Just wondering, but does anyone actually own up to being superstitious these days?

I sat down to write today, aware that it’s a Friday 13th – a date many people associate with bad luck – and it struck me that nobody I know seems to admit to having superstitions any more.

We’re all rational beings now, looking for scientific explanations for everything and dismissing as primitive anything that doesn’t lend itself to neat scientific explanation.


I started to consider how superstitious I am. Do black cats crossing my path cause me any concerns? Not especially, unless I’ve had to do an emergency stop to avoid them. Do I avoid stepping on cracks in the pavement, throw spilt salt over my shoulder or poke spoons through the shells of boiled eggs? Nope. And to be honest, I’ve always thought of Friday 13th’s as rather lucky days.

But then, ahem

…there may just happen to be a horseshoe in my kitchen window, (only for decoration of course). I definitely avoid walking under ladders (common sense surely?). I didn’t let my husband see my wedding dress before our wedding day, I don’t put new shoes on the table, I don’t open umbrellas indoors and I do occasionally speak to single magpies.

Just in case you’re now thinking what a weirdo I am, I’d like to point out that the ravens at the Tower of London have their wings clipped so they can’t fly away because ‘if they do, the Kingdom will fall’ !

By the way, if ravens are your thing, I urge you to follow the Ravenmaster, Chris Skaife, at the Tower on Twitter @ravenmaster1 . He happens to have quite possibly the best job in the world.

What about you? Super-stitious or super-sensible?

The photograph above was taken at Wayland’s Smithy, a neolithic long barrow on the Ridgeway in Oxfordshire, on a very foggy late December afternoon last year (actually our wedding anniversary).

Superstition has it that horses who cast a shoe will be mysteriously re-shod there by Weland the Anglo-Saxon god of metal working in return for a silver coin left on the stones…

Anyone tried?

Catching up…

Phew, what a few weeks it’s been. I’m happy to report that we’ve come through the  delight of both daughters simultaneously sitting ‘A’Levels and GCSEs, relatively unscathed. The emergency escape to a tent in the garden wasn’t required and now we have the prospect of a few tranquil weeks before the results arrive…

As you can imagine, I managed to do a lot of stitching (always my go-to method of stress reduction) while the exams were happening. Ever since I visited the Indian textiles exhibition at the V & A, I’d wanted to try out some new ideas and textures, and having also recently read Claire Wellesley-Smith’s ‘Slow Stitch’, I decided to free myself from the tyranny of the ‘one hole, one stitch’ edict to try something different.


I have to say this has been a revelation in many ways. It certainly takes a meditative stitch practice to a new place as far as I’m concerned. My only problem now is trying to decide when it’s finished.

In other news… I’m just back from a short trip to the Scottish Highlands and Islands courtesy of my extraordinarily generous flying friend. This time I achieved a huge ambition and visited some of the neolithic sites on Orkney.

Having been a rampant medievalist for most of my life, I’m something of a late-comer to things pre Anglo-Saxon, but I suppose having watched so many Time Teams over the years, it’s gradually crept under the skin. Also, I’ve read so much now about our Celtic past and much of that references theories about the people who preceded them, and so it is that before you know where you are, you’ve reached that wonderful hinterland where history melts into legend and legend into myth.

And I find that I am entirely entranced by this mythic realm.

Detail from the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

This is where, I’m afraid to say, the history junkie in me ceases all scientific, factual thought and instead wholeheartedly embraces the possibilities of myth. Because, really, faced with something like the Ring of Brodgar, how much can you actually say for certain. But stop thinking and instead stand there and simply feel and I defy anyone not to be affected emotionally. To know that humans, so much like us, went to the effort to create these structures, but to understand so little about why they did so, is both baffling and mesmerising. The gulf between our time and their’s opens and all we have is our minds and tantalising traces of archaeology to bridge that gap.

I did rather max out on the photos on Orkney, so once I’ve sorted through, I’ll write a separate post about it.

So, relaxed and refreshed, it’s back to the needle now. I have some fairly nebulous ideas running around my head, which I need to get down to planning out. The textures of our wild places are, I’m pretty sure, bound to wheedle their way in.

What are you working on at the moment? Does history, myth or landscape influence how you work? Do tell.