“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare
When I was growing up, my mother had many superstitions.
Do not put shoes on a bed or counter.
Do not cross arms when toasting with glasses.
Do not cross the path of a black cat.
A devout Catholic, around our house were many icons to remind her of her faith and to ward off the bad luck she believed lurked around corners eager to pounce on the unsuspecting and unaware. There were candles to light beside a statue of the Virgin Mary and a large crucifix above the mantle to kneel in front of and pray the Rosary.
Along with the symbols of her Catholic faith there were also many symbols of her heritage and the environment in which she grew up — southern India. Scattered amidst the icons of her faith, there were statues of Shiva. There were bronze Buddha’s and only elephants with their trunks lifted.
In my mother’s world, Friday the 13th was a day to be dreaded. It was a day for mishaps and missteps. A day to be hyper-conscious of the world around you looking to trip you up or deliver some ill-timed blow of misfortune.
I used to laugh at my mother’s superstitions. I used to judge her on the contradictions I saw between belief in God and fear of evil spirits. I would tease her and try to scare her into saying a quick Hail Mary to ward off some evil miscreant awoken by my lack of respect for the spirit world.
Time has smoothed the ridges of my disdain. Time has given me a better perspective of the compassionate view of my mother’s beliefs and superstitions.
At Thanksgiving dinner this year, my mother spoke of Faith. She spoke of her deep and abiding belief in the goodness of God, the power of His creation and the holiness and sanctity of life.
No matter our teasing, no matter my scoffing at her repeated insistence she will ‘pray for me’, my mother’s faith has been the backbone and the lifeline that has tied our family together in good times and in bad.
My mother never saw the contradictions. For her, the miracle of life resonates in all beings, and just as God is ever present, she has always known the capacity for evil is also present.
Taking care of the small things, praying to protect herself, her family and the world around her against evil are to her, as natural as saying the Hail Mary in times of stress and in times of contemplation.
In my mother’s world, the superstitions woven into the fabric of her life are simply threads of colour that highlight the natural grace and beauty at the heart of who she is, a kind, compassionate and caring woman of faith.