Russian superstitions


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”.

Russian superstitions

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.

There are much more Russian superstitions than we can fit in one article, so today we publish the first portion of them.

Signs and 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 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.


Today we know that the good or bad mood of a person affects what happens to him or her. 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 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! 🙂


2 thoughts on “Russian superstitions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *