Thursday, October 29, 2009


A broken mirror signals seven years of bad luck. Don't walk under a ladder. Beware of a black cat crossing your path. Don't whistle in a graveyard. Superstitions are everywhere; most of their origins lost in the mists of time.

Theatrical people have many superstitions. "Break a leg" is what you say instead of "good luck". Never whistle or clap backstage. A bad dress rehearsal means a good opening night. Never (and I mean never) quote a line from Macbeth (always referred to as either The Scottish Play or The Scottish Tragedy) backstage. If you do, you have to go outside the theatre, turn around three times, and swear. The whole play is viewed with superstition. I have heard story after story about disasters occurring when Macbeth is performed. Sets fall down. People get injured. Believe it or not, but there's something about that play that seems to invite ill-luck.

Writers have superstitions too. Emma Thompson will only use one specific pen when she writes the first draft of her screenplays. Some won't write "The End" until all the editing, etc. is done. Many writers won't talk about their manuscript until that first draft is completed.

Back when I debated, I always wore a certain shirt and a certain pair of socks to every competition. Other people carried good luck charms in their pockets. It was silly, of course, all of us had done the necessary preparation and were good at public speaking and thinking on our feet, but I would never have gone into a tournament without those socks.

Do you have superstitions? Do you care if you spill the salt; or do you have to throw some of it over your shoulder? Is Friday the 13th just another day? Or would you tear the house apart looking for your special pen? It's almost Halloween; let's air our personal superstitions!


  1. I don't really have any superstitions, although I don't like walking near railroad tracks and I don't like to be outside in a thunderstorm. And I'm afraid of cheese.

  2. I don't have any. Many times I've noticed that what others deem as superstitious, I consider lucky.

    A black cat crossing my path? Good luck. I like cats.

    Stepping under a ladder? Just make sure nothing will fall on you, like paint.

    Spilled or tossed salt merely needs to be cleaned up.

    As I am writing this I realized that I have a pendant I wear every day. Would that be considered a superstition, that the wearing of that pendant is protecting me, calming to me? Or is it merely that I BELIEVE it beholds those qualities?

    :) Good post, Elspeth!

  3. OMG I just finished my comment and there was Alan's - apparently we were commenting at the same time. ALAN! Afraid of cheese?? Oh you are such a riot!

  4. Alan; A cheese fear. You are too funny.

    Crystal; I think your pendant might be one!

  5. My Nana was full of superstition, she wouldn't walk under a ladder or in the path if crossed by a black cat. We also couldn't pass each other on the stairs.

    Mine - not really one, but if I don't want to do something (bail out of plans) I'll never lie and pretend to be sick because I don't want it "to come back to me" and become sick.

  6. What a fun Halloweenish subject.

    Here's one: I will not leave money on the ground, if I drop a penny I have pick it up. I have this belief that wasting even a penny is akin to turning up my nose at what I have, being arrogant and flippant. I should be more grateful than that. I was buying my son an ice cream after school at the McDonald's window one day and my change fell before it reached the hand of the guy at the window, he said, "Don't worry about it." But I got out of the car and picked it all up, embarrassing my son. I reminded him that money didn't grow on trees.

  7. Elspeth - Elizabeth is right; this is really a fun question for Hallowe'en : ). Hmmm..... I wouldn't say I have supersitions - at least not the traditional ones. I do think, though, that the instinct to protect ourselves, whether with a charm, salt over the shoulder, or whatever, is a very deep human impulse. Interesting question...

  8. Emma Thompson writes screenplays? I had no idea!

    I don't really have a superstition with my writing. I just let it fly. I have, at times, had problems pausing on page 13. I feel like I need to keep going to 14. Someone once told me Stephen King's Triskaidekaphobia is so bad he won't even stop writing or reading on a page that adds up to 13.

  9. Carolyn; It's all about karma, isn't it?

    Elizabeth; I'm the same way with money. Every penny counts.

    Margot; What a good point, Margot. Each of us instinctively protect ourselves in our own way.

