Monday Roundtable: Very Superstitious, Writing’s on the Wall

Do you pick up pennies for good luck? Does part of you still think stepping on a crack will break your mother’s back? Did you know that apparently “to kill an albatross is to cause bad luck to the ship and all upon it”? Bummer! May want to rethink some of your albatross-related plans for the day. Here are the superstitions and superstition-adjacent beliefs and habits the staff at Autostraddle lays claim to; tell us yours in the comments!

Creatrix Tiara, Staff Writer

Ever since I was a teenager I would yell at the faeries to return my lost stuff, and it almost always worked (of course I thanked them afterwards). Another lost-item-finder trick I learned from my mum was to tie a knot in my clothing before looking for an item. A fair few superstitions I still carry actually came from my mum, or at least some family member: pinch someone wearing new clothes for good luck, make a wish when you discover you’re wearing something inside out before wearing it the right way round. A somewhat arcane one I made myself is that if I hear Savage Garden’s “The Animal Song” unprompted, I will have good luck till midnight: this worked out super well for me when I saw Darren Hayes perform this song in his last tour (he almost never does) and I got to meet him afterwards!!

Vanessa, Community Editor

My mom is superstitious, and her mom was superstitious, and my grandmother on my dad’s side was superstitious, so I like to think the women of my family passed down their superstitions to me. If I’m being honest, I don’t really think of them as superstitions – I think of it more as religion, maybe, or ritual, or witchcraft. The superstitions the women of my family hold are so many, so vast, so varied, that it is hard to write about all of them in a tidy roundtable contribution.
We do not comment too effusively on good health or great beauty lest we draw the attention of a trickster power that may want to swiftly remind us that both can be taken away at any moment. Jewish grandmothers rarely call children pretty or handsome or anything positive, lest these comments attract the evil eye – “she’s so ugly!” my grandmother would announce happily, and I knew this was a gift. I say “I love you” like a prayer when I finish a conversation with my mom, because I feel fearful that if I don’t say it, something bad might happen. I know the year I turned 26 my mom held her breath for 365 days, because that’s how old she was when her mom died. I knock on wood often.
This all sounds very morose, so I feel compelled to add that some of my superstitions are very positive. I pull a tarot card every day to help guide me, and that feels superstitious but in a nice warm way, where I feel held and supported by forces bigger than myself. I also do lots of little rituals on my own and with friends, and they make me feel safe. Being superstitious is how I was raised, and it is as much a part of me as being Jewish, being a storyteller, or being queer. It’s in my blood.

Mey, Trans Editor

What superstitions do I not have? I throw salt over my shoulder, I knock on wood, i carry good luck talismans with me, I love when things come in threes or nines (my good luck numbers), I don’t step over graves, I’m into all of it. I guess for me it’s mostly because I was raised Mexican and Catholic and believing in ghosts and supernatural stuff and also I have anxiety, so those things combined to make me into a person who believes all these little weird things really do affect the world around me. Like, if spirits are real and Satan is real, then I better not do things to bother them. And if prayer, wearing saint medals and doing the sign of the cross work, couldn’t picking up a lucky penny or chewing food nine times? To me, the world is really mysterious and weird and big, and we don’t know why spirits and angels and demons do the things they do, but we’ve got some good ideas that we’ve learned from our parents and their parents and their parents. I want to be happy and safe, so I’m going to listen to my ancestors.

A.E. Osworth, Staff Writer

This is a call back to the witch roundtable where I said I wouldn’t exactly claim the title of witch because I don’t cast. Y’all. It took ONE year of this garbage fire of an administration to turn me into a candle-lighting, Many-Moons-Workbook-doing, spell-casting WITCH. Is it a superstition to light a candle for literally everything? I have no idea! I don’t know that I’d call it one, but probably some of y’all might?

