If you were to ask me if I am superstitious, I would say ' 'No – superstitions are folk myths, fantasies, make believe, people trying to control a world they really have little control over.'

And yet… If there is no wood available, I touch whatever's nearest, I seek out black cats – because I like cats – and I have been known to look for four-leaved clovers, though I've never found one.

On the other hand, I deliberately walk under ladders, if there is room and no-one on them.

I came to understand how such things might develop when I spent some time learning how to dye with indigo. After you've prepared the dye vat – which takes time – immersed the fabric, being careful not to get too much oxygen into the vat, and then pull it out and the green colour gradually turns to blue – it is like magic. Working with a group of dyers was an almost spiritual experience.

But indigo vats can be temperamental: everything has to be just right, and even with modern knowledge about the process, what works one time may not work the next. So the first dyers, lacking scientific knowledge, may have developed superstitions about how they had to behave when dyeing.

Having a ritual to follow – wearing lucky socks, having a lucky mascot, turning widdershins three times before you start – may build confidence, and increased confidence may contribute to success. And so the ritual is reinforced, perhaps taught to others, generalised to other situations – and a superstition is born.


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