British Bad Luck Superstitions 30


There are hundreds, probably thousands, of superstitions in India. There are so many things you can do to welcome bad luck into your life. For instance, don’t sweep in the evening and for goodness sake, do not break a glass bangle!

We moved into our apartment on Friday the 13th, apparently the unluckiest date imaginable, a day where many people choose to hide away in their beds all day to avoid anything bad happening. Friday the 13th happened to be lucky for us, but it got me thinking, us Brits have our fair share of superstitions too! Like all superstitions, they have their origins and reasons but many are forgotten and only the abstract superstition remains!

Even though I don’t actually believe in bad luck (well, I tell myself I don’t), hearing these things growing up, the superstitions are ingrained into my consciousness. The following superstitions are the ones which I automatically pay attention to, and have done since I was a child:

  • Don’t walk under ladders! I never walk under ladders, not because it’s dangerous but because it might bring bad luck. It’s ridiculous but when avoiding a ladder, I don’t think “oh, that might hurt if it crashed down upon me”, I think “oh, that would be unlucky!”. How silly.
  • Don’t walk in the cracks in the pavement! I’ve nearly grown out of this one, but looking down at the ground whilst walking has it’s advantages because you may find an abandoned penny (which will bring you good luck, find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck)!
  • Don’t put new shoes on the table! I can vividly remember being really small and my mum taking shopping bags off of the table if they contained new shoes, and now I do the same!
  • Don’t open an umbrella inside the house! Major bad luck here, if I see someone opening an umbrella inside the house, I wince!
  • Expect seven years bad luck if you break a mirror! This one has been a source of anxiety and grieve because I have been clumsy!
  • Desperately look for a second Magpie if you see one alone! There is an 18th century rhyme about Magpies which is guilty for this one, one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told. Many car journeys have been spent counting Magpies, hoping for gold!

So, there we are. I wouldn’t say I was a believer in bad luck or the evil eye, but as a result of my childhood, I too follow my own superstitions (and there are plenty more British superstitions out there!).

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About Lauren Mokasdar

Lauren fell in love on the internet, took a one way flight from England, got married & started a new life & bicultural family in India. She writes about finding happiness & balance between two very different worlds, when her baby takes a nap.


30 thoughts on “British Bad Luck Superstitions

  • friend

    @Lauren

    The reason behind not sweeping the floor in the evening it is believed that you are sweeping Lakshmi or your luck out of the house. It is also believed that you collect the garbage and throw it only the next day. It is not just prevalent in India but also on Philippines as I gather.

    http://www.bubblews.com/news/2273165-sweeping-the-floor-at-night-will-bring-bad-luck

    http://myworldmyperception.blogspot.in/2011/10/myths-and-superstitions-of-india.html

    There are a lot of superstitions relating to new born babies. They should not be shown to outsiders for a specified time period say forty days etc. Then there is the concept of ‘evil eye’. I believe that in ancient times infant mortality was high due to various infections and limited medical facilities. Thus, these concepts were invented to protect the infants from coming in contact with outsiders till their immunity is strong enough to resist disease.

    BTW did you guys had the Grihapravash pooja (house warming pooja) before moving in??

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Friend,

      That is really interesting! I have seen many times that people leave their front door open in the evening to let Mahalakshmi in so that makes sense!

      We did our own small Durga pooja, nothing spectacular. Grandparents are visiting today so they will probably want to do something!

      I hope you are well! 😀

  • Antonina

    I think Ukrainians are more superstitious than that, because I have a long list to add 🙂 Here are just a few:

    If you get out of the house and suddenly realize you left something behind, don’t go back to pick up that thing. If you do go back, don’t forget to look in the mirror – it will neutralize your bad luck 🙂

    Don’t bite the same piece of bread, cake or anything else with your partner, or you’ll keep fighting all the time.

    If the bird flies inside the house, someone of the family will get seriously sick.

    And so on … 🙂

  • friend

    @Lauren

    Among bengalis there is belief that when we go out of the house we say “I am coming” and not “I am going” because it is believed that if you say “I am going” you are not going to return back to the house. It is like saying it in reverse i.e. I am going somewhere and then coming back with more emphasis on coming.

    About bangles, bengali women wear red and white bangles each on both the wrists, the white one is made of ivory and is called Shakha and the red one is called Pola, and it they are broken then the women should not buy it herself but ask her husband to buy it. Strange beliefs. We get to know many things from our elders and generally do not want to know more about it. Indians are surrounded by religion, rituals etc. all the time, and after a point they do not want to know about it.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Friend,

      I love hearing things from my husband’s grandparents, so many stories and traditions! I just looked at images of the Bengali bangles and they look beautiful. I love that they are made from shells!!

      I hope you are well! 😀

  • rohit

    One interesting thing i want to add here..By Veda there is not any number (0 to 9) is unlucky….One of the greatest Indian RIshi(Sadhu) Astavakra explain this in the court of Raja(King) Janak’s …And all number r the combination of 0-9…yet its another matter that people in India think number 3 r not lucky…

  • bhagirathi

    Just as it was added previously in one of the comments, one shouldn’t ask where the person is going when he would return. It’s a bad omen believed that the event and task will not take place as intended if asked before he is leaving the house . Also, one shouldn’t ever say ‘I m going ‘ before leaving house. Instead, ‘I will go and return in a while’. There are so many more.

  • Shobha

    Some of these superstitions have a practical reason behind them as you have pointed; my grandmother told me that the front door was always kept open at dusk as that could be a sign of hospitality for any travellers esp women if they needed shelter at night as in the old days travelling at night was dangerous.
    And the rishis & munis to encourage folks to behave decently reminded folks that Goddess SriLaxmi manifests herself in various forms so women would be treated with respect. Wish this aspect is always followed.
    That is also why wife/daughters in law are ‘supposed’ to be considered ‘Ghar ki Laxmi’.