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Staff Writer

I’m a strong believer in lucky, personal talismans. I genuinely believe my Witches Of East End tank top brings me good fortune. For a period of time in high school, I wore a broken Star Wars watch during tennis matches because, even though it couldn’t tell me the time, I believed it helped me play better. I also don’t talk about this one a lot, but I intentionally read things backwards all the time and I can’t really fully explain why but it feels like a superstition in how ritualistic it is.

Heather Hogan, Senior Editor

I have always believed that if my teddy bear can’t see me while I’m asleep I’ll have nightmares. Having him watch over me or sleep under the covers with me doesn’t guarantee I won’t have nightmares, but if he’s face down on a shelf or tucked away in a drawer or if he got shuffled under the bed, nightmares are 100% guaranteed. It’s wacky. I don’t believe evil spirits cause my nightmares or anything — I think my childhood trauma and default high anxiety cause my nightmares — so it’s not like I think he chases them away. But I do think he’s got a lot of magic in his stuffing, even if it’s just the magic of my memories of him always being by my side.

Alaina, Staff Writer

I don’t know if this really counts as a superstition, but if I don’t see each of my cats at least two times every hour that I’m home/awake I’m convinced they’re all dead. It’s not healthy, for sure, and long trips are always super hard because my cat sitters almost never get pictures of them – they’re afraid of everything – and so if I’m gone for more than a week, I start to convince myself they’re all dead.

Laura M, Staff Writer

Oh this is a hard question. Um. Okay. Here’s one: I like the idea of wishing on stars and birthday candles [and then making plans to follow through on that thing you were wishing for].

…yeah, I’m really not much of one for superstition. Logic is much more my bag.

Molly Priddy, Staff Writer

This started as a kid and I’m not sure why but here we are: I have to have the comforter all up on the bed to sleep, none of it can be hanging off the sides. I have to know it is surrounding me entirely. I was pretty convinced as a kid if I had a blanket on my and had it tucked in around me, not even bullets could get through.

Carmen, Staff Writer

This one is small, but I never blow out candles. When I started keeping an religious altar in my bedroom as a teenager, I was told that if you blow out a candle, you also blow out the spiritual intentions or energies with which it was lit. The superstition stuck with me. So instead of blowing out a candle, I will let it burn for it’s natural course. Or I will take a metal spoon and snuff out the flame. I’ve extended the habit and now I do it for all candles — not just religious ones. I won’t even blow out birthday candles! I want to keep all of my positive energy around me! I have none to waste to the cruel, cruel air. Thank you very much!

Natalie, Staff Writer

I don’t consider myself to be that superstitious, except when it comes to sports. As a player, I had a series of routines — my playlist, my pre-game meal, my choice of game apparel — that I’d only waiver from if I’d had a particularly bad outing. But even now, as just a sports fan, if my team’s on a win streak, I’ll wear the same shirt, eat the same snacks, drink the same drinks and try to sit in the same spot I did when the streak began. If I miss tip-off, I’ll wait until the end of the quarter or half-time to tune in, worried that an abrupt tune-in might upset my team’s balance.

You think I’d be convinced by now that it doesn’t work but, no… I’m sure my team would’ve lost by more if I hadn’t been wearing my lucky shirt.

Erin, Staff Writer

I don’t have any superstitions! I’ve thought about this a lot since being presented with this roundtable and it made me sort of sad? That I don’t have any. Like, spice up your life, girl. Hold your breath or something under a bridge, damn. I will say that this one thing has been happening to me a lot as of late, so much so that made me look into it to see if OTHER people had some insight as to its superstition status, and it seems to have a general consensus: a right shoe continuing to come untied means someone is speaking well of you. Obviously I’m choosing to indulge this because it’s positive. If it were like, “this is bad and you shouldn’t leave your house,” I’d be like wowww paranoid much? But the fact remains that the shoelace has a mind of its own. It choses days to do it, and when it chooses its day/time, it goes to town. Five and six times I’m retying my shoe! It makes no sense.

