Is this the answer to our fears?
I have always been a very superstitious person. Wearing wooden jewellery, saluting magpies, and throwing salt over my shoulder are all things that are now second nature to me, but possibly infuriating to others. It’s something I have inherited to an extent from my parents. I wasn’t raised with one set religion or outlook rather was surrounded by many, which led to me creating my own blend of beliefs and practices. Over time, I realised how inseparable superstition and spirituality were from each other and from another aspect of myself, anxiety.
“Over time, I realised how inseparable superstition and spirituality were from each other and from another aspect of myself, anxiety”.
When I was a little kid, I used to pray to TV static and to the toilet whenever my mum bought bleach because I was sad that nobody prayed for the souls of the germs. Where did I get this idea? Probably a combination of TV adverts for Domestos and my Catholic uncle. I remember confessing to my parents that I had unravelled a roll of toilet paper, worried that this meant I would go to hell. I truly believed that every plant, animal, and microorganism had a soul, and oh boy, does that confuse a child.
Similarly, I have believed in a God of some sort since about this age. I wasn’t explicitly taught to, but I felt much better setting out my life based around this belief I had witnessed in others. With no specific religion to stick to, I was a little confused by what this meant, but I suppose I was free to figure out what faith and spirituality meant for me, which is undoubtedly an ongoing development. My spirituality was my secret, as personal as the late night prayers over the toilet seat, and this was nice, but in some ways entrenched my fears more, even after I learned Domestos adverts were not real, and TV static wasn’t alive.
If I believe in God, which God? What rules do I follow? How am I meant to behave? Is it okay to keep this to myself? Or will I be punished? My beliefs didn’t line up with what I had learned from my Jewish, Catholic or Protestant family, or what I had learned in school or from friends of other religions. Some of it made sense, and some of it didn’t. And none seemed to encourage my belief in ghosts, superstitions, or belief in everything having some kind of soul or energy. This scared me.
In all honesty, I was a little obsessed. I arrived at the conclusion that what truly mattered, was faith. I felt the exact same pit in my stomach when considering what I was doing wrong as a spiritual person as I did when I couldn’t find something wooden to knock to avoid being jinxed. Why did I feel so strongly that my life was tied into all these random things, into everything? The only answer I could arrive at, to avoid spiralling into fear over all the different things I could be doing wrong, was to rely on the idea that having faith and being kind was what truly mattered. Whether it was private, public, in one God or another, having faith in something else, something to answer to, as well as being able to live my life assuming I was to behave the best I could, was enough to ease my fears.
But still, I couldn’t separate my superstitions from all this, but with confidence in faith, I felt okay to explore them. I use tarot cards, get attached to certain rocks, fear ghosts, and yet pray, which if it weren’t canon, would be a superstition really. And these things felt like I was surrounding myself properly with whatever superstition or spiritual belief made sense, and made things feel calm. All in all, I continued looking for answers, looking for ways to ease my anxieties about how I was living my life, and what might happen when I die. I wanted to make sure I would encourage good things for myself and those around me, and realistically, just wanted good vibes.
“I wanted to make sure I would encourage good things for myself and those around me, and realistically, just wanted good vibes”.
I know many others have had different experiences or journeys with superstition, spirituality, and even with anxiety. Some have had seemingly opposite experiences, or none, and so I speak only for myself. For me, this ongoing journey simply boils down to a belief in “something” else. Something outside of myself, something with some sway over my life. I can’t claim to have any certainty about what it is; God(s), spirits, luck, energy, the Matrix? Who knows. And to me, all of these are tied together. I cannot separate spirituality from superstition, or either from myself or the world around me. My faith isn’t based on having the answers, or on soothing my own anxiety; it is somewhat all encompassing and sometimes, even anxiety inducing.