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Friday, October 18, 2013

Superstition, Magic, and being a Teenage Witch


I am not superstitious by nature. I don't think Friday the 13th, black cats, or walking under a ladder are unlucky. Broken mirrors have never caused me any more bad fortune than having to buy a new one. I've never carried a rabbit's foot (because that clearly wasn't lucky for the rabbit who once owned it), although I did once find a four leaf clover. I do believe in luck, whether good or bad, but not in supposed charms for either. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is deeply superstitious, so things like peacock feathers and images of owls have to be kept in rooms she's not likely to visit. I'm not sure how much of superstition is down to coincidence, or whether humanity has convinced itself such things are true. In this day and age, with all the technology and scientific explanations, superstition still somehow survives.


While I may not be superstitious, I was a practicing witch as a teen. I cast spells for protection and good fortune on myself and my home - I never won the lottery as a result, but I think cultivating the positive thoughts and energy involved in casting such spells help promote a positive mental attitude and make the magic self fulfilling to a degree. And be warned, I even knew a few curses, although I never used them - not that I wasn't tempted at times! I just felt it might be bad for my own spiritual well-being. As Voldemort tells Harry Potter when he tries and fails to do a good job of the Cruciatus curse, "You've got to mean it..." *shudders*

But magic and superstition feature in my debut novel Keir. Thanks to the medieval-style society into which he was born, the strange discoloration of his skin curses him to life as a feared and reviled outcast. Nicknamed the 'Blue Demon' and falsely accused of performing black magic, Keir's existence is reduced to a living hell...until my heroine Quin arrives on the scene. Earning herself the nickname of Red Witch, despite not being a witch at all, Quin uses the label to good advantage. On being captured she threatens to cast her 'magic' - actually using technology, being from a more advanced society - and summons up a dragon to cause a distraction while she and her companions escape. As Martha Jones once said in Doctor Who, The Shakespeare Code, "But there's no such thing as magic."
The Doctor: "Well, it's just a different sort of science." In Quin's case, a holographic generator and a couple of explosions are enough to convince the populous of her dark powers. At least the dragon doesn't need feeding afterward. :P


Will superstition stay with us into the far future? Will we still cross our fingers for good luck (or as I learned this week, hold our thumbs if you're Swedish)? Throw salt over our shoulders and live in dread of Friday the 13th? Or will superstition become like Halloween, once an important pagan event and now just fun holiday? Hmmm, now there's an idea for a story...

5 comments:

Paty Jager said...

I'm not overly superstitious, but once in a while I'll think about it if a black cat crosses in front of me or something like that happens.

As a teenager I read Witch of Blackbird Pond and have had a fascination for good witches ever since.

Fun post!

Sarah Raplee said...

I loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond, too, Paty!

It seems that teens, in their quest for personal power and control over their lives, are drawn to experiment with magic.

For most, this experimentation is a passing fancy. For some, it becomes a dangerous obsession. For others still, hopefully with guidance from those who work only with positive energy, it leads to a spiritual belief system and a lifelong practice.

Quantum physics and has given us a possible explanation for the efficacy of some 'magical' practices, such as the power of intention. Science has definitely taught us that the more we learn, the more we find is out there that we don't yet understand.

Perhaps there is a bit of truth in some superstitions, but i have no idea which ones those would be!

Diana Mcc. said...

Lovely post, Pippa. Your book sounds intriguing. Will purchase it soon.

Judith Ashley said...

I'd rather not live in dread of anything but I do believe superstitions are founded on a 'fact' from the period in time when it was 'born'.

I can't think of a superstition that is not based on protection or safety. Doesn't mean there aren't any --- being able to blend life experiences into our writing is one of the things I like best! Keir looks like an interesting read!!!

Pippa Jay said...

Paty, my kids make a big thing about black cats crossing in front of us as we walk to school, and I wonder where they picked that up as it's not something I've ever even mentioned to them. Sarah, I think you're exactly right about the teenage need to find some way of controlling the chaos. Aww, thanks Diana! Judith, a lot of superstitions probably are based on facts, or what people back then believed to be facts. Some may have got twisted from the originals - lost in translation perhaps.