Stef, Vapid Fluff Editor

I don’t really have any superstitions either (I tend to skew more Scully than Mulder in this particular arena), but Vanessa’s explanation of Jewish superstitions made me feel a whole lot better about all the times my mom’s mom called me ugly. Sometimes when I’m having a particularly shitty day, I take a little detour and walk down the block where I kissed my Actual Dream Person in a very implausible situation, possibly the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and vaguely pretend that somehow I will absorb that night’s powers.

Valerie Anne, Staff Writer

I do the salt-over-my-shoulder thing, I don’t walk under ladders and I flinch whenever someone opens an umbrella inside. I try to remember to have “rabbit rabbit” be the first thing out loud I say on the first of each month, and if I catch it, I make a wish at 11:11 (and 2:22, and 3:33, etc). I try to hold my breath when I pass cemeteries (if I’m not driving), and I always knock on wood when appropriate. I don’t know if I fully believe not doing these things will affect my luck or fate but I figure why risk it, you know?

Raquel, Staff Writer

I can’t say I really believe in any of my superstitions, but there are things I’ll do out of culture or habit. Until I started thinking about it for this roundtable, I never even realized how many! I’ll knock on wood when I mention out loud that someone should; I used to try and hold my breath when I passed by graveyards, mostly for the fun of it, and to see how long I could hold my breath; I’ll make a wish when it’s 11:11, or with a lost eyelash. I strongly encourage my partner to wish on their eyelashes when I find them and they always decline and give the wish to me and then I wish something good for them, and I truly do believe that those will bear out. The strongest supersition I hold, truly, is to always take a drink after cheersing, and to avoid cheersing with an empty glass.

Alexis, Staff Writer

It’s not part of my superstition but this song always comes attached to the word whenever I think/speak it. I am here to tell you that the triple six number is indeed the devil’s number. Days before June 6, 2006, everyone in my middle school was talking about how hell was gonna open up and swallow us whole. Now, I’ve never been good with this kind of shit. Like, the zombie apocalypse everyone is talking about inevitably approaching? I freaked out about it for a good two weeks straight before I just decided I gotta become a zombie and/or might just shoot myself into space, idk yet. So, this day was coming, I was trying to prove to myself that I couldn’t listen to the knuckleheads I went to school with (this is the language of a badass, you know) so I was like “No I will not hide in my room until this day is over, I am a kid and I will do kid things.” So I was outside with my sister, we’re playing with the neighborhood kids. I’m coming from the top of the bigger hill connecting our two neighborhoods on my scooter. A car is coming, I’m trying to get to the sidewalk but moving too fast and not thinking fast enough to just jump off. One of the younger kids didn’t see me coming and I knocked into her and there was just so much blood. I blocked out a lot of what happened. She’s okay (thank God), but that shit stuck with me til last year. So I don’t fuck around with any devil shit. Even in cartoons, if a homie gets possessed, I nope the fuck outta there.

Reneice, Staff Writer

I’m also not on team superstitious. I do knock on wood every once in awhile but there’s no real belief behind it. My family is very religious and superstitions are a sin in their vein of Christianity so I wasn’t raised with any which I feel is an important factor to who turns out superstitious and who doesn’t. If I were to choose to believe in a superstition it would be that spiders are a signifier that money is coming to you. Spiders stay invading my space. If that superstition were true I would be a millionaire.

Carolyn Yates, NSFW Editor and Literary Editor

I note when the minute mirrors the hour, or notice how a room falls silent at 20 after or 20 to the hour, and touch wood but only sometimes and if no wood is available then I touch something that might somehow be evocative of wood and that feels fine, but not in a way where I worry about it except when I do. I think of people and then they show up places, but only sometimes. Sometimes salt goes over a shoulder and sometimes it goes in the corners of the room and sometimes salt is just salt, simultaneously.

