Friday, 11 March 2011

LUCKY RABBIT'S FOOT? Well, it didn't work for the rabbit...

I have always been superstitious (some may say to the point of being slightly OCD – if you can be slightly OCD that is) and it's been the same ever since... well, High School I suppose. Maybe it was a teenager thing, but I distinctly remember I couldn't possibly go out without my toenails being painted in what I thought were lucky colours (alternate bronze and lilac if memory serves – this was in the 1970s remember). School exams required lucky knickers, lucky earrings and a lucky hair bobble. These went with the lucky pencil case, lucky pens and lucky eraser (I didn't have a lucky gonk – I don't think I had the room what with all the other stuff). Despite all this I still bombed at History...  but I sailed through Maths - and English was well above the expected grade - so there must be something in it. Things were a little less intense by the time I came to do my Diploma in Classical Studies: I had whittled things down to just the pencil case (yellow to aid concentration) and a packet of Polo mints, but I was in my twenties by then and a lucky hair bobble would have looked ridiculous. I wore “lucky shoes” for my driving test. Ok, so I failed the first one, but I passed at the second attempt so the facts speak for themselves.

I think the obsession with good luck/bad luck originally came from my grandmother. She came from a dirt-poor family in the East End of London and was the eldest of 13 children who seem to have thrived on a diet of superstition. In fact, as I recall from my visits to her as a child,  hardly a day went by where she didn't stop in her tracks to do some little obscure action and thus avert ill-luck or the devil.

It was from Gran that I learned to throw spilt salt over my left shoulder to “hit the devil in the eye”; never to pick up my own gloves if I dropped them; to cover all the mirrors and cutlery during a thunder-storm (because they would attract lightning), and to turn around 3 times on the spot if I ever saw a monkey puzzle tree. Funnily enough there was a monkey puzzle tree in the front garden of a house in her road – which was highly unusual in the rows and rows of back-to-back terraced houses of deepest, darkest London – and yes, I would always turn around 3 times just to be on the safe side. As to the mirrors and cutlery attracting lightning, well her house was never struck during her lifetime, so that must be proof it works.

She had tons of other superstitions too. She wouldn't get into a green car (definite accident waiting to happen), opals were an absolute no no (ditto re accident) and as for cutting your toenails on a Sunday, well that was just asking for it. I can't remember what was threatened if  you left a knife and fork crossed on an empty plate, but I still don't do it to this day.  Pancakes had to be eaten on Shrove Tuesday, hot-cross buns and fish on Good Friday, silver coins were always placed in the Christmas pudding and you had to make a wish when cutting your birthday cake – to do otherwise would be tempting fate and no-one in their right mind would do that.

My own criteria for denoting an item of jewellery/clothing as lucky/unlucky is based on the following scientific formula:

a) something nice happens to you whilst wearing said item jewellery/clothing etc
 = LUCKY and should be worn frequently or when in need of psychological “boost”.

b) something horrid happens to you whilst wearing said item/jewellery/clothing etc   
 = UNLUCKY and should be donated to the bin.

I've got better as I've got older. I've stopped reading my horoscope (a daily ritual when I was a teenager – but then I only really believed in it when I liked what was said). I never worried about stepping on the cracks of the pavement because, come on now, how could that ever affect my luck and I could never remember whether a black cat was supposed to be lucky or unlucky anyway (depends on the kind of day you're having I suppose). Having said that, I still can't bring myself to walk under a ladder (it's that ingrained) and I still knock on wood (tapping my head if there's no real wood to hand – I know, don't ask).  I still say "Good morning my Lord", three times if I see a lone magpie and I hate the thought of a broken mirror or an open umbrella indoors, plus I always, without fail, take my Christmas decorations down on Twelfth Night. See gran, I was listening.....


  1. I am resolutely without superstitions of any sort. I've never ever noticed a correlation between having lucky items and good fortune, or not having them, and believe me I am on the look out for patterns in life. I walk happily under ladders and black cats and do and say things that make colleagues gasp with horror.
    I do however talk to birds and animals and they talk back to me.
    Just pick your own version of madness and wear it with pride.

  2. I join your colleagues and gasp with horror too. My husband is very similar to you in that he has no superstitions whatsoever - I guess we balance one another out...but I still won't walk under a ladder xx