Wishing upon a star is a superstition similar to carrying around a rabbits foot for good luck or hanging a horseshoe in an upward position to “keep the good luck from falling out.” In this respect, wishing upon a star is “occulty” in that this kind of superstition gives recognition to a power other than God – in this case a star – which violates the First Commandment. Because the New Age readily embraces occult practices due to its underlying philosophy which does not believe in the personification of evil, this label could also be applied to it.
The practice of wishing upon stars has a long history that originates in ancient pagan religions. Ptolemy, the Greco-Egyptian writer and astronomer, believed that shooting stars – which are the stars we’re supposed to be wishing upon – were signs that the gods were looking down and listening to the wishes of the people. Some ancients believed that when the gods peeled open the heavens to gaze down upon us, they would knock a few stars loose.
Superstition about stars has acquired quite a bit of folklore over the centuries. For instance, in England and some parts of the world it is believed that the first star you see in the night star possesses special magic that can make all of your dreams come true. Other cultures require you to recite a particular nursery rhyme such as “Star Light, Star Bright” if you want your dream to come true.
Wishing upon shooting stars can get a bit more complicated in some cultures. For example, in Chile, you have to pick up a stone and make your wish before the light disappears. In the Philippines, you must tie a knot in your handkerchief while making the wish and complete these tasks before the star disappears. In other cultures, if you spot a falling star on your right, it means good luck; if you spot it on your left, expect misfortune to befall you.
Regardless of the legend, to believe in the power of a star to make your dreams come true is to fall into the trap of superstition. We can look at the stars and enjoy their beauty, but to attribute any kind of power to them is an offense against God because it “honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc.” (CCC 2112). This list can include any other talisman that we might choose to carry around with us out of a mistaken notion that it has the power to protect us.
In fact, this rule can also apply to religious items. If we’re carrying a cross in our pocket or hanging rosary beads on our rear view mirror for protection, we have to be very careful to resist the temptation to believe that the object itself is protecting us rather than faith in the God Who is represented by these objects. If we start to believe that the cross or the beads themselves are protecting us – which is remarkably easy to do – then we are attributing “an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary” (CCC 2111). Unless the cross and the beads are reminding us to pray to God for protection, we’re better off leaving the cross and the beads at home and saying the prayer instead.
As for brands that show characters wishing on stars, this usage is usually more colloquial than it is encouraging superstition among its users.
However, there is one custom concerning falling stars that we might want to take up, but for wholly un-superstitious reasons. Some believe that every time a star falls from the sky, it represents a soul released from purgatory who is now making its final ascent into heaven. The next time you see a shooting star, instead of engaging in superstition, why not let that celestial event remind you to say a quick prayer for the poor souls in purgatory!
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