That was the week that was. Ever since I wrote about the need to economise, the ghosts in the machines have been playing up. What began as minor irritations escalated into full-scale calamities. It started with our warming tray blowing up; then one of our water pumps packed in and needed to be completely overhauled; the brush cutter blade broke; the freezer section of our fridge stopped working; our other water pump packed in and required the services of an electrician to get it going again; the printer called it quits; and to top it all the cladding on our south-facing gable wall fell off, totally decimating my bedroom garden.
Until then I had been quite phlegmatic about the small mishaps, despite them really starting to add up. But the collapse of the wall was definitely upsetting. I couldn’t help but wonder why this was happening. Had someone cast the evil eye on us? I decided it was time to take action.
According to the Sicilian Godmother:
Scattering salt on the floor just inside one’s front door, or outside, is one of the ways Sicilians ward off the evil eye. The fact that it is composed of uncountable grains is supposed to create confusion in the mind of the evil-wisher.
So to get rid of our run of bad luck, salt was duly scattered on the floor. And, much to Peter’s amusement, I insisted, for good measure, that we both toss a pinch over our left shoulders (from the legend that the devil is always standing behind you and throwing salt in his eye distracts him from causing trouble). I think it’s my mother’s Irish / Yorkshire influence but I am, I’m embarrassed to admit, surreptitiously superstitious. Most of my superstitious beliefs involve not wanting to tempt fate or jinx something.
I have an irrational aversion to walking under ladders, of shoes being put on a table, killing spiders and umbrellas being opened indoors. I also “touch wood”, or say I’m going to, when I want my good luck to continue.
Do you know why we touch wood?
One explanation states that the tradition derived from the Pagans who thought that trees were the homes of fairies, spirits, dryads and many other mystical creatures. In these instances, people might knock or touch wood to request good luck, or to distract spirits with evil intentions.
I also have since discovered that beliefs or rituals used to ward off evil are known as apotropaism or apotropaic magic.
Apotropaic magic (from Greek apotrepein “to ward off” from apo- “away” and trepein “to turn”) is a type of magic intended to turn away harm or evil influences, as in deflecting misfortune or averting the evil eye. Apotropaic observances may also be practiced out of vague superstition or out of tradition, as in good luck charms, amulets or gestures such as crossed fingers or knocking on wood.
I don’t want to speak too soon but since we took steps to confuse and distract any disgruntled forces, we have been incident free, touch wood.
The other evening I was startled by a scratching noise in the rubble outside our bedroom window. The dogs went ballistic and I shot out of bed. As I peered out of the window I saw a porcupine scuttling along the gravel path. I grabbed my torch and camera and went in search of the critter. I found it hiding under our car. I couldn’t get a decent photo but we had a little chat instead. Well, it was a bit one-sided; I talked and it grunted. I asked it very kindly to bugger off and leave my bulbs alone (porcupines can wreak havoc in a garden). It then seemed to vanish into thin air and I haven’t seen it since. Keep fingers crossed!
Fortunately some parts of my garden are still looking cheerful.