The Superstitions We Keep | 12.12.21
The Sunday Edition
Twelve, for us, 1-2, and we seek it everywhere. This the charm called lucky, the little totem we search for in every place we wander, photograph when we find it, this the date each month we call holy. Met on the 12th of November, asked her to marry me on the 12th of September, handfasted in Scotland on the 12th of October, separated by years, sure, and now we’re on a quest to make every 12th of every month as special as these. We’ve found it in address signs, door numbers, we’ve seen it on ticket stubs and queue positions when we grab a number and wait patiently in some depressing lobby of some depressing city county building. It follows us, or at least we tell ourselves this, and we celebrate it when it finds us, when we find it. We are the totems and the superstitions we keep, the magic we assign to the mundane items that without us would carry no extra weight, no special meaning, and somehow all this got me thinking about how often we, the collective we all across this place, do this so often.
Put simply, we’re a species that assigns meaning, great meaning, and we bless that meaning with faith without ever bothering to check for validity or proof, we toss the salt over our shoulders when the shaker tips, we step around the ladder and dare not wander between it and the wall it leans against, we count the years seven when the mirror breaks around our feet. We stare at the ceiling of the earth and invent stories at the stars we find, we look beyond it and call all that terrifying nothing, god.
Perhaps it is this terror that gave birth to the stories we call religious, those we call canon and gospel, those we are willing to share. Perhaps it is some great loneliness that made us believe so hard in those tales we told, some great aching for connection and understanding, perhaps we’ve always just been trying to make sense of every single thing that feels bigger than we do, controlling the minute and insignificant pieces of the puzzle we could actually wrap our new minds around. Perhaps, but the potency and the power remains the same, the myths endure despite a million reasons to believe otherwise.
Some of the superstitions hold such power that we believe in them still, today, without even knowing why. Did you know that it was ancient Romans that believed mirrors contained the fragments of our souls? That breaking them meant breaking the very safety and health of the soul that did the breaking? Same holds true for offering a “bless you,” to someone who sneezes, as it was believed once that we could quite literally sneeze our soul out. Seen a black cat cross your path lately? Blame the Middle Ages for their Satanic link, as they even believed those poor felines caused the Black Death. Ever waited to open an umbrella outside, out of fear of bad luck? Ancient Egyptians are to blame for this one, believing umbrellas to be royal and opening them indoors a royal insult to the God of the Sun. After all, who are we to shade ourselves? Even that pesky ladder leaning against a wall has religious origins, as a triangle, or trinity, is formed when it’s leaned. How dare we ever think to break that trinity? Finally, for all you suffering triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13, you and your salt spilling friends can team up and blame the same man, Judas Iscariot, for these haunts. Judas was the 13th man to arrive at the Last Supper, and we all know how that turned out. Take it a step further, and if you look closely at da Vinci’s painting immortalizing that ill-fated dinner, you’ll notice that Judas and an errant elbow spilled the salt shaker upon that hallowed table.
Whatever you believe, and maybe you’re not a superstitious sort at all, we forget that there are actual origins to the beliefs we keep close. We forget that there’s power in assigning power, and that we all probably do this more than we realize. We bring home souvenirs to remember a time, a place, a moment where we were happy, free, unencumbered. We believe in the vows we make, the promises, the stories we tell. We spend our lives collecting totems, seeking new ones out like 4 leaf clovers in fields of green. We do this because we must do this, and I call it beautiful.
For us, it’s 12s, and we’ll never stop searching for them. I hope, and I’ll knock on wood, that you all find those worth chasing, those that bring peace to the storms in your souls, those that excite you. After all, the ancient pagan and Celtic tribes thought the gods resided in the trees, a little knock just may rouse them.
What are YOUR totems, what are your superstitions, what are your lucky charms? I would so very love to know.
We are the totems,
the superstitions we keep.
We’re the lucky charm.
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