I understand why superstitions exist, as I myself am a superstitious person. I used to believe that if you laid a hat on the table then it meant someone would die, and that deaths come in three. I still cringe when I see a hat on a table, but I know that it doesn’t mean that someone will die. Superstitions exist because somewhere along the line, people saw a correlation between doing something—picking up a penny, knocking on wood, or dropping silverware, and then our minds associated the action with the world as a way to interpret it or maybe somehow prevent fate. *
I decided to pair this week with the book Superstitions A Pocket Guide by Alys R. Yaablon because it’s Halloween week. Originally, I’d planned on writing about The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson, but since I got sick, I couldn’t read as fast or as much as I normally do. The good news is that I was able to read this book in one sitting, dozing on and off on the couch with my black cat.
Most of the superstitions in this book were standard: mirrors, black cats, talismans, etcetera. But there were some I hadn’t heard of before like bread and butter (it’s bad luck to walk on opposite sides of an obstacle), coming and going (entering and exiting though the same door), or one about fish (they’re good luck). Also, I never knew that black cats are thought of as good luck in England.
But even as I read, I tried to connect the superstitions with my life. I had just watched Pan’s Labyrinth the night before, and the book talked about a superstition called Hamsa the evil eye in the hand. I tried to connect it with the monster in the movie, (the one who picks up his eyes and puts them in his hands) but I couldn’t. ** This just made me think about the essential truth of what a superstition is—a way to navigate out world.
At any rate, it was a fun little book to read for Halloween. I wish the book explained more about the history and psychology of these myths and legends, but it was just a pocket book guide. The introduction was pretty funny and ironic.
I’m going to hang out on my couch with my black good luck cat and not think too much about it, as sometimes that is the best way to navigate this world.
And just for fun here’s a song to go with the post. You can listen to it here.
* The psychology behind superstitions is interesting to me, and I wish they’d make a Through The Wormhole episode about it.
**What was Guillermo del Toro saying about sensing and acting? What did it mean that the little girl was still tempted and this awoke the monster? I could probably write an entire essay on the symbolism in Guillermo del Toro’s directive choices, but I’ll save that for another blog entry.