I’m working on a story in which one of the characters is very superstitious.
I have to decide if there is a particular superstition that is especially close to her heart. If there is, it’s bound to have an effect on what happens in the story.
When my husband gave me a pair of gardening clippers for my birthday (I did ask for them!), I wouldn’t take them until I’d given him a dime. My mother always insisted on giving a penny to the giver of a knife or scissors or anything with a sharp blade (so as not to sever the relationship).
I got many of my superstitions from my mother. Odd really, given that she was the daughter of an Anglican vicar.
A nice cuppa?
One day when I was pregnant, I asked my husband to pour me another cup of tea. “Oh no,” he said after he’d poured it, realizing there was no more tea left for him. “You’ve drunk the last cup from the pot. Now we’ll have ginger-haired twins.” He insisted his Nova Scotia grandmother had told him this. “Could you check for a second heartbeat?” I asked my doctor at my next appointment. I couldn’t help half-believing. Also I was absolutely huge…and my father was a twin, one of a long line of twins in his family! But we didn’t have twins, we had one gorgeous bright-eyed beaming blond baby.
Don’t court bad luck by having one person pour the milk into the cup and another pour the tea. The same person should pour both.
Another from my husband’s Nova Scotia granny: Never put new shoes on the table.
A superstition I absolutely insist on with my guests, or if a guest myself: When leaving, never open the front door of a house you’re visiting – your host or hostess must open it. Of course, if your guests stay for days or weeks, this only applies to the last time they go out through the door!
You must leave a house you’re visiting by the same door you entered by.
Don’t look at the moon through glass.
Don’t go to sleep with the moon shining through a window on you. This one was from my vicar grandfather himself and I well remember my mother carefully aligning the bedroom curtains in my childhood home so they wouldn’t let in any chinks of moonlight.
Another of my mother’s: Never put up an umbrella in the house.
Passing on the stairs
Don’t pass another person on the stairs without saying something. (Hard in public buildings! I usually mutter something under my breath.)
After spilling salt, throw a pinch of it over your left shoulder. Don’t say a word until you have done this three times.
If you break a mirror, bury a piece mirror-side down in earth within five minutes.
Stir the pot
My father (from Vienna) always told me his mother (from then-Yugoslavia) would not allow the contents of a pan to be stirred counter-clockwise.
I remember going to teach a dance class with my top inside-out. One by one the dancers came and whispered in my ear that I needed to turn it right-side-out. But I didn’t. If you’ve put a piece of clothing on inside-out by mistake, you mustn’t put it right. If you don’t change it, you’ll be lucky.
My mother would never allow lilacs in the house. My Somerset friend says ‘No hydrangeas – not white ones – in the house.’
My Somerset friend also told me nurses would never allow a vase of only red and white flowers on the ward. You had to go and find a flower of another color to mix in with them.
Making the bed
Three more from my Somerset friend (three is lucky!): If you see a diamond shape in the sheets, you must take the sheet off and iron it out.
If you go back into the house three times because you forgot something, you must turn around three times in the hallway and sit down before going out again. This explains why I’m always late!
Friday night’s dream on a Saturday told, sure to come true though ever so old.
As a kid, I knew a special day was coming up when I saw a penny on the ground. See a penny, pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck. Why oh why did Canada do away with its pennies?
Which one do you think I should choose for my character?
What are your favorite superstitions? Please share them in the comments box. I’d love to hear about them.
The stairs one could lead to some interesting meetings out in the world; she’s muttering under her breath and someone actually stops and says “What?” The sharp blades could be interesting as the one closest to her heart; what if she had nothing to pay her friend who loans her a pair of scissors? How much of the conflict that follows is the result of their relationship being “severed” and how much is caused by her belief that it will be severed?
This is fun!
Hi Katie, That is terrific. You’ve got two stories on their way! I especially like the idea that the problem is caused by her belief in the superstition rather than by the superstition itself. What has been happening between them that is making her believe this relationship isn’t going to continue? Mmm…nice!
I’m editing a project that I finished about a month ago, so it’s been that long since I’ve written fiction and I miss the creative part of the process! Your character is going to be an intriguing one, that’s for sure; I like your idea.
Thanks – I’m certainly enjoying working with this character although she’s a little hard to pin down. Good luck with your project.