telling, casting spells, and explanations of phenomena. Sometimes we aren't specifically looking for information about the future, but wish to find a reason for something we don't understand. A fourth category could be "Christian" legalism.

    After all these examples I suppose it isn't fair to only put the spotlight on Russia!

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  4. A favorite verse of mine is: Psalm 119: 105. "Your word is a lamp to my feet
    And a light to my path." I like this verse because it says to me that details of my future are not something I should care about because God's word will light the path in front of me and that is all that I need to see, thus no need for fortune tells, even if they were able to see the future.

    ReplyDelete

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