  10. Stephanie; We posted at the same time! I don't have an issue with 13 and I've always found buildings that don't list a 13th floor as rather silly. I don't understand calling it the 14th floor; count up, people; you're on the 13th.

  11. "Nah. Not superstitious at all," said the Old Silly as he sidestepped a crack to avoid breaking his mother's back.

  12. Nice post, and I especially like the bit about the theatre superstitions. Since I just finished a performance that was all fresh to me. Some of us who have been in productions together before had our own way of doing the "break a leg" routine before curtain. The other's thought it was strange, but went along with it. Guess they didn't want to jinx us. :-)

    Thought about writing superstitions and realized I don't have any. Not sure if that is good or bad. Hmmmmmm.....

  13. Marvin; I wonder how long that one has been around? I remember being very careful walking along sidewalks when I was little.

    Maryann; The theatre is full of superstitions, I only named a few of them!

    Karen; I knock on wood as well. Thanks for the kind words!

  14. My Mum inherited plenty from her Irish mother. We weren't allowed to open umbrella's in the house or turn the calender page before midnight..

    I've heard that a bird in the house is a harbinger of an impending death in the family. I'm so glad I didn't inherit the superstition gene as I had at least three birds in the house this summer.

    Er, does anyone know what the time frame is on the bird in the house thingy? :)

  15. Good topic - and I'm apparently more superstitious than many of you! I do the salt thing, knock on wood, don't turn the calendar and did the old/new/borrowed/blue when I got married! Don't know how seriously I take any of it, but why take a chance! :)

  16. Deb; I knew about opening umbrellas in the house; didn't know it was Irish. I've never heard about the bird superstition. Interesting.

    Jemi; Doesn't everyone do the old/new/borrowed/blue thing? It's just fun. You're also supposed to put a penny in your shoe on your wedding day. I didn't. Who want something in your shoe when you're on your feet for that long? Practicality triumphed.

  17. I'm a kook when it comes to superstitions. It's so irrational! But I'd rather not play around with getting hexed. :)

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  18. I am certainly not superstitious. Absolutely not, knock on wood. This isn't the 13th post is it?

    My mom wouldn't let us, as kids, step over each other if we were laying on the floor. And if we did, we had to step back over the same way so not to have back luck.

  19. The mirror thing. We once looked at a house to buy with a huge broken mirror in the dining room. Freaked me out. Didn't buy it.

  20. My first response was, no way, I'm not superstitious. Then I remembered that I recently moved a reading date from Friday, November 13—and I'm always the one telling myself 13 is actually a lucky number for witches and other nonconformists.

    There's a great book about allowing a "superstitious" mindset into your life: A Fortuneteller Told Me. It's a memoir by an Italian journalist who decides not to fly on airplanes for a year because a fortuneteller told him he'd die if he did...and all the unexpectedly rich and wonderful consequences of that decision.

    One question, though: What's the difference between superstitions and habits? As in, I mostly wear the same pair of turquoise earrings every day, because I like them and they're comforting, but I think that's just a habit.

  21. No, I have no superstitions, but if I get stuck when writing (fiction, articles, no matter what), I put the computer away and find a notepad with squared paper. It usually does the trick.

  22. Elizabeth; I completely understand.

    Journaling Woman; That's a new one for me. Thanks.

    Carol; I don't know if it would have stopped me buying the house; after all the mirror would have left with the old owners.

    Martha; I would think wearing the same earrings is a habit, unless NOT wearing them makes you nervous. Welcome!

    Dorte; I may try that sometime!

  23. Well! Since you asked (and what a good idea to give an ivitation at the end of your post) I'll just have to say it makes me anxious to say, "I WILL do that!" or "You can't stop me from doing such-and-such!" It seems high-handed and arrogant. I feel like I would be tempting the Universe to play a joke on me. That doesn't stop me from dreaming dreams and making my desires known. I feel like I have access to all benevolent abundance--but I have to acknowledge the Source.


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