Why, when I spill some salt, do I pinch up a few grains and through them over my shoulder, right hand, left shoulder? Why when there are a couple of knives which have slid across each other do I uncross them? why does the thought arise unbidden that there might be a marriage or twins born if I notice a saucer with two teaspoons, or if a knife falls to the floor I think a visitor might be due? Why, if I see a single magpie do I greet him/her, then scan all around for another? Why do i turn coins over in my pocket when i see a new moon, and avoid looking at it through glass?
I know why I do, these are the vestiges of superstitions which I somehow acquired as a child, not from my parents, they weren’t superstitious at all, but just through the culture of the time. I’m not superstitious, I don’t believe in good or bad luck, fortunate thigs happen, or unfortunate things happen, by chance. I was never superstitious and never believed them, I never thought that if I didn’t throw salt over my shoulder when I spilt some that I really would have bad luck – so why did I ever do it, and why do I still do it? Why do I still cross my fingers when wishing good luck on someone – in actual fact I don’t wish luck, I wish that whatever they are about to do will be successful. I guess it’s a habit, and also there is a wistful wish that these things existed, that there was some magic still abroad, that we could do things to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and also have a glimpse of the future – the future marriage, the twins, the visitor arriving.
I recently wrote about another aspect of this same thing, believing in ghosts – which I don’t and yet I did once have a strange and unexplained experience. A friend commented here that since we have a boggart in our home (which has accompanied us when we moved from another house) and we believe in him, why did I not believe in ghosts. A conundrum. Why don’t I think there are any such things as fairies (well maybe there are in some places) and why do I really not believe there are such things as angels? I can’t explain that either except to say I know there aren’t supernatural beings of any sort – just as I know the earth isn’t flat and the moon isn’t made of cheese!
PS Don’t dare suggest that there is no such person as Father Christmas!