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Are You Superstitious?

 By Tamara Hogan

Happy Halloween!
Do you avoid walking on sidewalk cracks? Walk around ladders rather than under them?  Throw salt over your shoulder when someone sneezes? Think a broken mirror brings seven years of bad luck? Dislike or get nervous around black cats?

As you might be able to tell from the picture of my own black cat, Weasel,  I'm not at all superstitious.

The one "suspicion-y" behavior I might be able to claim is sports-oriented - and decidedly back in the past. I was a competitive gymnast in high school and college, and I had one pre-competition ritual I had to complete without fail: I had to mentally run at least one clean, no-fall balance beam routine before acknowledging the judge and starting my routine.
Is this superstition? Visualization? Whatever you want to call it, I know it worked. ;-) defines "superstition" as follows:

su·per·sti·tion  (n.)  

1.  a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.
2.  a system or collection of such beliefs.
3.  a custom or act based on such a belief. 
4.  irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, esp. in connection with religion.
5.  any blindly accepted belief or notion.

Super Supper? But I want ice cream! 

The meaning of the word 'superstition' has evolved, as definitions do, over time. In Medieval Europe, scholars used the word to describe spiritual beliefs and observances that opposed the dominant religion, Christianity, thrusting many pagans - and black cats - into jeopardy.  Today, the word is used to describe beliefs or behaviors perceived to have no foundation in science or logic. 

Despite how advanced we think our civilization might be, October remains a risky time to be a black cat - so much so that some humane societies and animal rescue organizations refuse to place black cats in new homes until Halloween is over, lest they be abused.

So, no matter how much Weasel wants to go outside and play with the fallen leaves, I keep him, and his brother Slinky, safely indoors, where their only worry is whether tonight they'll be fed Super Supper or Fisherman's Catch for dinner.     

Are you superstitious? If so, about what? And why?   


  1. I'm not particularly superstitious. I do cross myself when I pass a church or a Hearse, when I speak of the dead, I usually add God rest his or her soul--I don't know if that's superstitious or just force of habit instilled in me when I was little by my Italian Grandmother, God rest her soul...

  2. I hope not! I have THREE black cats!
    However, I can tell you that the nurses I work with are all very superstitious, and it's rubbed off on me. We avoid making an empty bed or turning of the light in an empty room, otherwise, before the end of the shift, we will get another patient to fill it. It's okay if the previous shift does it, but the oncoming shift cannot.
    There are also some "frequent flyer" patients whose names can never be mentioned, otherwise, they will magically appear in the ER, needing an ICU bed!

  3. Robin, the actions you describe seem to have a spiritual or religious component in common. My grandma Marion was big on saying "God bless you!" whenever anyone sneezed.

    Cheryl, aren't black cats wonderful? Weasel is shiny like a pnather - and, yes, he sometimes bites - but we love the bugger. One of the health care superstitions that has always fascinated me is the belief that metro emergency rooms, already fairly busy on Saturday nights, become even more so when there's a full moon. Is there any truth to this?

  4. I'm superstitious in weird ways. Like I won't pack my daughter's bag for preschool (she goes 2 days a week) until the last minute because I have this feeling if I pack it early, she'll get sick and won't go. Weird, right? But I'm not traditionally superstitious. I have nothing against 13 or black cats.

  5. I don't think I'm superstitious, as in "something bad will happen if I walk under a ladder, break a mirror, etc."

    But as you say, it's hard to argue with success. Before I was published, when I was querying publishers and submitting partial manuscripts, one particular clerk at the local post office would always wish me well.

    I could't help but notice that the packages he handled produced more favorable responses. After a while, I got so would let other people in line go ahead of me, and I would wait until he was free. Sort of like I believed he had the lucky touch.

  6. Tamara,
    I don't think I'm superstitious at all. But that said, I don't want a black cat! :-)


  7. I have a black cat named Zero. Sweet but loud.

    Won't walk under a ladder, not because I'm superstitious, but because it's not safe.

    Used to work in the records departement of a hospital, and even though the "experts" say the moon has nothing to do with it, pfttt! I think it does, every time there was a full moon our emergency room was busier, expically Fri and Sat nights. More people out, doin' who knows what to land them in the ER, but, there they were!

  8. I'm not superstitious, but I have had black cats cross the road in front of me, and I admit it gave me a second of "oh dear" and then I would just chuckle about it.

  9. What a gorgeous cat! I like to think I'm not at all superstitious but I don't like walking under ladders, or crossing on the stairs with someone else inside our home - do you have that one in the US? It's supposed to be bad luck.

