Superstitious secrets of a well-travelled author

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BLACK CAT: Lucky or unlucky?

I WILL let you in on a secret: I am rather superstitious. Growing up in Sweden I would never step under a ladder or leave keys on a table and if a black cat crossed my path, I had to spit three times (or feign spitting if the occasion prohibited the real deal).

Just when I thought I knew how to keep bad spirits at bay, my parents moved us to the UK, where I soon learnt of a whole new set of dangers to avert. Confusingly, the black cat was suddenly a good omen, I saluted single magpies on a daily basis and practically refused to leave the house when the 13th of the month fell on a Friday, the day of Jesus’s crucifixion and numerically relating to the final guest at the Last Supper. Judging by the number of mirrors I have broken, my good luck may return should I make it to my 90s. 

Erring on the side of caution became a laborious task. In the same way that reading the horoscope gives rise to many points of recognition, I felt sure that life’s ups and downs could be plotted against the myriad of superstitious occurrences.

A five-year stint in the highly spiritual country of Japan did little to calm my frayed nerves. With each superstition generally pointing to imminent death of oneself or one’s family, I had to hide my thumb in the fist when a hearse passed, avoid filing my nails at night and never ever leave chopsticks vertically in a bowl of rice. 

And don’t even get me started on the laws of Feng Shui. 

Then there is Spain… Here it is on Tuesday the 13th you should lock the doors and hide under the bed. The saying goes: ‘Martes 13: Ni te cases, ni te embarques’ ruling out both weddings and travel on this day, but being expats I guess we have to avoid the Friday, too.

A purse or wallet must never touch the floor or your money will disappear, which suggests that the Spanish Govern-ment may have accidentally dropped ‘la haci-enda publica’ (public finances) a few years ago, along with a sizeable mirror.  

If water is your preferred tipple, don’t toast with it or your sex life will allegedly suffer the consequences for seven years. As good a reason as any to opt for a Rioja, I say, but should you spill the wine on the table, be sure to dab a bit on your forehead to avoid bad luck. Even the humble black cat is back in the proverbial doghouse here in Spain as a bearer of ill fortune. 

No occasion escapes the clutches of superstition. On New Year’s Eve you have not only to eat 12 grapes along with the 12 chimes, but simultaneously throw a bucket of water out of the window for purification and good luck. Not choking on a grape probably counts as said good fortune, should you manage this advanced level of multi-tasking. 

If you are invited to a Spanish wedding, leave the confetti behind and instead bring a bag of rice to throw, though I imagine the uncooked version is preferable in this instance. 

The list goes on and on. It seems I have inadvertently ended up in the most superstitious country in the world. So I have my work cut out.

Come to think of it, I might as well go the whole hog and invest in a rosary and chain of garlic to make it through this occult battlefield. That and my very own fountain in which to throw a lucky penny, should I pick one up. 

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