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Every World culture has its own set of superstitious beliefs, and Ukraine is no exception. Growing up in Ukraine, I learned every single one of them, and believe me – there are a lot. In fact, Ukraine is very rich in its traditions and norms, and everyone – from young to old, believes and follows the same signs and omens for generations.
If you would like to understand Ukrainian culture a bit better, you can start with this article, and when the next time you will spot a Ukrainian spitting three times over his or her shoulder – you will know exactly what that means.
Included below are some of our most famous superstitions and their interpretations. So, let’s dive right in.
1. When saying a positive prediction – spit over your left shoulder and knock on wood three times, otherwise attract evil eye.
When you say something good about your upcoming plans or make a positive prediction (for example, you were sick but are now feeling better, and you tell someone that you will recover soon) – you should spit three times over your left shoulder and then knock on wood another three times, in order to protect your prediction from an evil eye that is waiting around to spoil your plans.
2. When giving something over a doorstep – step on it, otherwise expect a fight.
What this superstition means is that if you pass something to someone over a doorway, expect a fight with that person. The solution here is to step with one foot on the doorway, or even step over it altogether, so that both of you are in the same room before a transaction takes place.
3. When stepping on someone’s foot – ask them to step on yours, if not, expect a conflict.
Fortunately this one has a good, quick remedy – if you step on someone’s foot by accident, ask them to step on yours, otherwise you will soon be on bad terms with that person in question. The same is true for the reverse: if someone steps on your foot, you should gently step on theirs – this way you will break the spell.
4. When you left something at home – look in a mirror upon return, otherwise bad luck will follow.
If you have stepped outside your house and then suddenly realized that you forgot something at home – quickly glance in a mirror once you get back home, otherwise expect something ‘bad’ to happen.
5. When giving someone a bouquet – only use an odd number of flowers, even numbers are reserved only for funerals.
This one is more of a cultural belief than a superstition. You cannot gift anyone a bouquet with an even number of flowers. An even number of flowers should only be brought to funerals, as it’s meant for the dead.
6. Don’t whistle at home, or you won’t have any money.
Another one of our common beliefs is that if you whistle in your home, you will be attracting some very bad luck, or like with the case of empty bottles or keys on a table (mentioned below) – you will have no money, as a result. P.S. You can still sing at home, just pass on the whistle.
7. Don’t sit in a corner if single, or remain unwed.
One of our most well-spread beliefs states that if you are to sit in a corner of a table – you will run the risk of never getting married. Luckily, for those that are already married – you can sit wherever you want.
8. Don’t open an umbrella inside a room – it will bring you bad luck.
Ukrainians consider it a bad luck to open one’s umbrella indoors. Regardless whether this umbrella is dry or wet, we won’t open it inside our house; if it is wet after use – we will shake it off and hang it on a door knob to dry, or we might leave it open on our balcony, veranda or porch (if we have one).
9. Don’t leave an empty bottle on a table, or go broke.
If you leave an empty bottle on a table that means you will soon have no money at your disposal. The same is true for keys. And yet another variation of this superstition applies when you place your purse on a floor (since few men wear purses – this one is applicable mostly to ladies).
10. A bird poop has landed on you – expect some money.
When a bird drops a bomb on a Ukrainian – we celebrate. That means we’ll be getting some money (maybe even a new job) soon. The same is true when someone steps in an animal’s excrement – we believe that a hefty sum is on its way. Please note: this belief doesn’t work if one does it on purpose.
11. Received a bouquet of yellow flowers – prepare for a separation.
If someone brings you yellow flowers for a birthday, or any other event – it is believed that you will soon separate from that person, for an undetermined amount of time. Please note: the bouquet must contain only yellow flowers, if it’s a mixture of different colors, then it’s okay.
12. Don’t spill salt on a table – it comes with a ‘fight’.
Ukrainians are always careful not to spill salt from its container on a table, otherwise they can expect a fight with a loved one. Unfortunately, if it already happened – there’s no actual remedy (maybe just to watch one’s mouth and actions over the next few days).
13. Beware of a black cat crossing a road, it brings bad luck.
This superstition is probably the most culturally shared one in the World, since many people believe in it. So, how do our Ukrainian people react when this happens? Some will walk by thinking: “It’s just a stupid superstition”, while secretly hoping that nothing bad will happen to them, others will stop and wait until someone else goes in front (it is believed that the bad luck will follow the first person to cross the path of the animal), while others will try to shoo or over-run the cat before it managed to completely cross over.
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So, which superstitions do you believe in?