Once at an office meeting, I was pulling up my chair to the table when my colleague Boris said, ‘wait, don’t do that’. I was taken aback a bit, as I was not doing anything in particular. ‘But then, you are already married! So it’s okay’, he continued. In Russia, it is believed that if a woman sits at the corner of a table, she will not find a life partner!
Superstitions like these abound all over the world. We all know about the beliefs associated with black cats, ladders, and cracks in the road – seeing them, walking under them, stepping on them… will bring bad luck. I mean, seeing the black cats, walking under the ladder, and stepping on the cracks. Now if you step on the cat? Definitely the cat will not like it, and it will be instant bad luck for you! 🙂
How is it that different parts of the world came to share some of these beliefs is an interesting thought. At the same time, the more interesting and bizarre ones are truly unique to their places of origin.
Is there any substance to these beliefs? Only if you truly believe in them! I mean believe in them enough for it to bother you when you did something you shouldn’t have or didn’t do something that you should have. Or vice versa… or the other way around… whatever… you get my point, right? 🙂
In Ancient Britain, women believed that by carrying acorns in their pockets they will stay looking young. Maybe a result of seeing the mighty oaks continue to flourish year after year?
In 19th century England, men were advised to avoid eating lettuce if they wanted children. An idea arising in the fact that the lettuce plant doesn’t bear any fruit?
In Spain, it is believed that if you eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s eve, you will have good luck and prosperity the entire year! At the least, good for your health!
Prescribed days for doing specific things are common in all cultures. Cutting hair or trimming nails are forbidden on Tuesdays or Saturdays, depending on where you are. Visit a new baby or a sick person, set out on a journey, go to the hospital, plant crops in the field… all these have their own auspicious days.
A very intriguing custom from Medieval England… I’m at a total loss at guessing its possible origin. An expectant mother will make a large round cheese known as the ‘groaning cheese’ and allow it to mature for nine months. When the baby is born, the cheese will be shared among the family, keeping the rind intact. And the baby will be passed through this rind at christening to ensure a long and prosperous life. Now what would happen if the rind breaks while the cheese is being shared (would it still be good if it is stapled together?) or the mom-to-be miscalculated and the baby is too big to pass through the rind, is anybody’s guess!
I personally heard it being asserted that it brings good luck (or a variation, you will get sweets) if a bird poops on you. Aimed at making the person feel better about being pooped on, I would say. And it is taken a step further in Russia… if the bird poops on your house or car, it will bring good luck and riches. And the more birds pooping, the better! None of these say anything about birds pooping on statues, though… 🙂
From Brazil… if you place some salt in a corner of your house, it will bring you good luck.
The French believe that handing over a loaf of bread upside down will bring ill luck to both the giver and taker. Also, bread is not to be placed at the table upside down either. Think of that beautiful crust being crushed!
We all know that the colour red is considered auspicious by the Chinese. As a corollary, the colour white is associated with death and mourning, and flowers or gifts in that colour are not to be considered for any happy occasion.
While in Japan, do not stick your chopsticks straight up in your food. It is how they are placed at funerals.
Russians do not show their newborn baby to strangers till it is 40 days old, as it is believed that the baby receives it soul only by that time and it may take on another’s soul during that time. So what about the soul of the family members? Maybe the baby will be nice to them and not rob them of their soul!
Oh, this one I’m taking seriously. In Iceland, it is forbidden to knit on the doorstep in late winter as it is believed to extend the winter. Let me just catch sight of anyone knitting anywhere – not only in Iceland – in the winter and I’m grabbing that knitting and out it goes in the garbage. No way I’m risking an extended winter!
To be continued…
22 Aug 2014