13 Russian Superstitions I Grew Up With

 

Are Russians superstitious? Do they believe in superstitions and omens? In fact, Russian culture has a lot of superstitions. Most of them sound silly, but many Russians, regardless of their education, believe in the power of the superstitions to bring good luck or prevent bad luck. My family is not an exception, and I grew up with a few quite common superstitions I would like to share with you.

 

Useful vocabulary:

 

1.    Sit before a journey

When someone is about to leave the house for a long journey, he and the people seeing him off have to sit down for a few seconds before they set off. Usually someone says, «Посиди́м на доро́жку!» (Let’s take a seat before the journey), and everyone has to do so.  This Russian custom for a safe journey is actually very useful because it helps people to calm down and think whether they might have forgotten something. Another version of the superstition states that the traveler must sit for a moment on or beside his suitcase.

 

2.    Ringing ears

If one of your ears is ringing, don’t waste your time and take a quick action. Make a wish and ask anybody near you to guess which of your ears is ringing: «Угада́й, в како́м у́хе звени́т.» If he is right, your wish will come true. However, you need to make your wish while your ear is still ringing.

 

3.    Itching for money 

Superstitious Russians get excited when the palms of their hands start itching. They believe that if your right palm is itchy, you will meet someone you haven’t seen for a while: «Пра́вая ладо́нь че́шется – здоро́ваться бу́дешь!»  Literally, you will say hello to somebody. If your left palm is itchy, money will be coming your way: «Ле́́вая ладо́нь че́шется – к деньга́м!»

 

4.    Whistling indoors

If you start whistling in a Russian home, most likely, somebody will touch his lips with his forefinger. This means you should stop whistling immediately because you will both lose your money. Russian homes are usually whistling free zones, so be careful if you want to whistle especially when staying at a Russian home. Don’t whistle! You’ll scare money away.” You may hear from a Russian friend, «Не свисти́ в доме! Де́нег не бу́дет!»

 

5.    Black cats

Like people in many other cultures, Russians believe that if a black cat walks across your path, you will have bad luck. In order to reverse the luck though, you have to spit three times over your left shoulder.

 

Here is a popular song Чёрный кот (Black cat).

 

музыка Юрия Саульского

слова Михаила Танича

1963 г.

 

Жил да был чёрный кот за углом,
И кота ненавидел весь дом.
Только песня совсем не о том,
Как не ладили люди с котом.

 

Припев:

 

Говорят, не повезёт,
Если чёрный кот дорогу перейдёт,
А пока - наоборот:
Только чёрному коту и не везёт.

 

Целый день во дворе суета -
Прогоняют с дороги кота;
Только песня совсем не о том,
Как охотился двор за котом.

 

Припев

 

Даже с кошкой своей за версту
Приходилось встречаться коту;
Только песня совсем не о том,
Как мурлыкала кошка с котом.

 

Припев

 

Бедный кот от усов до хвоста
Был черней, чем сама чернота;
Да и песенка, в общем, о том,
Как обидно быть чёрным котом.

 

This is the best English translation I could come up with.

 

There once lived a black cat at the corner,

And the entire house hated the cat.

But the song is not really about

How people didn’t get on well with the cat.

 

Chorus:

 

They say, there will be no luck

If a black cat crosses your path.

In the meantime - on the contrary,

Only a black cat has no luck.

 

There’s fuss in the yard all day long.

They are shooing the cat from the road.

But the song isn't really about

How the neighborhood was hunting the cat.

 

Chorus

 

Even with his female cat,

The cat had to meet miles away.

But the song is not really about

How the cats were purring together.

 

Chorus

 

The poor cat from his whiskers to a tail

Was darker than blackness itself.

And this little song is generally about

How upsetting it is to be a black cat.

 

You can also watch the video with the Russian subtitles on Amazing Russian Facebook page.

6.    Never give unmarried girls a corner seat
According to one famous superstition, if an unmarried girl sits at the corner of the table, she will not marry for seven years. Russians say, «Не сиди́ на углу́ - семь лет за́муж не вы́йдешь.» This superstition was developed from an ancient Rus tradition, when usually the old maids, poor relatives and dependents took the humblest places at the table—the corner seats. It is true that if modern girls nevertheless like a corner seat, and someone mentions this omen, they will cleverly reply, “Муж с углом будет!" (My husband will have a corner), which means that they will have a home. However, most Russians still observe the tradition and try not to put young girls in corner seats.

 

7.    Odd number of flowers

If you want to give flowers to somebody Russian, you should know that only odd number (нечётное число́) of flowers can be given. Even numbers (чётное число́) are reserved for funerals and cemetery visits to commemorate the dead.

 

8.    Two people with the same name

If you accidentally find yourself sitting or standing between two people with the same name, you can make a wish. If you want to make a wish, find two people with the same name and stand between them. Go ahead, make a wish! Зага́дывай жела́ние!

 

9.    Sleeping in a new place

If sleeping in a new place for the first time, young women will say, «На но́вом ме́сте - присни́сь жени́х неве́сте!» (Sleeping in a new place, let the groom appear in the bride’s dream).

 

10.    Burning ears

If your ears are burning, someone is talking about you. Уши горя́т – кто-то о тебе́ говори́т.

 

11.    Lucky tickets

This kind of a lucky ticket (счастли́вый биле́т) has nothing to do with a lottery ticket. It’s a ticket purchased on a bus, tram, trolleybus, or other public transportation in Russia. How to recognize a lucky ticket? Usually, standard tickets have six numbers. You need to do some math. Add the first three numbers and the rest three numbers. If the sums are equal, your ticket is lucky. Wondering what to do with it? Just make a wish and eat it!

 

12.    Spilling salt

If you spill salt at the table, you will have an argument with somebody.

Просыплешь соль - поссо́ришься.

 

 

13.    Students’ superstitions

A Russian student might ask you to scold him when he’s taking a test «Поруга́й меня́!» He believes this might bring him luck. Also, on the day of the exam, it is bad luck to make your bed, wear anything new, cut your fingernails, and even wash your hair! On the day of the exam, some students put a coin in their shoe for good luck. Are you that superstitious?

 

I just recalled a few more things that bring bad luck:

  • putting your gloves on the table

  • opening an umbrella indoors

  • giving your sweetheart a handkerchief

 

Мно́гие ру́сские суеве́рны. А вы суеве́рны? Вы ве́рите в приме́ты?

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