Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 33

Psalm 25

Don’t Walk Under a Ladder.

My Mum was fanatically superstitious. I understand that she was quite ill after giving birth to me and certainly suffered from a nervous disposition for most of her life.  She was a heavy smoker, something that undoubtedly was a major contributory factor in her relatively early death, but it was unquestionably a symptom of her nervous state and vulnerability.

All this culminated in a strange cocktail of traditional superstition and her personal made up variations.

Certainty a belief of bad luck when a black cat crossed her path was well known and not unusual along with not walking under ladders, (although actually this is very good advice never mind superstition), but mum invented others that were a bit more obscure.

If, in the process of setting the table, two knives became crossed, they must be uncrossed immediately because crossed knives meant a battle was imminent. Similarly, mum would never stir anything with a knife, because to stir with a knife was to stir up strife.

The colour green was taboo and must be avoided at all costs. I once bought a green van and mum would not even sit in it never mind ride in it. Having anything green would only end in tears.

Items of clothing did not escape the superstitious shadow. If mum dropped a glove, someone else had to pick it up. If mum picked it up it was bad luck and spelt disaster, however, if someone else retrieved the glove then they would be the recipient of a nice surprise. If the glove was blue it had to come true.

I have to admit that if I drop a glove today I am delighted if someone else picks it up blue or any other colour.

On no account should anyone open an umbrella inside the house and if they did, it had to be held upside down, (the umbrella not the person). I am not sure what the penalty for such an act would be, but mum wanted no part in it. Similarly it was woe and thrice woe on anyone who placed a pair of shoes, (even if brand new), on the table.

Spilt salt had to be thrown over the left shoulder so as to blind the devil that was standing behind her, it was usually my dad.

How mum moved around the house also had relevance. She had to touch a particular chair, a specific place on the table and pick up a particular cup in a set order; otherwise her day would be a disaster. It was also tempting fate to enter the house by the back door and leave the house through the front door without first sitting down.

Then there was the piece of string.

The heating for the house and the cooking came from a type of Aga stove in the back room. Across the front of the stove was a handrail from where a piece of string dangled down.

 The string appeared to be nondescript apart from a series of knots along its length similar to a Rosary and mum would sit in her chair next to the stove and play with the string in her fingers which seemed to help her relax. One morning we came downstairs to find that the string had disappeared without trace. No one would own up as to who the culprit was who had severed this piece of physiological well-being, but my brother in law always has a glint in his eye every time the subject is raised, even today. Fortunately mum found a new piece of string and the saga continued.

Psalm 25 has a message that assures us that all superstitions mean nothing and it has no relevance whether we open an umbrella indoors, wear a green jacket or drop a glove, because our protection comes from God. Whatever happens in this world we must put our trust in God and we will be protected, guided and God’s love will be poured over us. His kindness and compassion will be with us as it always has been throughout all time, (v 4 – 7)

We can turn to the Lord at all times for help and he will rescue us from all evil. We can ask for mercy and he will be merciful, (v 15-17), we can ask for compassion and we will be relieved from loneliness and all our worries.

In these times of the COVID pandemic it is easy for us to become depressed and let the stress of the situation overcome our thoughts and lives, but God’s words through the Psalmist ring true and give hope and strength to those who trust in God.

Although I do not share my mum’s fear of superstition, I still walk very carefully along paved footpaths because we all know that if we tread in a nick we will marry a brick and a beetle will come to the wedding. ?????

Derek T.