Ruth Spencer on five traditions of the modern age.

Our modern world has done away with the kind of ritual our ancestors thought they couldn't do without. No longer do we need Morris dancers to change the seasons for us, nor do we have to sacrifice any pigeons to atone for our sins, although that would be cheaper than paying speed camera fines and would certainly keep the pigeon population in check.

But rituals are good for humans. They give us the illusion of keeping chaos at bay, so we can shelve our existential terror and get out of bed. Fortunately, we have managed to fill our modern lives with useful new rituals. Here are some rites of passage you celebrate every day.

The Sign of the Trolley

There's no way of telling what the last person did to your supermarket trolley. He or she could have handled a leaky bag of reduced-to-clear raw chicken; a small child covered in sticky things could have sat in the little seat or, worse, stood in it. The Sign of the Trolley, that little wavering hesitation your hand does before you grasp the handle, protects against bacteria but is less effective on wobbly wheels.

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The Beeping of the Lock

Halfway across the car park, you suddenly can't remember if you locked the car. You pause, turn, and, with your key held high in the air like baby Simba in the only good bit of The Lion King, you perform the Beeping of the Lock ceremony. You'll never know if the car was truly unlocked or not, but the Beeping is a balm of security for your weary soul. It's also a useful, usually answered prayer if you can't remember where you parked.

The Wallet Phone Keys Incantation Ancient witches knew that if they had a candle, a book and a bell, they could get something done with their day. We retain that sense of preparation by muttering "Wallet Phone Keys". Without reciting this incantation, leaving the house is an anxiety-fuelled escapade into certain disaster. Like the veil between life and death, nothing is more final than shutting the front door only to find the keys are on The Other Side.

The Exorcism of the Duvet Cover

Everyone struggles trying to put the duvet inner back inside the freshly washed cover. Photo / Getty Images
Everyone struggles trying to put the duvet inner back inside the freshly washed cover. Photo / Getty Images

It's fresh from the wash and should be a sacred, purified object but anyone who has had to put a duvet cover back on knows that demonic possession is the only explanation for its behaviour. Whether you go by the inside-out reskinning method or some brute force technique that puts you halfway inside this glorified bag, the duvet cover must be tamed. Vigorous shaking is the accepted method of exorcising the duvet demons and sends them scurrying into your fitted sheet pile.

The Dodgy Public Toilet Levitation

Do you cover public toilet seats in tissue or attempt to levitate above it? Photo / Getty Images
Do you cover public toilet seats in tissue or attempt to levitate above it? Photo / Getty Images

Only High Priestesses can manage this feat. Hovering in the air over a pit of damnation is for the seriously spiritually advanced.