Rachel, Managing Editor

I still make wishes at 11:11, and also throw salt over my shoulder if I spill it; I have no idea where those came from. My family also has a lot of inherited superstitions from my grandmother, which I feel like we all half-believe: an itch on your nose means you’re going to get in a fight, dropping a spoon means a stranger will come by, ringing in your ears means someone is talking about you at that moment, and the clasp of your necklace touching the pendant means someone is thinking about you. Some of them enter a sort of Catholic grey area, like the idea that if you clean your house St. Anthony will “reward” you with finding something you had lost. Good lookin’ out, St. Anthony!!! I am still haunted by something my friend Batia said once which was “I don’t believe in superstition but I do believe in irony,” so I hate to say things like “This is going to work out great!” or “Now we’ve thought of everything, nothing could go wrong!” because part of me believes that life operates on TV show logic and saying anything that optimistic and absolute will ensure that it turns out to be incorrect, also now I have anxiety thinking about this.

KaeLyn, Staff Writer

I hit the roof of my car with the palm of my hand when I go through a yellow traffic light, which supposedly is a good luck omen that guarantees you 5 minutes of “good sex.” I’m not entirely sure what that means because both “good” and “sex” seem arbitrarily defined. Like, “good” isn’t “great,” and like… isn’t “good” the same as “ok”? If the sex is “great,” does it count towards the “good” by default? Also is this sex happening with someone else? By myself? Is this the heteronormative definition of sex? Does hand stuff count? I have lots of questions, you know? I also have a lot of “good sex” banked, I think… unless I’ve already spent it on “ok sex” or “great sex” or regular masturbation. Hard to tell!

Laneia, Executive Editor

I have two old American Tourister luggage tags with my grandmother’s name and old address written on them (the house they lived in when I was a kid) from her luggage set and I take at least one of them with me any time I travel. Sometimes I loop one onto my carry-on, or I put it in the pouch with my mini notebook and pens — as long as it’s safe and in a place that I’ll likely come into contact with several times during my trip. I probably started doing it just to feel closer to her, but now it’s more like a talisman, and I’m pretty sure the plane will go down or the car will go off the road if one of these tags isn’t on my person. I also knock on wood when necessary — and it has to be actual wood, obviously — and I wish on fallen eyelashes and the first star of the night because that’s just good common sense. Making wishes are like setting intentions for me, so I take them seriously, even the birthday candle one. One time I blew a fallen eyelash away from my finger without making a wish and immediately regretted it, cried, and vowed never to do that again.

Yvonne, Senior Editor

I grew up in a Catholic household so one thing my mom made us do ever since I can remember is to make the sign of the cross before we pulled out of the driveway. I never asked my mom why we did this but I’m sure it made my mom feel like we were protected. As if doing the sign of the cross would prevent us from being in a car accident because Jesus, La Virgen, and our guardian angels were watching over us. I’m not really a Catholic anymore but to this day, I still do the sign of the cross before embarking on a long trip, either driving or flying, because I feel if I don’t, I could be in a wreck. Also Gloria strongly believes in “not splitting the pole,” as in when two people are walking and there’s like a lamp post in the way, the two people should walk around the post together on the same side so the post doesn’t come between them. She believes that splitting the pole means splitting the path the two people are on together. I don’t hold this superstition but since I walk this Earth with Gloria, I’m obligated to believe in not splitting the pole because then Gloria will make me go around the pole again to not split the pole.

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  1. Are superstitions and signs similar? Can you be superstitious about a sign?
    I have number of phrases and songs that are signs/I feel superstitious about. Hearing the song or phrase “I’ll see you in my dreams” means a strong positive connection to the person saying it or what I’m doing when I hear the song. And in connection to that sentiment, I feel a strong connection to a person I had a cute dream about a year ago, and believe that I’ll at some point meet a person with the same name as the dream person and they’ll be in my life from then on.

  2. I throw salt over my shoulder, I knock on wood and I have a couple of sports related ones…

    • I totally also knock on wood and did not even think of that while writing my response for this roundtable lololol

  3. My Jewish grandmother, both of them, have complimented their grandkids. I’m very sure my maternal grandmother has called her granddaughters and children compliments, like you look good, or how pretty.

