When I was young my nan used to speak to me about superstitions. I was clear that I must never walk under ladders in the street, should never even think about putting my shoes on the table, and must always go out of the front door if I came in that way. The last one of these I still uphold today. I cannot bear the idea of entering a house through the front door and leaving through the back door. The other superstitions I have managed to wipe away.
I will always be a creature of habit. Superstitions started me off with all this, but habits took over as I grew up. I grew a set of habits that have stuck with me for many years and I am never quite sure why they reassure me so much. Some I have eradicated and others just remain there as my rocks. My life feels better when I maintain my habits. I am embarrassed to share some of them but you know what they say, – sharing is caring.
Why do we create these security blankets? I have no idea. But from speaking to the people around me I can see that I am not alone in having these little routines, these little nuances, these silly little rituals that keep us mentally stable.
One such routine of mine was a rule of three. I had a habit of turning the alarm clock on and off three times before going to sleep. I had to know that I had pressed that button exactly three times in order to feel able to rest well. There is no explanation for why this was important to me but it gave me some sense of fulfilment each night for many years. I have replaced my alarm clock with my ipad alarm and so I don’t have to press a button any more, so that particular habit has been ditched. Whether I sleep any better or worse is hard to tell. But that is just one example of a tradition that has stood with me and could be labelled as a ‘habit.’
Another, which I am embarrassed to say still sits with me even now, is the preoccupation with putting my clothes on in a certain order. Crazy as this sounds, I have to put my socks on first, then my underwear, followed by my trousers and finally shirt and jumper. It just has to happen that way and it feels odd to change the order. If I got my socks wet it would pain me to remove them before my trousers. I guess that makes me peculiar but I like this habit. Laughable as this might seem it provides me with comfort. Habits provide security. I am a creature of habit. Does that mean I have an addictive personality? I think not. But I sure do like having routines and traditions, even if they are created for fun.
Returning to superstitions for a moment, such traditions can take up time and energy. I mean sometimes I can see that they really do stem from ‘old wives’ tales’ but there are just a few that seem magical and I really want to believe in them. One such superstition was the idea of a wart charmer. Now this idea really did puzzle and intrigue me for quite a long time. After my nan informed me about it, it stayed with me and I am still not convinced either way.
I had a few little warts on the ends of my fingers when I was about fifteen years old. They looked like circles of dry, hard skin and rubbed against material in uncomfortable ways. It felt as though I had scouring pads attached to my finger tips.
I went to see the doctor and he said that I needed to have them frozen so I had this done a few times but they still just sat there, annoying me when they caught my eye. I felt so hideous knowing that my fingers were awkward and kept on trying different methods such as applying a special ointment. It was during this time that nan decided to tell me about the wart charmers. Apparently there used to be one living in the next village and he was well known for making them disappear. It all sounded like witchcraft to me.
When I asked her for more detail, she told me that wart charmers worked in different ways. Apparently she had had a friend with warts who had gone to him and told him how many warts she had. The mysterious man (who she made out to seem fairly regular) then said something like a charm and the next day her warts had vanished. My great nan told me that someone she knew had gone to him and told him they had three warts but in fact they had four. Only three warts had disappeared the next day. She told me that he would only do the charm once and if you did not mention exactly how many warts you had, then only the number that you mentioned would be cured and you would be stuck with the rest forever.
There is something charming about this idea of a wart charmer. It is not the only superstition that sticks in my head. But it is one that grabbed my interest around the time when I suffered from warts. My own ones faded over time, of course, but left me wondering about nan’s stories. Were they tall tales? Or were they grounded in reality? One thing is for sure, superstitions are intriguing. Habits, however, are a whole other story.