Last September I booked a hotel in England, first visit since lock-down. A friend who had gone back to the UK booked to join me. Scuppered, hotel taken over for Afghan refugees. I booked again in October, another hotel, friend again booked in. She had an awful accident, scuppered again. I claim not to be superstitious, but that wretched third time (lucky, in principle) rears its head. The dictionary says ‘Superstitious is believing that certain acts, or signs, in a way occult or automatic, can have good or bad consequences’.

You would think these ideas come from sorcerers, druids, pagans, those who live in the woods. My mother was superstitious to the nth degree. If you spilled salt,  you had to take a pinch and throw it over your left shoulder to ward off bad luck. Peacock feathers and hawthorne flowers were banned. Accidents (as above) arrive in three – the number 13 is to be avoided, and if the thirteenth falls on a Friday, stay in bed. Also on Friday, do not walk under a ladder. Break a mirror, seven years bad luck (never heard the antidote, stick the pieces back together again?)

There are varying stories about magpies. Seeing one is bad luck, seeing two brings joy. I often laugh, on the road, one magpie in front of you. Look out! You look in the rear mirror, its mate is behind you. Two is OK, I think of them saying ‘Got them worried that time’.

When you are planning things, and they look risky, do you touch wood (if you can find any, for many people their head will suffice). You cross your fingers, say ‘God willing’ or ‘If I’m spared’, in the hope of warding off evil. I’ve forgotten if black cats are good or bad news. If they try crossing the road around here it’s bad news for them.

I wrote this for French and UK church magazines in 2007. Beijing had opted for the opening of the Olympic Games on the 8th of the 8th 2008, being auspicious. One of my daughters and loads of others got married that day. Not too auspicious for my daughter, marriage only lasted 18 months. Moslems take a severe view of superstitions because it is virtually an insult to Allah, thinking there are exterior beliefs un-allied to the faith.

Choosing the ‘propitious’ day is most complicated on the island of Bali. You consult signs for a good day to plant rice. If you do not have enough money to have a funeral for a relative in a sacred spot, you give temporary burial, sometimes up to ten years, until you can afford to cremate the remains and scatter the ashes in a sacred place.

Many newspapers and magazines have a page of horoscopes. They really fascinate me – love life does not figure any more, but good days to travel, a financial wind-fall, imagine! Do you have, even if you think you are logical, a sneaking feeling you must touch wood, or read your horoscope knowing it’s rubbish?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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