6 Superstitions & Beliefs from Around the World

Unique cultural beliefs, and the stories behind them


With Halloween and the Day of The Dead upon us, this time of year often brings up reflections on life and death, the nature of good vs. evil, and even how we can invite more good fortune into our lives. To honour this season, in this roundup we wanted to highlight just a few beliefs and superstitions that are held across the globe.


1. BLAME THE ELVES

A Filipino elf known as a "duwendes" -  By René Mayorga - Flickr: duende, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21870359

In the Philippines, it's believed that when items around the house go missing and reappear, they were taken by elves known as “duwendes.” These creatures are described as goblins, elves, or dwarves who are short of stature. Over the years, these creatures of Filipino folklore have become far less frightening, but much more mischievous. Whether they use their powers for good or mischief depends on how they are treated by the humans who dwell near them. People even say, "Tabi-Tabi Po Nuno" (“Pardon me, little people”) in order to prevent their wrath. Aside from being naughty, these little creatures are mostly harmless, unless you encounter the one that takes children.

Source: René Mayorga - Flickr



2. TUESDAY THE 13TH

a calendar showing the months and days of the year

In Spain, Tuesday the 13th, also known as martes trece, is thought to bring on mala suerte (bad luck). The days of the week in Spanish have their roots in Roman mythology and the planets, and the word for Tuesday, martes, comes from the planet Mars, named after the Roman God of War. In addition to this, historical events on this day such as the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade have helped reinforce the belief of bad luck. As the old saying goes, “En martes ni te cases, ni te embarques, ni de tu casa te apartes,” which translates to “On Tuesday, don’t marry, don’t start a journey, don’t even leave your house.”




3. CHOPSTICK PLACEMENT

Chopsticks rest over a bowl of rice

In Japan, sticking chopsticks vertically into a ball of rice is known to bring bad luck. This is called tsukitate-bashi and is incredibly taboo as this act is similar to an old religious practice done for the dead. In Shinto and Buddhism, the surviving family members and loved ones of the departed prepare bowls of rice that way as offerings. The idea of leaving offerings of food for the deceased is so the spirit can see how much care there is for them by putting their favourite food in front of them, allowing them to pass on feeling content about the life they have lived.






4. NIMBU MIRCHI

a lemon and seven chilis strung up together - By Ji-Elle, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

In India, hanging a lemon and seven chilies strung together at the front door of your home is said to protect against evil spirits and negative energy. The legend goes that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, has a twin sister named Alakshmi who, contrary to her sister, brings poverty and deprivation. Lakshmi enjoys sweets and similar dishes which is why many Indian festivals see sweets as part of the menu. However Alakshmi enjoys sour and pungent things, the idea is to hang lemon and chilies outside of the house so when Alakshmi comes she is satisfied at the door and does not enter the house.


Source: Ji-Elle



5. THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

The Northern Lights

For many, the Northern Lights have always been a sight of beauty, but for the Sámi people, they were to be feared and respected in equal measure. The appearance of the Northern Lights was seen as a bad omen. Believed to be the souls of the dead, the Sámi believed it was dangerou to tease them by waving, whistling or signing under them as it would alert the lights to your presence. For many tribes walking around at night during the lights poses the risk of the lights reaching down and sweeping you away into the sky.





6. "PU PU PU"

the number 3

Whether done figuratively or literally by saying “pu pu pu," spitting three times is a classic response to warding off the evil eye. For centuries, those of Jewish descent have performed this ritual in response to hearing, seeing or learning of something terrible and use this as a way to prevent such a tragedy from happening or recurring.

On the flip side, Jewish people also “pu pu pu” after receiving good news to prevent the evil eye from spoiling their good time. This is why along with saying “pu pu pu,” people can be heard prefacing it with “kein ayin hara,” which means "no evil eye." Spitting was long considered a potent protector against magic and demons along with ancient medieval physicians describing the positive values of saliva. In modern day with the act of spitting being viewed as crude and messy practice it was replaced by the more refined ritual of saying “pu pu pu.”


 

Are there any beliefs around good or bad luck that you associate with your own family or cultural roots? Share in the comments below!