Walking in Circles

Walking in Circles



When I was pacing and talking, my informant told me to stop walking in a circle and warned me of a superstition his parents follow: “never walk in circles.” He explained that both of his parents believe in this superstition, and they told him it comes from an ancient tale. Although my informant couldn’t remember exactly, he said, “if you walk around in a circle multiple times, you die because apparently this happened a long time ago in which a devil cursed someone by walking around them, and that person suffered a slow painful death.”

My informant went on to explain that if someone walks in a circle, the same fate will befall them. When asked for further detail, he claimed he remembered that clockwise direction was considered worse than counterclockwise direction. He then provided a preventative measure, informing me that his parents said if someone walked in the opposite direction they could undo the effect.


Though my informant does not believe in this superstition, when he sees people walking in circles, it reminds him of his parents and the story, connecting him to his heritage. Since both of his parents are Muslim, but one is from Pakistan, the other is from India, my informant believes that the superstition comes from Islam, and is not related to their nationalities.


The superstition could have real-world implications: preventing people from running around in circles may decrease the risk of twisting an ankle, or would discourage children from running wild and causing a ruckus.  Symbolically, the superstition also relates to the passage of time, which reinforces the theme of death:  clockwise circles are associated with time moving forward (because of the direction of sundials and clocks). Thus, walking around in a circle clockwise is an act of symbolically speeding up your own life, bringing death quickly.  This is an example of homeopathic magic and preventative magic.