    Same applies for not sweeping after dark, as you could throw away something precious when there was no light. Most of the regional beliefs in India are really based in Hindu traditions and are prevalent in the diff. states with some minor modifications.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Shobha,

      Lovely to hear from you again! Thank you for that beautiful explaination, I wish that aspect was always followed too! *sigh*

      Sending lots of love
      Lauren xx

  • Mani (A New Life Wandering)

    This is interesting because even though I don’t believe much in them either, I still do follow some including not opening an umbrella inside. I also try to avoid passing salt hand to hand. I hope you are loving your new place!

  • Susan Peric

    Glad you have your own home with your husband! I’m not too superstitious, as Friday the 13th doesn’t faze me. I have no problems with cracks on the sidewalks or opening an umbrella indoors. I do, however, say “knock on wood” or even tap on something wooden when I say something and don’t want to jinx myself. For example, If one of my normally poorly behaved students has been behaving and I tell another teacher about it, I’ll add “knock on wood”. Maybe that’s super weird, but it’s really my only quirk! Take care, Susan

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Susan!!

      Eeee, I also do a similar thing but say “touch wood” to avoid jinxing a good thing. So funny how these things have spread from somewhere! I hope you are well! xx

  • friend

    @Lauren

    There is the much maligned superstition of keeping menstruating women out of kitchen. This is again to do with hygiene. In ancient times when women did not have access to modern amenities to deal with the situation, there was little understanding of these things and the best thing was to keep the women off work. This served two purposes, one was to give a break to women from the daily work during those “difficult days” and the other to keep off infections and diseases. Of course in those days in a joint family there were lots of women to help each other. Unfortunately, women in rural areas still do not have access to these things and are made to do with whatever they have. Later, people started following these traditions blindly without knowing the real reasons.

    This aspect was always shrouded in mystery when we were young. We never could understand why our parents were uneasy when “those ads” came on TV. I could understand all ads but could not understand what “those ads” were selling. I remember these things were sold by saleswomen who would visit houses in the middle of afternoons. These sales women were referred to those women who sold “those things”. Most Indian boys actually grow up not knowing what it is all about it. What you don’t know becomes a taboo and taboo turns into ridicule. The problem is if you have to tell children about it then you have to tell the entire thing which become very problematic. Unlike the west, where these things are gradually, in India we face the classic “chicken and egg” situation. What should be explained first the chicken or the egg.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Friend,

      I hope you are well!

      When I first bought “those things” (haha) in India, a woman ran behind me with a black plastic bag so I could hide them! Another shop wrapped them in newspaper, and my mum told me thats exactly what happened in England 40 odd years ago when she first started buying sanitary products. So many in a couple generations time, the taboo will leave India.

      It’s really important that boys understand this, it’s natural and if it didn’t happen then none of us would exist!

      I hope you are well, thank you for the insight!

      Take care,
      Lauren

  • Anshuman Mishra

    A cat crossing the path brings bad luck, in this case you have to wait there until someone comes and crosses you from the opposite direction

  • Andrea

    I am quite superstitious! I always have been, my dad also was. And I don’t feel ridiculous about it. 🙂 I throw salt over my shoulder if it spills. I will not walk under a ladder. Shoes never ever go on beds; I take my shoes off even when sitting on the doctor’s table! I stir things clockwise (at least half of the time if it calls for vigorous stirring) and I clean vessels counterclockwise. People opening umbrellas in the house makes me very uneasy. I also try to be careful about what I say or wish for others because what I wish for others is often visited on me! I can never curse others with bad fortune for this reason!!

    • Andrea

      On the contrary, though, I love black cats. They are my favorites. And I have no issue with the number thirteen; that number became unlucky because it was actually lucky to the people practicing non-Christian religions in northern Europe….

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Haha, that is great!
      I heard that when you throw salt over your shoulder, you are throwing it in the Devils eyes! I love your “treat thy neighbour as thyself” supersition, that’s healthy 😀
      I hope you are well dear

      Lots of love xx

  • cynthia haller

    All of these exist in Switzerland except the Magpie one. We also toss spilled salt over our left shoulder to negate the bad luck incurred from spilling salt, and if anybody gift you a knife, you must gift them a 5 cent coin (equivalent of a penny) to avoid creating a permanent rift in your relationship with that person.

  • friend

    @Lauren

    There is also another of “those things” associated with married couples which the chemists wrap in a black plastic bag and give it to you. You have to wait for the appropriate time and use acronyms and short forms. A quick acronym and hand gestures will do. People in cities often have a matter of factly attitude towards these things these days which is refreshing. Then they are brought into the house and put in a secret place. If these things are revealed there is major embarrassment for the couple. These things are not to be seen anywhere. I guess they are little secret treasures tucked in a corner.

    Interestingly, non vegetarian food like chicken, mutton and fish are also packed in double packs. It is first put in a transparent plastic bag and then put in a black plastic bag by the butcher so that nobody knows what you are carrying. Apparently, it is one of “those things”. Even non vegetarian Indians feel the need to hide non veg food since many Indians are vegetarians and they may get offended that you are carrying non veg items.

    Basically, anything which is a taboo is to be kept in a black plastic bag so that nobody gets offended.

  • preeta

    chillies,brooms,scissors etc should not be given to any one by hand..it will cause a rift between the two!
    and if someone asks you where you are going when you have stepped out, you go right back in and sit down and then go out again; after warning that person not to ask you again!the belief is that the job for which you are going out will not be accpomplished

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