Monday, 28 November 2011

Very superstitious.

Morning all,

The theme this week is Superstitions, a subject that never fails to throw a divide down between believers and cynics. Now, I'm no authority on the subject but, one thing I do know is that superstitions are complex things. I have them. I don't believe in them. I am though, a football supporter and as every fan can tell you, this leads to the strangest things taking on a value.

Four years ago, as Blackpool climbed League One to gain promotion, I had a lucky pen. It started here. A pen I took to the games became a pen and a lighter, a pre-match ritual of cheese on toast, lucky pants, socks, notepads, gloves. If you could keep it the same from one week to the next, I did.

Since that season I have had a badge, a coat, boots, trainers, four or five tangerine lighters and, new for 2011, a five pound note. All of these things hold a lucky value to me, a superstition if you like but, on the whole I think they all come down to changes- or lack of them.

I should, given that I don't believe in them, throw these tokens away. The £5 note has been in my wallet for weeks now- since the five goal drubbing of Leeds away. Something about it just screamed 'good luck' and it has been in there ever since. Maybe it is the "Jesus Is Lord" stamp that covers the Queen's head on one side, maybe it is the "God is so Good" stamp on the other. Thinking about it like this, it frightens me a little.

That some fanatic could have spent the time and effort to stamp and recirculate these notes is one thing. For me to hold on to one as if it were a blessed charm is another. The barista at my local coffee shop (supporter of a rival team) confiscated it last week and actually chewed it. I still have the sodding thing.

As a writer I am becoming increasingly aware of these everyday traits people have. I see them in myself. In people tapping their hands, touching wood, clicking pens... It is these kinds of details that make the worlds we create come to life. I've been thinking a lot about writing fiction- character development and so on, and these little things are really starting to ask and answer my own doubts about the plot as a whole. It is in the thought processes, the details and the reasonings behind those choices that we discover the most and so, reader, your task this week is to have a think about three different superstitions you have. How can these find a way into your own characters? How do they make you feel? When did they come about? Why do they happen? What do they mean? Really get your teeth in.

I'm going to give this a go myself as well just to see how many things I notice about the world when I actually look for them. As I said at the top, I still don't really believe in superstitions in general but they are very much a part of the world we live in and as yet another 'in' into the landscapes and relationships we create not only in prose but in poetry too, they are proving a most useful resource. One thing though- it sucks you in. I've started worrying about 'the change in an unexpected direction' that my horoscope warned of...

Touch wood, I'll still be here next week. Until then, thanks for reading.


Ashley R Lister said...

Superstitions and rituals as a way into creating character?

I like it.

At the moment I'm thinking magpies, black cats and the good luck associated with bird shit - all animal-related.

To me this combination suggests a personality confined by an urban setting but anxious to experience the perceived freedom of country life.

Damned good exercise.


vicky ellis said...

Ooh - fun :) I think I might have my first opportunity to use my 'Encyclopedia of Superstitions' this week. I knew I'd a return on that 50p at the car boot sale one day.

My superstitions:

If I visit a body of water I have to touch it - dip my fingers in and sometimes touch the water to my head. I have no idea where this comes from. It's probably more OCD than superstition.

I do touch my head and say 'touch wood' but only because I don't want to seem too sure of things. Secretly I know everything will be fine.

I tend to give money and services away in the belief that it will come back to me. It's a belief in karma but also a little bit superstitious.

It seems pretty clear that these 3 mean I am delusional. It's OK though, I like the delusions and I don't think they're hurting anyone.

Great start to the week Shaun :)

J said...

Vicky, I think the touching your head with water is a religious throwback.
I walk under ladders and have yet to be hit by either a falling paint tin or flying human. Magpies are just crows in fancy dress. The black cat I have to share a home with crosses my path many times a day (is that lucky or unlucky?) I have no lucky objects and once things are worn out or broken I throw them away.
Maybe it is just that I don't have dreams and ambitions and you need to have them to need superstitions...