Photo courtesy Pixabay.com
What superstitions did your grandparents have?
A few months ago, I posed this question to an Ukrainian online group that I belong to. I got almost 400 responses! I organized and grouped the superstitions, the most commonly mentioned ones are listed first in this blog post.
Do some of these sound familiar to you?
If you give someone a wallet, make sure there’s money in it, even just a penny. Otherwise the wallet may remain empty for the new owner.
If you enter a house or a room, you must leave by the same door, otherwise your soul will get trapped.
If you whistle in the house, you’re calling the devil.
If you drop a knife, company is coming (a man), but if you drop a spoon, a woman will visit. Or if you drop a knife, fighting will come, if you drop a fork, a man will visit, a spoon – a woman will visit.
Never put shoes on the table, or you will have unwanted guests.
Never step over someone, it will stunt their growth.
During a thunder storm, light candles and pray for safety. Cover all of the mirrors and spread holy water in all the corners.
A healthy young dark-haired male visitor (ie. at least teenaged) on New Year’s Day will bring good luck for the whole year. This visit will also help to avoid bad luck. If no young dark-haired male visitor arrives on that day, someone will become deathly sick.
Death will come if a bird gets in the house, or if you bring lilies into the house.
If you give someone a gift of knives, be sure to include at least a penny so that the receiver can “buy” the knives from you. Otherwise the friendship will be severed.
Baba Yaga is a bad witch, used to scare children away from places they shouldn't be in.
Visitors may sprinkle wheat on your floor to bring good luck and a good harvest.
Birds are spirits of loved ones coming to visit you or to check on you.
Never sing at the dinner table or else you will have a crazy husband.
If you lose something in your house, place a cup upside down on your table. You will find the object within 24 hours.
Never eat the heel of bread, or else your husband will end up bald!
To rid yourself of bad luck, spit over your left shoulder three times.
Never leave your hat on the table, it brings bad luck.
Spiders in the home bring good luck.
Place a setting on your dinner table for departed ancestors on Christmas Eve so they can join you. Feed the animals first thing in the day with some kutia. They will then talk about you to the spirit world, saying good things.
Never cut your hair outside. You will get a headache if you let birds use your lost hair strands for their nests. The hair should be burned in the stove to avoid bad spirits – not thrown outside.
The devil will come if you hear your name when no one is there, also if you use your left hand to eat, or if you whistle in the house.
If you have a dream with snow in it, you will get a letter from far away. Dreaming about trees being cut down means a death.
When the star is above the smile moon, war is coming.
A bird hitting your window means that someone in the family has died.
Don’t keep your purse on the floor or you’ll go broke.
Don’t return home if you forgot something there. It will bring bad luck.
Never jump over a rope.
Avoid people with empty buckets crossing your path.
Don’t wash or sweep a floor while someone has left your home and is still travelling. Wait until you know they’ve arrived at their destination safely.
Never hang clothes outside after dark.
Never keep broken dishes in the house.
Never leave your keys on the table.
If you compliment a newborn, you must kiss it on the head three times to avoid evil spirits.
If an unmarried girl sweeps the floor after supper/dark, she will never marry. A girl sitting at the corner of a table will never get married. Never sweep around an unmarried girl.
If you spill salt, pick it up with your right hand and throw it over your left shoulder.
Never hug or kiss in a doorway.
Never go outside with wet hair or you’ll get a cold.
You’ll have money coming if you dream of poop, or if a bird poops on your car. If you dream of a bright light, something good is coming.
Wear your underwear inside out to prevent curses.
If your right palm of hand itches, you’re going to meet someone new. If your left palm itches, money is coming your way.
Sit down on your suitcase before you travel, it will bring good luck.
Women should never sit on stone or else you’ll never have children. Babas would at least put some paper under you.
1. Don’t look at anything ugly/scary or your baby will look that way.
2. Don’t keep a cat in the home or anywhere near a baby.
3. Don’t even think about attending a funeral.
4. Always have a safety pin on you to ward off anyone with an “evil eye”.
After my daughter was born, my mother gave me a pocket knife to keep with me when I was alone until my daughter was baptized , so if a demon came in the house he would think I was a man.
Never show a baby their reflection in a mirror until the baby is over one year old. Never cut a baby’s hair until after their first birthday.
Owls are bad luck and giving an owl ornament brings bad karma. Seeing an owl, especially at night, meant someone died or would die soon.
When someone (a friend or acquaintance) comes to deliver something, the object shouldn’t be passed through the doorway. The visitor should enter the house, or you should go outside to get the item. Otherwise , it’s bad luck!
Go outside and stand in the first spring rain and be cleansed and blessed.
A cross breeze in your home will kill you. Automatic death from a cold, even in the summer.
Never count perogi or they will open up!
Never cut a child’s hair before they can talk or else they never will.
When sweeping your home, never sweep the dust out over the threshold. You’ll sweep away all your good fortune.
No sewing on Sundays. If my mom was sewing a button on my shirt while I was wearing the shirt she would put something in my mouth to sew up my mind.
If you dream of the dead, you will hear from the living.
Never pass a sharp object to someone (ie. knife or scissors), lay it on a surface to be picked up.
Never shake hands across a threshold.
On Christmas Eve, Baba used to give us unmarried girls a handful of cutlery and we would have to rattle it in the wind. Wherever the barking of the dogs or coyotes came from was where our future husbands would come from.
Always lift your feet when driving over railway tracks or you will lose your boyfriend/husband. Don't take pictures with a boyfriend before you have a ring on your finger or the relationship will not work out.
Toss poppyseeds down the well if there’s a drought.
Itchy right hand means money coming your way. Itchy left hand means money going out.
If you sneeze on a Sunday, the following week will be bad.
To stop earaches, blow smoke into them.
If a thin glass breaks, it means good luck, but if a thick glass or ceramic breaks it means bad luck.
Never hand salt to someone or you will argue with them, put the salt down on the table first.
Cover mirrors after a death in the house.
Dog howls facing up means there will be a fire, dog howls facing down means there'll be a death.
A person with a long neck has a good voice. Thin lips indicate a stingy person.
Only use even numbers of flowers for funerals.
Hide a safety pin in your new outfit so people don’t look upon you jealously.
On Christmas Eve, throw a spoon of wheat , if it sticks to the ceiling , it will be a good year.
Never let family or friends leave your home without food. Placing an extra setting at the table on special occasions acts as a sign of respect to the loved ones who have passed and may want to secretly join you.
Always give some money the first time you meet a new baby.
Dreaming about teeth falling out is a bad omen.
Never swing your legs under the table, it calls the devil.
For more stories about my Baba’s and Dido’s life, including aspects of Ukrainian culture and beliefs, you can read my new historical fiction novel Heart Stones: A Ukrainian Immigration Story of Love and Hope, it is based on my grandparent’s prolonged and difficult immigration to Canada during and after WWI. It was published in early 2023.
Visit my website (more here) for more details about Heart Stones, read reviews and check out my Bookstore page, listen to recent CBC radio interviews, read about my offerings for book clubs, and check out my other blog posts. While here on my website, you can download Chapter One from my book, it’s absolutely free!
Follow my author journey and read about other books on my Facebook account: