Mankind's Search for God/Chapter 4/pages 69-70/pars. 3-4/
3 Of course, fear of the deities, especially of unknown ones, is not limited to the Athenians of the first century. For thousands of years, it has dominated nearly all mankind. In many parts of the world, almost every aspect of the people’s life is directly or indirectly involved with some deity or with spirits. As we have seen in the previous chapter, the mythologies of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and others were deeply rooted in ideas about gods and spirits, which played an important role in personal and national affairs. During the Middle Ages, stories about alchemists, sorcerers, and witches were rampant throughout the realm of Christendom. And the situation is much the same today.
Rites and Superstitions Today
4 Whether people are aware of it or not, many things that they do are linked with superstitious practices or beliefs, some having to do with deities or spirits. For example, did you know that birthday observance has its origin in astrology, which attaches great importance to one’s exact birth date? What about the birthday cake? It appears to be related to the Greek goddess Artemis, whose birthday was celebrated with moon-shaped honey cakes topped with candles. Or did you know that wearing black at funerals was originally a ruse to escape the attention of evil spirits said to be lurking on such occasions?
Some black Africans paint themselves white, and mourners in other lands wear unusual colors so that the spirits will not recognize them.