Happy Friday everyone! Today I am very excited to be being something dark and fantastical to the blog! Not only do they have STUNNING covers but contain a delicious blend of history, magic and time travel, which in my book is a fantastic combination. The fun doesn't stop there because books one and two were published yesterday and today we welcome Andrew Prentice to the blog to talk about superstition. Andrew over to you:
Andrew Prentice on Superstitions
Why it’s good to be superstitious:
Belief is a strange thing. I think I’d call myself a pretty committed atheist. I’m glad that we have scientists who can explain why the sun shines and wings fly and how the hell MRI machines slice my body up with magnets and then take pictures of it (if you are interested, the whole thing is utterly crazy, and involves tweaking all the protons in your body’s water molecules so they line up and then disrupting them with radio waves). I don’t buy lottery tickets. I certainly don’t question climate change. I once read the first three chapters of A Brief History of Time.
I think it’s fair I’m pretty much your average empirical bloke.
Or I would be if it weren’t for the superstitions.
Some of them are inherited. My grandmother prays to St Barbara when she wants a parking place. She also throws salt over her shoulder if it is spilt and refuses to pass the stuff from hand to hand – both of these practices safeguard you against the devil by the way. Whenever she sees an ambulance she makes the sign of the cornuti to protect against accident.
I do all these.
A long time ago, my great-uncle sat down to lunch at a table of thirteen. After eating well, he got up, went out skiing and was killed in an avalanche. No one in my family will ever make that mistake again. At meals with thirteen eaters an extra place is laid for a teddy bear, and everyone feasts away, happy and safe.
Some of my superstitions are quite common. I say a rhyme when I see a magpie. I touch wood when someone says something unlucky. I’m a bit careful whenever I get close to the number 13. But at the same time, and I don’t know if this is normal, over the years I have drawn all of these quite usual practices into baroque sequences of private ritual. Magpies are particularly complicated. The rhyme that I have to say changes depending on the number of birds, and the season. More than four magpies and I have to keep one of them in sight at all times. Now, if you asked me, I’d say that of course seeing four magpies has no effect on my life – but there is something undeniably comforting in doing all you can to protect yourself from the crazy uncertainty of the world, and when you’ve started anything, its very hard to stop. I think this may be how religions work, (but that is another question altogether).
There are ghosts in my grandmother’s house. One of them is a headless horseman who rides out from the cellar every fifty years. If you see him you will die within a month. Another ghost is the spirit of a relative who was meant to have gone mad and been chained up in the attic. This one I’ve encountered several times: mostly you hear footsteps and heavy dragging noises seeping through the floor when no one is upstairs. My father says it’s bats, but I’ve never seen a bat up there.
Again if push came to shove, and you asked me directly: ‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ I’d say no, of course not, don’t be silly. And yet…
Superstitions are important. Magic is important too. You don’t have to believe in it, but it’s there all the same. You know it when you see it.
The devils in our books are a bit like superstitions. They are forgotten, and buried, and no one knows how to make them anymore. Silently they sit under our streets, quietly affecting the lives of everyone who comes close. Have you ever found a particular street corner gave you the shivers? Or maybe there is a bench in the park that always seems particularly welcoming. These are devils. Real devils – and the reason they work is that everyone sometimes gets a feeling they can’t explain.
Are you superstitious? Let us know in the comments below and don't forget to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour!