Russian word for superstition – суеве́рие [su-ye-vyé-ree-ye] – is made of two parts: «суе» which means “vain”, and «вера» which means “belief”. Thus, superstitions in Russian are “vain believes”.
Nevertheless, Russian culture is rich in superstitions and “signs”. Most of them take their origins in antiquity or in the Middle Ages and are associated with specific historical events, customs, living conditions, etc. And despite the fact that the younger generation today has a more rational consciousness, the Russian people still always “sit down before leaving” and “knock on wood” if anything.
Russian superstitions associated with salt
In Russia, salt was considered a symbol of eternity and for a long time was quite expensive. To spill the salt was an act of wastefulness, as well as disrespect for the hospitable house. If an ill-wisher wanted to hurt the owners, it was enough just to turn over the salt shaker. After such an impudent act it was impossible to avoid a quarrel. Thus, the spilled salt began to signify an approaching quarrel.
However, the resourceful Russian people found a way to avoid trouble. If you spilled salt, it’s enough to throw three pinches of it over your left shoulder and laugh, or let yourself be hit on the forehead, or sprinkle your head with it.
Another Russian superstition says that if the food is oversalted, then the person who prepared it is in love.
Do not whistle in the house – there will be no money!
Every Russian, even the most distant from superstitions, knows this sign. Besides the fact that whistling in a house can simply be impolite, according to popular belief it is possible to attract various evil spirits into the house. It was also possible to offend the spirit of the house. Then he will run away, taking with him not only the acquired good, but also peace.
According to another version, the wind comes to the house with a whistle, which can also take all the wealth out of the house. For example, sailors were always afraid of whistling because it could bring a storm. And on the contrary, when there was no wind to blow the sails, all the crew members began to whistle loudly attracting the wind.
They also say that if you whistle in a house, you can “whistle out” not only money, but also memory.
Do not say hello, goodbye, and do not pass things over the doorstep
For our ancestors, the doorstep was a sacred and dangerous place, the border between the worlds, where the spirits of ancestors lived who were supposed to protect their living relatives from all evil. Indeed, in the old days, the ashes of the dead were often buried under the doorstep. Therefore, all the manipulations had to be carried out while inside the house, under its protection.
Jinx or evil eye
Russians believe in the jinx or the so-called evil eye. This especially applies to children and newborns. What is most interesting, in order to avoid jinx you just have to knock on the wood and the trouble will supposedly pass by. If there is no wood around, then your own head will do.
Many Russians perform this simple ritual several times a day simply automatically. Our ancestors believed that in the trees live spirits which you can call any time for help with a knock.
Along with the pagan explanation of this superstition, there is also a religious one. In the old days, Christians believed that by touching a wooden surface, they called on Jesus, who according to the Bible was crucified on a wooden cross. This superstition came from the custom of giving refuge to a runaway criminal in a church. If he touched the church gates, he considered himself saved, because from that moment the church took him under protection.
A woman with an empty bucket…
Russians believe that if in the morning, when you come out of your house, you meet a woman with empty buckets, it’s for bad luck, if a man – it’s for good luck. This prejudice came to Russia from India were it is believed that a woman absorbs energy while a man always gives it away.
When you see a woman with empty buckets, you should bypass her around. You can also make a cross sign and spit three times over the left shoulder. Two crossed fingers in the pocket help too.
According to another version, this superstition came from peasant life when drinking water was extracted exclusively from the well. If suddenly a woman passes by with empty buckets, it’s bad news as it means that the well has dried up.
Returning halfway is for bad luck
This superstition brings us back to the doorsteps. If a person leave the house but returns from a half-way (perhaps he forgot something), then his spiritual strength weakens, and on the doorstep there may be unpleasant surprises in the form of offended ancestral spirits who were disturbed in vain or even seek to go into our world.
In order to neutralize the negative impact, the belief recommends that you look in the mirror before re-leaving the house (according to some versions, you must also show yourself your tongue), in this case your spiritual power reflected by the glass will double and nothing will threaten you.
Sit down before leaving for long
In ancient times, traveling was an extremely dangerous business, and travelers were considered not to be alive and not dead, but to remain in the third state. Sitting down just before leaving, people asked for help and protection from home spirits.
According to another version, the spirits of the house were not very pleased when one of the household members set off on the road, they could cling to the one who was driving away, hinder him on the way and try to bring him back. When everybody quietly sit down, the spirits think that people are not going anywhere and loose their vigilance. Then the traveler could go on the road without too much “baggage” in the form uncontrollable spirits.
It must be said that this superstition has also a purely practical significance: sitting down and collecting your thoughts before a long journey helps you not to miss anything important in the rush.
Do not take out the garbage in the dark
This superstition has many interpretations. For example, it is believed that an unpleasant gossip will start about those who take out the garbage late at night. This belief has a very rational explanation, because it is unlikely that the one who has nothing to hide will begin to take out the garbage exclusively under the cover of night.
Another interpretation is that by taking out the garbage at night, a person take out also his luck and well-being. This belief is probably related to home spirits. Good night spirits of the house should enter the dwelling at sunset. But they will only come to those who expected them: they cleaned the rooms and took out the waste. If the owners did not prepare the house on time, then after sunset, it is useless to restore order, as the good spirits will go to neater homeowners.
Broken dishes are for good luck
Having broken a plate or a cup, Russians often say “for good luck”. Our ancestors were convinced that in the event of a family conflict, it is much better to break the plate than to throw out your negative emotions onto the interlocutor. By breaking a plate, a person thereby extinguishes his own negative emotions and could rely on the preservation of good relations with his household. This ritual itself did not reach our days in its original form, but turned into a corresponding belief.
Wearing clothes inside out
Before, people used to treat clothes with much more care than today. Often they were quite expensive, and only a disorderly person could wear them in an inappropriate way.
Thus, in Russian tradition, the inside-out garment does not promise good luck for a person as other nations believe. Popular Russian saying says that wearing the dress inside out promises you either to be drunk or be beaten. If by chance you spit on the dress, you will suffer slander.
It was also said that if a married woman had her skirt accidentally stuck up and revealing what’s under, it means she will soon give birth.
Black cat running across the road
This superstition is common among many nations. In the distant past in Russia, cats were valued a lot, a hostess would never push one out. If a cat runs throughout the village, it could only mean some misfortune: the death of the owners or a fire. And if a mad animal suddenly threw itself under the feet of a passersby, people used to see in it a harbinger of misfortune.
Over time, the number of stray animals increased, and this prejudice began to relate only to black cats.
Giving a watch as a gift is a bad sign
This superstition came to Europe from China, where giving a watch as a gift is like an invitation to a funeral. In Russia, it has undergone some changes: it is believed that the given watch counts the time of friendship with the person to which it’s given. Although in some places they continue to believe that the given watch measures the time left to live.
To neutralize the effect of this bad sign is easy: it is enough to give back any small coin in exchange for the watch. This way it will be considered that the watch was not given but bought, and the gift will not have any negative impact.
Walking in one shoe you will become an orphan
This superstition says that the one who allows himself to go shod only in one shoe will early become orphan.
Paired things, including shoes, are a symbol of unity, therefore by separating them a person separates those who brought him/her to life, that is his parents. In the best case scenario the family can fall apart through a divorce, but if love still unites the couple, then only death can separate them.
If you dropped a spoon, fork or knife on the floor – wait for guests
What kind of guests and with what depends on a lot of nuances, for example:
If a large tablespoon has fallen on the floor, then an adult woman – your friend or relative will come to your home. If it is a teaspoon, then a young, unmarried young lady, or a child will come to you. This is not a bad sign.
If a fork fell, then the guest (woman) will be unpleasant to you or conceals some bad intentions. It can be a gossip woman, a liar, or simply unkind to you. If a fork fell out of your hands – it means bad luck.
A fallen knife foreshadows the arrival of a man in your house. If the sharp side of the knife has fallen in your direction, a detractor will come, an unpleasant person who does not like you. If the sharp side is turned away from you, then the person is pleasant, treats you well, and will come to you with good intentions.
If you want the guest to come to you, carefully lift the fallen object and put it on the table. Do not wash or wipe it until the guest comes.
And if you do not want to meet anyone, or you know that an unpleasant person is heading towards you, take the fallen object and knock it on the edge of the table three times, saying: “Stay at home!”. This little ritual will save you from uninvited guests.
Do not walk under a ladder leaning against a wall
Some people believe that the ladder which stands on the ground and leans against the wall forms a triangle – a solid and inseparable symbol and even the personification of the Holy Trinity. To go through this triangle means to break the balance and harmony.
The second theory dates back to the Middle Ages. Portable ladders brought people to the idea of the gallows, and it was believed that passing under the stairs a person thereby brings his own death closer.
In addition, there is a very logical everyday explanation of this superstition. What can be more reasonable, than unwillingness to receive an injury from the person working on a ladder?
Do not eat from a knife
It is believed that if you eat from a knife you will become cruel and angry. The knife is one of the first tools with which people could get food and protect their lives. Therefore, it also had a sacred meaning. Such an important tool was endowed with special magical properties and used not only for practical purposes, but also in various rituals. To use a knife for such a prosaic action as eating was considered blasphemy, the spirits could get angry at such obvious disrespect.
In addition, the requirement not to eat from a knife has a more rational explanation – you can simply cut your lips or tongue.
Do not sew on yourself – you will sew your memory in
Another superstition associated with clothing warns that you can not sew clothes right on yourself, because you can sew your memory in. It is not known for certain where this belief is coming from. We could guess that in the old days, when there were no antibiotics or antiseptics, and the needles were large, crooked and uncomfortable, one could get a serious blood infection or tetanus if pricked by a needle.
However, Russian people came up with a way to avoid the trouble here too: in order to protect your memory from sewing, you just need to keep a piece of thread in your mouth.
Breaking a mirror is bad luck
According to one of the versions, the mirror takes some of the energy of people who look at it daily. People are not always in good mood, they can be angry or offended, and when the mirror is broken the negative energy accumulated over the years is released to the outside and trouble begin to happen in the family.
This same superstition led to the ritual of putting the curtains on the mirrors in the house after the death of relatives.
Some people even say that a broken mirror promises a full seven years of unhappiness in the house. In order to avoid seven years of bad luck, it is recommended to take precautions: take one of the mirror fragments to the cemetery or break all the fragments into powder.
The roots of this prejudice comes from the Middle Ages. The first glass mirrors were made in Venice, and they were very expensive. In order to make the servant treat the expensive object with care, the rich owners came up with this: whoever breaks the mirror will be punished.
Today we know that the good or bad mood of people affects what happens to them. Good things happen to positive people. But if you are afraid of something, you will most likely experience exactly that. This can explain the popularity of the Russian superstitions.
Set yourself only for the best, cut away negative emotions and pessimism. Remember that we ourselves, and not some otherworldly forces, whether good or bad, are building our lives. And not only our lives but also the lives of our relatives and people close to us will depend on the scenario that we conceive.
So be happy! 🙂