Dos and Don’ts: Superstitions

What you should do to improve luck and foil evil spirits

Some rules follow social conventions and some, such as superstition, defy all logic. Of course, if you don´t believe in this sort of thing, you  might want to ignore this list. On the other hand, if you think unseen forces govern our chances, the following information might help.

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Cats, Ladders and Mirrors
The poor black cat is the bearer of bad tidings here too, which might be why there are so many dogs in the Czech Republic. Going under ladders is also bad luck and so to breaking mirrors. Some superstitions just seem universal.

Changing fortunes

Breaking glass when it is, well, a glass, is not bad. In fact, it is meant to bring good luck. So is throwing a shoe over your shoulder, though not for the person who might be standing behind you. Spiders in the house are also lucky.

Christmas – More than Gifts
In the last Dos and Don’ts, we mentioned how apples are cut horizontally through the core to predict good luck – if  the seeds are arranged in a five pointed star – or death – if they form a cross. Molten lead is also poured into water at Christmas time and the future is divined from the shapes formed.

Other Christmas superstitions include not writing a love letter on Christmas Eve. Otherwise bad luck will follow. Laundry should not be done on New Year’s Day in order to prevent unhappiness. It’s not all grim. Eggs laid and bread baked on December 25th are believed to have magical powers.

Men & Women
On Easter Monday, tradition holds that women must be whipped (gently, please) by men, lest they “dry out” during the following year. In return, men should receive chocolate and hard-boiled eggs (and maybe a shot of slivovice).

And on May 1, women must be kissed under a cherry tree by a man (who doesn’t need to be her husband or boyfriend), or risk suffering a similar fate.

Bridal Powers
Some superstitions are similar to those from US and the UK. The bride should wear something old, new, borrowed and blue to ensure a happy marriage. Tin cans tied to the bridal car are also believed to chase away evil spirits.

A uniquely Czech custom is the breaking of a plate by the bride to bring good luck. The luck being that the new groom should sweep it up. Fragments should then be distributed to the guests, the newlyweds keeping one piece for themselves. Eating soup from one bowl is also meant to mean a harmonious marriage.

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Be sure to avoid May weddings: superstition dictates that bride & groom will die in a year should they marry during this month (svatba v máji, do roka máry).

Baby Friendly
For new and expectant parents there are a whole range of things you should or shouldn’t do to influence the health, future, and even sex of your child. For example a pregnant woman shouldn’t walk under a clothesline, otherwise the umbilical cord will become wrapped around the child’s neck. If the birth is taking too long, an expectant mother should drink water in which an egg has been boiled and which has the powder from the ground shell. Another way to speed up the birth is apparently to open all the cupboards in the house. In the first six weeks after birth there are a number of superstitions. The mother shouldn’t change her underwear or go for water at the well (if you have one of those) or visit a cemetery, go to the cellar, attic or pub. In fact, according to superstition she shouldn’t leave the house.

According to the link above, a pointy belly means a girl and a round belly means a boy. According to my wife’s grandmother, it’s the other way around. A baby girl should be dried after her first bath in boxer shorts so she has success with men later on. Baby boys should be dried in a woman’s blouse so they will be lucky with the ladies.

Don’t Change Cords
The same link includes a great number of superstitions concerning the umbilical cord. If you can stand the idea of saving it then the umbilical cord can be used to predict your child’s future. Just keeping it will bring luck. Also, their career will be spelled out in the dried tissue by the seventh year – or at least the initials, so they will still have some choice. Throwing it over the child’s head will also make the child clever – at least clever enough to duck.

So what other superstitions are there? Do you believe in this? Or is it a load of hooey?

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