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Monday, August 18, 2014

Russian Superstitions

I have to admit that Russians are often superstitious. It’s one of those sides of the life in Russia that is so hard for foreigners to understand. But you do need to know about at least some superstitions, because you don’t want to do something that would be unacceptable for people around you, or just to understand why we, Russians, act in a certain way. Ready? Let’s start.
The origin of Russian superstitions
The main reason why all those superstitions initially appeared, is that Russia used to be a Pagan country. Plus life was hard and people tried to do everything not to make it even harder. Like any normal human being, Russian people also wanted to live a good long life and they did what they could for that to happen! So for centuries old beliefs continued to prosper in the minds, in spite of Christian religion that came to the country more than 1000 years ago, and even in spite of the Soviet regime when religion was not accepted in any form. The latter, in fact, stimulated the growth of interest in everything supernatural, including ancient beliefs and superstitions. There was a study conducted in 2006 that showed that more than 50% of Russians still believe in omens while 42% believe in prophetic dreams. Even those who consider themselves true Christians can’t help paying attention to some omens and superstitions because they are carved very deep inside our nature and we don’t realize that what we do is actually based not on sound logic, but on superstitions and false beliefs.
Below you can see some examples of superstitions you may come across if you visit Russia. We have grouped them in categories to make the info a bit easier to understand:
  1. Things that bring bad luck
  • Whistling inside your home will bring poverty to your family.
  • If you leave your purse or bag with a wallet on the floor (even in your own apartment) you will lose your money.
  • If you left your house and then realized you’ve forgotten something, think twice before going back because it’s a sign of bad luck! If you absolutely have to go back, don’t forget to look in the mirror before you leave again. Then you should be fine.
  • Classic superstition: if a black cat crosses the road in front of you, it will bring you bad luck.
  • Seeing a woman (or anybody) with an empty bucket brings bad luck, too.
  • If a bird flies into your window then somebody you know will probably die soon.
  1. Things that bring good luck and/or prosperity
  • If somebody calls and doesn’t recognize you by your voice, you will get rich.
  • You are very lucky if you find a lilac flower with an odd number of petals. But you need to eat the flower in order to release the power of good luck.
  • Wearing a safety pin on your clothes in the place people can’t see it can help avoid bad luck and evil eye.
  • If a bird defecates on you or your property, it may be the sign that you will get rich soon.
  • If you sit between two people with the same name you can make a wish and it may come true!
  1. Omens and superstitions concerning love, marriage and family
  • Giving a newborn baby the same name as a father, a mother, a grandparent or any other relative living in the same house is bad. People believe that each person has his or her own guardian angel, so if two people in the house have the same name, it means they have the same guardian angel and it may be hard for the angel to help and guard both members of the family.
  • Young girls who want to get married shouldn’t choose a corner seat at a dinner table. If they do, they may stay single for 7 more years.
  • It is bad luck to buy anything for a newborn baby before the child is born.
  • If your friend has had a new baby, it’s best to avoid visiting the family and seeing the baby before it turns 1 month old.
  • If it rains on your wedding, you will get rich.
  • If a woman puts too much salt on the meals, she is probably in love.
  • Russians avoid taking off their wedding rings to show them to somebody else. Letting somebody else take the wedding ring off your finger is even worse. It means that you will have problems in your marriage. Giving your ring to a stranger is the same as giving your love and happiness away to a stranger.
  1. Superstitions and traditions concerning gifts
  • Animals, birds, knives and other sharp objects, clocks, watches, scarves, and purses can’t be given as presents to people. If you give a gift like that to a Russian person, be prepared to get a small amount of money in return. Otherwise you will bring bad luck to the person. For example, an empty purse will bring poverty; sharp objects and knives may cause a heated argument between you and your friend and might even break your friendship. That’s why a Russian person will try to give you money (even if it’s 1 ruble). Thus it will no longer be a gift, but something they paid for, so bad luck will be avoided.
  • If you are buying flowers for a friend (or actually, any living human being) you should buy an odd number of flowers. An even number of flowers is only brought to funerals.
  • Giving yellow flowers to your girlfriend means that you will soon end the relationship.
  1. Superstitions about birthdays
  • Russians prefer not to celebrate birthdays before the date. I even know some people who wait till the actual hour when a person was born to give gifts etc. It’s also fine to celebrate your birthday after the actual date.
  1. Some miscellaneous omens and superstitions
  • If your nose is itching, you will be drinking soon.
  • If your lips are itching, you will be kissing somebody soon.
  • If you have the hiccups, it means that somebody is thinking about you at the moment. If you figure out who it is, your hiccups will go away.
  • If you throw away bread, then you might experience poverty and bad luck in future.
  • When somebody dies, all mirrors in the house are covered in order to avoid seeing the spirit of the dead leaving the house. Besides, this way people help the spirit to find its way to heaven.
  • After the funeral, the floors of the house of the dead person are cleaned in order to prevent the spirit of the dead to come back to the house and to help it find its way to heaven.
  • On the other hand, when a family member goes away on a trip the floors are not cleaned for three days to make sure the trip is successful and the person comes back home safe and sound.
  • It is bad luck to cross the path of a funeral procession.
There are so many other things that could be added to the list! We sit before leaving on a journey, we avoid talking about future plans to make sure they come true, we spit three times over the left shoulder in order to avoid bad luck and do other crazy things. As you see, most of these superstitions are illogical and some are quite absurd. Believe me: Russians laugh at themselves because they know how illogical and crazy all those superstitions are, but I’ve never met a Russian person who would be completely free from those beliefs. Why? Because they are passed from generation to generation and children absorb them with the mother’s milk. So let’s just agree that it’s a part of the Russian enigmatic soul.
Edited by:  for The Russian Store

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