x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

It is unlucky to ignore superstitions

Bizarre beliefs can help us to get through the day, even if they only provide a set of behavioural cues, such as whether to go under a ladder.

I often catch myself humming along to Stevie Wonder's soul classic Superstition, and the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this ditty was written specifically for me.

For along with collecting shoes and hoarding handbags, I seem to have acquired more than a couple of superstitions or bizarre beliefs over the years.

Now, paranoid questioning and insecure behaviour is hardly becoming in any young lady and rest assured, I'm not of the manic "over-the-shoulder salt throwing" brigade. I pick and choose my superstitions carefully and have even been known to fly in the face of some: namely, putting new shoes on the table, walking under ladders and owning a black cat.

That said, in recent years I've found myself heartily embracing cultural superstitions, no matter how irrational or baseless their theory.

For example, while supping afternoon tea with me recently in Dubai, my Emirati friend gasped in horror as I placed my new clutch purse on the floor. "You'll be broke if you continue to do that," she said "You are disrespecting wealth!" Far be it from me to block my blessings. I promptly tucked the bag behind my seat and felt a wave of relief wash over me, not least because the floor was filthy.

The ancient Chinese laws of feng shui have somehow worked their way into my life, too, for now I can't sleep if wardrobe doors are ajar and the drawers of my dressing table are left open, knowing the flow of qi and good energy is being disrupted.

It all admittedly sounds a little obsessive, and there's more, much more. For example, on a trip to Lebanon in 2009, the tour guide who drove our group at breakneck speed through the Bekaa valley to the glorious heights of Baalbeck gave me a memento of the trip that I still treasure.

It was a small stone pendant with the words of the Quranic verse Ayat Al Kursi (The Chair/Throne) engraved upon it. "Keep it in your car," he said, wagging his finger at me. "It will keep you safe." And so I duly did, steadfastly believing it would work for me as it had done for him all these years.

Irish folklore and mythology are rife with superstitions and one of my favourites is a code of practice I'd urge you to adopt: never, ever ask a man on his way to fish where he is going. For if you do, you'll ruin not just his luck but yours for the entire day. Moreover, don't turn off the light while people are at supper, or else there will be one fewer around the table before the year is out. You've been warned.