Hayley is a Ghost

The irrational me

Posted on: June 24, 2011

Yesterday I awoke from a dream in which I was attending my own funeral and for the rest of the day I couldn’t shake the idea that I was going to die as I went about my normal routine. I took extra care as I walked to work, I eyed people suspiciously for weapons as they passed me on the street… I avoided a black cat when it crossed my path.

It was an irrational thing to think, and yet I was still convinced my dream was somehow a premonition – which is daft because I don’t believe in premonitions or dream interpretation. Yet it unsettled me so much that I carried the notion around with me for the rest of the day and, unless I’m actually a ghost as I type this, I didn’t die.

It did set me thinking about what other irrational things I do that I don’t mean to, and I’ve decided to make a list because it’s quite funny and shows how it’s easy to be irrational without meaning to.

– I say ‘bless you’ when people sneeze, despite there being no plague right now, and despite not being religious.

– I “touch wood” for luck

– I cross my fingers for luck

– If I spill salt, I throw some over my shoulder and “into the devils eye”

– When I eat boiled eggs in the shell, I break the bottom of the shell so that a witch can’t use it as a boat to escape*

– When I walk through a graveyard, if I stray from the path I apologise to the deceased…

– I wish people luck.

– I say “jesus christ!” “Holy moses!” “for gods sake!” “go to hell!” “What in the name of God!” “for my sins” when I’m not religious

I feel like a bad skeptic/atheist when I do the above and realise what I’m doing. It feels like I’m somehow cheating even though it’s just a habit I’ve grown up with.

I’m curious, dear reader, what quirky yet irrational habits do you have that you can’t quite break?

*I blame my mother for that one, I don’t even know what it means! WHAT DOES IT MEAN?! A WITCH IN AN EGG?! FROM WHERE IS SHE ESCAPING?


17 Responses to "The irrational me"

I have no quirky or bizarre habits. I’m a good skeptic for gods sake!


Aside from the swearing, I don’t really do much on your list, except the occasional “touch wood” (well, “knock on wood” in the US) when I know it is socially expected.

I’ve been thinking lately, though, of a pretty irrational thing I do, and one that has real negative effects: Recently, for instance, I put off taking my car to the shop for as long as possible, specifically because I knew there was something wrong that needed to be addressed, and even knowing that by putting it off I was probably making the problem worse and more expensive. But part of me just didn’t want to face whatever the result was.

I do similar things with emails and such that I know are going to be hard to swallow, putting off opening them when I know that addressing them sooner rather than later will make them much easier to address.

*I blame my mother for that one, I don’t even know what it means! WHAT DOES IT MEAN?! A WITCH IN AN EGG?! FROM WHERE IS SHE ESCAPING?

Dont blame me, My Nan told me that you had to make an hole in the bottom of your egg shell to stop witches using it as a boat so that they could go out and cause ships to sink. I had to do it otherwise Nan would sit there giving me “that look” until I did and now I just do it automatically.

Hmmm. Could it maybe have something to do with the North Berwick Witches? Agnes sampson allegedly stood on the coast and caused a storm in an attempt to sink James VI (James I to you southerners) boat as he returned from Denmark?

When I was growing up, my mom always used to say “company’s coming” if she dropped a utensil on the floor. I always say that to myself when I do it too!! And then I laugh at myself. And then the doorbell rings…granted I live in a house where teenagers are always popping by to visit my teen…so it’s funny, because of course it is a superstition which is easily (through everyday coincidence and circumstance) reinforced!!!

I support Manchester United.

I don’t think some of that list are irrational though – they may have irrational origins, but they’re just a part of speech now, like Shakespeare quotes that crop up.


That’s interesting, only yesterday I decided to make a conscious effort to rid myself of all such mannerisms: http://lapsedpagan.blogspot.com/2011/06/tragical-thinking.html

I hadn’t considered the shouting of expletives such as “Jesus Christ!” and, one of my current favourites “f*cking hellfire!” though; I think they may be too ingrained (and they’re too much fun).

That is too spooky to be a coincidence! :O

(Not really… I’m trying to be funny)

Being a football fan (or a fan of any sport) can put you in a superstitious league above all others.

