by Linda O. Johnston
Are you superstitious?
A lot of people say they’re not, yet they still cross their fingers, knock on wood, pick up coins from the sidewalk for luck—preferably heads-up pennies—and more.
This is a perfect time of year to think about superstitions, with Halloween coming soon. The holiday’s origin was as a festival of the dead, conceived way back in pagan times. Back then, people believed that the sun entered the gates of Hell and left it open so evil spirits could roam the earth for a few hours. These souls were believed to return to their former homes so they could try to warm themselves—presumably not those who were already enjoying the heat of Hell.
In any event, it’s the time of year when the supernatural reigns—or at least people like to think so. That includes superstitions, where folks do things they think will protect them from the nastiest aspects of the supernatural.
Jack O’Lanterns have their origin in superstitions and the supernatural. The soul of an evil man named Jack was reportedly ousted from Heaven and forced to roam the earth. Not wanting to sit alone in the dark, he made a pact with the Devil, who gave him an ember with a glow that would never go out. To protect it and himself, Jack inserted it into a turnip, and over the years the ritual of putting a light inside a turnip morphed into a pumpkin.
“Trick or treat” arose from an old ritual of going door to door on Halloween asking for prayers for the souls of the dead, and people apparently started giving out food to those showing up on their doorstep.
Stand before a mirror at midnight on Halloween, and the vision of your true love may appear behind you.
Go to a crossroads on Halloween, listen to the wind, and you will supposedly hear what will happen to you during the next year.
Sit on a church porch on Halloween and you could receive a vision of who will die during the coming year.
If you’re born on Halloween, you may have the gift of second sight, as well as lifelong protection against evil spirits. But if you’re born at midnight on Halloween, other people will consider you a tyrant.
So… superstitions and me?
For most of my life I’ve never admitted to being much of a believer, but, like a lot of people, I’ve performed some of the usual rituals like those I mentioned above—crossing my fingers, knocking on wood, and picking up heads-up coins. I avoided walking under ladders, although I nearly did so inside my home a few weeks ago before my husband caught me and set me straight.
Why does it matter to me now? Well, now I’m a lot more conscious of superstitions, whether or not I believe they come true. That’s because I write the Superstition Mysteries, a cozy mystery series for Midnight Ink, which just premiered with “Lost Under A Ladder,” first published earlier this month.
In Lost Under A Ladder, protagonist Rory Chasen visits the fictional town of Destiny, California, which is all about superstitions. The townsfolk believe in them, or at least pretend to, since they make money off the many tourists who come there seeking out the truth of superstitions.
That’s why Rory is there. Her fiancé died shortly after walking under a ladder, and to achieve closure she wants to know if the superstition really had anything to do with it. She goes to Destiny with her black and white dog, Pluckie, without realizing that black and white dogs are lucky, especially if you happen to meet one on your way to a business meeting.
Pluckie urges Rory to look in the back room of the Lucky Dog Boutique where they find the shop’s owner, Martha, ill and lying on the floor. But when she sees the lucky black and white dog she knows she’ll be all right. Martha begs Rory to stay and run the shop for her while she’s recuperating, which really isn’t so odd because Rory is an assistant manager at a pet supply store back home [WHICH IS WHERE?]. Unsurprisingly, Rory agrees, particularly when the town’s police chief, who considers Martha like a mother to him, urges her to help.
And of course there’s a murder, since it’s a cozy mystery. Rory has to try to solve it since Martha is the primary suspect.
Yes, there are a lot of other superstitions mentioned in Lost Under A Ladder, including: breaking a mirror brings seven years’ bad luck; the sound of a dog howling in the middle of the night is a harbinger of death; buttons can be lucky; watch out for the direction of bubbles in your coffee. And more.
Lost Under A Ladder is available now. And I believe that reading it can bring you good luck! Or at least I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it will.