    My family heats up esfand(wild rue) with salt in a pot with the lid on. Then they woukd walk around the house and partially letting the steam out of the pot over people’s heads. In Persian culture this is done to wart off the evil eye. Really the only superstition I know off that wasn’t adopted from Western culture(like lucky penny).

    • i’m sure not all Jewish grandmas believe the same superstitions mine did! sorry, i didn’t mean to make that generalization — in my Jewish family though, and extended Jewish community, this was a common “truth” amongst everyone. thanks for sharing your family superstition! <3

  4. I used to have a bunch of sports superstitions when I played. But I consider them kind of practical because they all have the very real psychological effect of getting you ready and “into” the game.

    Sadly, I think recent years have replaced fun superstitions with obnoxious anxieties.

    I thoroughly cleaned my room for the first time in… ok months (I don’t really live there, my things do) because friends were coming to stay and I found the wallet I lost last summer! It had gotten wedged between the pots I can’t use on my roommate’s fancy stove and the felt lining to protect the pots from each other. I was relieved that it was lost somewhere I would have never looked and didn’t feel the need to kick myself for not finding it sooner. So, thanks St. Anthony!

  5. I remember reading a superstition (in an Anne of Green Gables book) that if one member of a couple gives the other a knife, the recipient has to “buy” it with a penny so as not to cut their love. I think superstitions are silly (which does not stop me from self-deprecatingly performing them), but when my partner gave me a knife last week I felt nervous about it until I gave him a penny. Rituals are powerful!

  6. I touch wood every time I say ‘touch wood’, which I think is my only action-superstition. I do a lot of vaguely neurotic things like counting stuff and jumping over cracks but they’re more habits than anything else.
    The real superstitious thing I do is wishing, on everything. I make wishes at 11:11 and on eyelashes and on the first star each night and wish chips (potato crisps that are folded over on themselves), and I guess I usually try to make a wish about/for someone else, especially if I’m thinking about them before I make the wish.

  7. I have crippling OCD. I actually have to step on the cracks in a sidewalk. Otherwise, I have to go back and start over. Sometimes I will stop suddenly because I’m afraid I’m going to miss a crack. People slam into me and get pissed. Fortunately, Prozac is awesome. I’ve never been superstitious about ladders or throwing salt over my shoulder. But I will go up and down stairs until I do it correctly. I have to memorize the order and number of steps on stairwells that I use on a regular basis. It’s fun.

    In the words of Michael Scott: I’m not superstitious, I’m littlestitious.

  8. I dunno, I don’t really count it as superstitious but some people are superstitious about it, so bootie beers. For whitewater kayaking if you swim (unintentionally), you drink a beer out of your bootie. Some people are like “you gotta pay up to the river gods” but to me it’s more…personal accountability and humility (and…well, a little hazing because you’re drinking a beer out of your shoe that has river water and sand and god knows what else in it, though uh, yeah if there’s known giardia or something bootie beers are N/A bc nobody needs that in their life regardless of how careless they were on the river). Because yup, I messed up there, let me kinda humiliate myself in front of my friends because of that.

  9. The only superstition I grew up with that has stuck with me is that when I move, I buy a new broom and leave the old one behind.

    I don’t know if I necessarily believe it does anything, but it does make my grandmother happy. And believe me, it’s the first thing she’ll ask about if she knows I moved.

    (I’m also suppose to poor salt on the entry way and sweep it out… but I usually skip that step. Please don’t tell my grandmother!)

  10. “It took ONE year of this garbage fire of an administration to turn me into a candle-lighting, Many-Moons-Workbook-doing, spell-casting WITCH.” HARD SAME, A.E. – timeline and all.

    Heather, I feel the same about my bear, and I love how this is phrased: “I do think he’s got a lot of magic in his stuffing, even if it’s just the magic of my memories of him always being by my side.”

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