I’m a season ticket holder at Liverpool and know people who keep the same matchday routine for fear that the team will get beat if they deviate from that routine in any way. Right down to their pre match pint / food and what turnstile they enter the stadium.

Nothing wrong with it (as long as Liverpool win 😉 ).

I have family members who still ‘spit and salute’ when a magpie flies overhead.

I knock wood and throw spilt salt over my left shoulder (why left? no idea). Also liberal use of the phrases “Oh my god” “Jesus Christ” and “holy shit!” I’ve given up on training myself out of this behavior but I have managed to stop saying “bless you” when someone sneezes in favor of Gesundheit.

I think most of those qualify more as social norms than superstitions. Saying ‘bless you’ is just what you say when someone sneezes, no reasonable person would think that you are actually blessing them*. Wishing people luck, and apologizing to the deceased when you trod upon their graves are, in my view, just being polite. While I have seen no evidence that there is some spirit loitering around the graves it is still respectful to apologize, much as the mass for dead insects is inherently meaningless yet entirely beautiful.

The religiously toned profanities and other exclamations I attribute again to our cultural context. I do on occasion attempt to excise them from my speech but the effort seems far too great to be worth the bother. We are products of our environment, after all.

*I, being a Reverend, on the other hand am licensed to bless(tm). Weddings, christenings, bar/bat mitzvahs, divorces, commitment ceremonies, etc ad nauseum. Reasonable rates.

my intentionally doing the things the superstitious avoid was really no different than avoiding them – but engaging in a ritual because of a social convention (I say goose in tights and most sneezers never realize what I have said) and engaging in a ritual to stave off bad things – no sidewalk crack stepping has ever broken any mommy’s back – is harmless and no impediment whatsoever to your athiest cred.

our brains just react to stimulous and do not really differentiate between actual experience, movies, video games or dreams – when we’re fully conscious, we know what’s fiction and what’s not, but our brain controlled gladsds don’t.

so feeling creeped out by a dream such as yours is totally normal.

I used to indulge in all the superstitions regarding magpies until a few years back. I say “all” the superstitions because I didn’t realise there were so many, some conflicting. Back when I first met my wife, she used to salute when she saw a magpie. Thinking it was sweet and silly, I used to join in. A bit of harmless fun, I thought.
Then when we asked a few slightly more superstitious friends about this, they all came up with loads of different variants on the magpie superstition. “You’re supposed to blow a kiss when you see a magpie!” “You’re supposed to wink when you see a magpie!” “You’re supposed to salute!” “You’re supposed to wave!” “You’re supposed to look away!” “You’re supposed to greet the magpie and wish his family well!”
It eventually got to the point when where we were doing all of these things and getting into all sorts of strange contortions. You try and blow a kiss, salute, wink etc at the same time, it’s not easy. Especially when driving. And we live in a town plagued by magpies, so it was just getting stupid.
So that’s when I made a consious effort to give up on all superstitions of any kind. Just said goodbye to them.
Although I now deliberately look out for ladders, just so I can walk under them. Have I gone too far the other way? Is this some kind of anti-superstition?

I’ve managed to stop judging what luck I am due, and I’ve also stopped saying “Bless you”, but I have no desire to stop saying “Jesus fucking Christ”.
May I link to a practically unread blog entry I did on this sort of thing? http://t.co/d3Fms5i Cheers!

I have no problem wishing people good luck, I guess I consider luck as undirected and uncontrolled by anything supernatural. I never bless anyone when they sneeze but thank them when people bless me if I sense concern for my well being. I do get very spooked sometimes when I am walking in the woods alone at night or using my telescope in the dark outside. Totally irrational around here. “Oh God!” comes out of my mouth under certain conditions. I don’t know why, I’ve never believed.

I have the exact same ‘egg’ superstition – or I *had*, as I’ve trained myself out of it, and now throw uncrushed half-shells into the bin with glee. The strange thing is that I swear that I got it from my Ma, and she swears that she got it from me. I looked it up a little while ago, and apparently there’s a reference to witches sailing away in uncrushed shells in the Malleus Maleficarum…

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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