  10. On some things I am.

    When I had to snail mail my manuscripts, I insisted on doing it myself. I'd even trekked down to the post office when I was raging with the flu because I wanted to hand it over with my hot little hands.

  11. Hey, Tamara, great post! I don't think of myself as superstitious, but I have a story--my dad's step sister had an ouija board and my dad, who was 3 years younger, swore up and down she was moving the table and all. When my dad was in the AF flying missions in WWII, his mother sent him the board to play with between missions. One of the men was extremely superstitious. He said it was the Devil's game and nothing good could come with playing with it. He kept up after them, told them it would be dangerous to even keep it in quonset hut, and finally dad decided to shove it out the plane on their next mission. He always had his parachute over a whole in the plane where the last man had been sitting and died, and it bothered him. So on this flight, he decided to shove it through that hole over the ocean. And he did. Their plane was attacked shortly after that and he, no one else, was badly wounded. He was losing oxygen, his oxygen line having been cut and he had to crawl up to the front of the plane where the men had oxygen. So was it an omen that he threw the board into the ocean?

    After that mission while he was in the hospital for 6 weeks, his whole crew went down and were lost. And he was the only one who survived. So had ditching the board saved his life?


  12. Shana - I forgot all about triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13! ;-)

    MM - how sweet of that mail clerk to wish you well. I don't know for sure if there's such a thing as good karma or good luck, but there's something about kind people, and the positive energy they send out into the world, that makes me hope so.

    Amelia - Interesting! Have you thought about the reason(s) why you wouldn't want a black cat? (No one's really talked about their 'whys' yet.)

    Jessica - your point about safety is well-taken. Some believe that at least some superstitions have their origins in safety and health: for example, saying "God bless you" after sneezing to stave off The Plague. Yeah, their their cause and effect is a little faulty, but can't blame them. ;-)

    Anita - Any idea what your 'oh dear' reaction comes from? ;-)

    Phillipa - yes, isn't he gorgeous? (Not that I had anything to do with it.) The one thing I DID have to do with how he looks is that he's slightly overweight. He bogarts the smaller cat's food if I'm not there to supervise. I haven't heard of the stair crossing superstition.

    Linda - hey, it's not superstition to want to make sure that something is done correctly - it's competence! (That's our story and we're sticking with it!)

    Terry - Your story makes me think about The Butterfly Effect, a metaphor used to disparage early chaos theory studies which illustrated that a seemingly small occurrence (the flutter of butterfly wings) can produce a large, long-term effect in a system (altering the course of a storm). How fortunate for your father that he survived, and what a great story.

  13. 13 is my LUCKY number ... I own a black cat (mentioned that before so I won't bother with her name again) but in some ways I am superstitious. Comes from a long line of such folks on both sides of my family. I think there was gypsy blood back in the gene pool and I wallowed around in it real early in my life!

  14. What a beautiful cat! I love black cats. We had two of them when I was growing up. And I had one when I was in graduate school. I'd like another.

    Nope, I'm not superstitious at all. My birthday is on the 13th of August. My grandmother (who is INCREDIBLY superstitious) freaked out when I was born on the 13th. I think she considered disowning my mother for daring to have her grandbaby on the 13th. At least I was born on a Saturday. My birthday does fall on Friday the 13th every now and then, which is great! Friday birthdays are the best. My son's birthday is also on the 13th (of March), so it's a lucky day as far as I'm concerned.

  15. Carolyn, I think one of the reasons I love black cats so much is that I love the color black, period. Because so many of my clothes are black, I don't really have to worry about cat hair. ;-) It doesn't surprise me that you have some exotic gypsy blood.

    Olivia - I think it would totally rock to have a birthday on a Friday the 13th. Mine is March 4, shared by good friend of mine, and we still send each other cards with "March Forth!!!" scrawled all over them. With exclamation points, of course.

  16. I'm not terribly superstitious, but I do feel compelled to "knock on wood" whenever I state my belief that everything is going well. Not sure why I do it or even where that particular supertition came from.

  17. Hi Tamara! I'm a little bit superstitious. I won't go out of my way to avoid a black cat, nor do I throw salt over my shoulder, but I have been known to knock on wood occasionally.

  18. Sadly, I'm completely superstitious. I get suckered into those "Chain" emails all too easily. You'll never catch me walking under a ladder and if a black cat crosses my intended path...I'll change direction. Sigh...I'm a sucker.


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