Ukrainian superstitions may seem odd and ridiculous. Nevertheless, they are an important part of our life. Ukrainians are not irrational people but sometimes we do things for little or no reason at all. Here are 7 Ukrainian superstitions that you are likely to encounter on your trip to Ukraine!
#1 Сплюнь! Spit!
This is one of the weirdest Ukrainian superstitions. People believe that words have magical powers, so whenever we say something bad, we should lightly spit over the left shoulder in order for the words to lose their energy:
- Пандемія може не закінчитися до наступного року. – Сплюнь!
The pandemic may not end until next year. – Spit!
It is common to knock on wood three times afterward. As you may know, three is a sacred number in Christianity. It is believed that the wooden surface is sacred because Christ was crucified on a wooden cross.
If there is no wood nearby, funnily enough, we can knock on the head 🙂
#2 Stickers on baby’s face on social media
It is said that a child can be cursed through a photo, so parents who believe in it go to great lengths to avoid the curse. A lot of internet users do not post any pictures at all. Those who do put stickers on their babies’ faces when publishing photos on social media. Some parents even blur the face. They suppose that children do not have an energy field to protect them so they are easy prey for evil forces.
#3 Wear safety pins
Of course, with so many evil spirits around it is nice to have something to ward them off. In Ukraine, parents attach safety pins to children’s clothes in order to protect them. Some adults wear safety pins on their clothes as well.
It is believed that they can absorb negative energy. It is an amulet against an evil eye and curses. If someone wants to harm you, your iron pin will get rusty and your copper one will darken.
No need to worry! To purify the energy, it is enough to clean the metal and wash the pin under regular water. Even if you do not meet anyone with bad intentions, it is nice to have a safety pin in case a button goes missing.
#4 До сварки! Never spill the salt
Food is essential in Ukrainian culture. We love eating together but you have to be careful not to spill the salt at the table. We believe that it forecasts a quarrel.
If you look into the roots of this tradition, you will find that in the times of Kyivan Rus, salt was rather pricey. If the guest scattered it, it looked disrespectful and could cause problems. Nowadays we do not care about salt as much but we still look after it carefully.
Want to know more about Ukrainian customs? Have a look at this article – 5 Ukrainian Customs You Should Know!
#5 Не через поріг! Never pass anything across the threshold
Whenever my parents forgot something when leaving, they would enter the flat to get it. They do not allow me to give it to them across the threshold. When I once asked why, they did not know what to say.
So I did my research and it turned out that there was a ritual of burying ancestors’ ashes under it. Passing something over it disturbed them, so dwellers avoided it. Ukrainians stopped any burying under the doorstep a long time ago but the tradition remained.
#6 Не свисти! Don’t whistle!
Some superstitions became a part of our etiquette and traditions; a part of our lifestyle even. Whistling inside a home is one of the most common Ukrainian superstitions. We believe that it causes financial problems. The complete saying is:
- Не свисти – грошей не буде!
Don’t whistle – we’ll have no money!
In ancient times, people believed that a whistler summons evil spirits that can steal all present and future fortune. Another explanation is not as mythical. You do not have time to whistle if you work hard and the only way to prosperity is hard work. Hence, you had better stay focused and not whistle.
Check out our article on 20 Ukrainian idioms, proverbs and expressions 🤩
#7 Присядемо! Let’s have a sit!
Every time we went on holiday in my childhood, we had to sit down for a minute before leaving. When everything and everyone was ready, we used to go to the kitchen and sit down. Then my parents would say, З Богом! With God! and only then we could leave the apartment.
This part of Ukrainian culture comes from pagan times when it was believed that home spirits could try and get a dweller back, ruining the journey. Having a sit was a way to confuse them by pretending that no one was going anywhere. This way, the spirits would calm down and let go of people.
This is one of Ukrainian superstitions that I personally like. It gives you a minute to stop and think. Have I got everything I need? Have I turned off the iron? Have I given an extra key to my neighbor? It is easy to forget something when you are in a rush, so having a sit before leaving actually makes sense.
There we have it – your Ukrainian superstitions guide. To finish off, I’d like to say that this is probably not an exhaustive list. These folk beliefs shaped me and I may follow them without being aware of it. Who knows, maybe they even bring me luck 😉
Would you like to hear about the superstitions, customs and traditions of a Ukrainian wedding? Check out Episode 118 of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast!
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