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Superstitious Writers

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‘If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.’

Groucho Marx

Journal Entry

Friday 13th 08.10 am

There is more clutter than usual scattered around my writing desk. A silver cross, silver bullet, wooden stake and hammer, cloves of garlic. A lavender candle is burning by a closed window. The door to the writing den is shut and bolted. This paraphernalia is possibly meant for vampires. Given the date, I am not taking any chances.

Writers, it seems, are a superstitious bunch. I think my superstitions are minimal. I always doff an imaginary cap when I see a solitary magpie (one for sorrow), and, other than an emergency, I will leave and enter a building by the same door. When it comes to Friday the 13th, I have never given the date much thought till now, but am intrigued by the mystery and aura surrounding it.

Origins of Friday the 13th

The origins of why the date and the link to misfortune are at best tenuous. One story points to Norse mythology, where Loki, the god of mischief, crashed a party of 12 other gods. At this party he arranged for the god of darkness to kill the god of light, causing the world to go dark.

Others link it to Christian tradition and the Last Supper, attended by 13 guests, and taking place before Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday.

We have to move to more recent times to find when the drama began to heat up. In 1907, Thomas William Lawson wrote the novel, Friday the Thirteenth, centred around the crash of the stock market. Move time on to 1980 and the start of the Friday the 13th slasher /horror film franchise and that, it seems, is where most of the responsibility lies.  

Superstitions of Writers

Returning to the main theme of this post, and looking at the superstitions of other writers, we find we are in good company. The English poet, Edith Sitwell, would lie in an open coffin before beginning to write. She claimed this cleared her mind and helped her focus.

Charles Dickens carried a navigational compass to ensure he always faced north while he slept – something he believed improved his writing and creativity.

The author of The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas, wrote all his fiction on blue paper, poetry on yellow paper, and articles on pink paper. Truman Capote refused to begin and end a piece of writing on a Friday.

All of which place my imaginary cap doffing and door ritual into the lesser of the superstitions category. What about you, fellow writers. Does Friday the 13th put you on edge? Do you have any superstitious writing behaviours? I would love to find out about them.

Have a great weekend.   

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