Who's afraid of black cats?


What do you think happens when a black cat crosses the path of a Swiss, Austrian, German or Czech? The Swiss walks on without taking any notice. The Austrian and German may hesitate but eventually they will walk on anyway. The Czech will most likely turn back or take a different route in case the black cat puts a jinx on his day.

Well, it's a bit exaggerated, I know, but basically that is the result of a European survey on superstition conducted by the renowned polling agency Marketagent. The outcome of the survey, in which 6,000 people took part, suggests that the Czechs are the most superstitious nation in central Europe.

Forty seven percent of Czech respondents admitted that they were superstitious -as compared to 23 percent of Swiss respondents, 30 percent of Germans and 32 percent of Austrians. Czech psychologists say they are not surprised by the outcome of the survey. They claim that in the Czech Republic fortune tellers and psychics have more clients than psychologists. No other European papers devote so much space to horoscopes and feature so many ads by astrologers. One in two Czechs grab hold of a button when they see a chimney sweep - and even tv news anchors will caution the public to "take care tomorrow because it is Friday 13th". The warning is not made in all seriousness but the media know that they will strike the right note with many people by mentioning it.

So what makes Czechs more superstitious than other nations? It's hard to say, but some psychologists say superstition is directly linked to a lack of self-confidence - and that people who do not have faith in themselves prefer to put their faith in someone or something higher up and to bolster their self confidence with good luck charms. Sociologists say that the inclination towards superstition is rooted in Czech culture and the way of life - specifically that Czech children are often in the care of their grandparents -rather than a babysitter - and older people tend to be more superstitious. Wherever the truth lies -clearly one in two Czechs believe that there is something between heaven and earth...And even those who laugh it off as nonsense still harbor a tiny seed of doubt -what if there's something to it, after all? The most glaring example of this was when in February of this year a psychic called the police to say she'd had a vision of bloodshed at Prague's Ruzyne Airport. Within an hour the interior ministry had sent an armored personnel carrier, bomb disposal experts and police reinforcements to the airport. The minister took plenty of ribbing about it afterwards - but he too must have thought - what if?