Foreigners tend to think that Russians are very superstitious nation. In fact superstitions are occupant in any culture: every nation has things common with other nations. An educated European and an aboriginal of some distant tribe believe in magic power of talismans and are fearful of bad eye. Some nations have similar superstitions and omens: number 13 is believed to be unlucky, broken mirror calls misfortune and horseshoe attracts good luck.
Some beliefs have opposite meanings in different cultures. If a black cat crosses your path, it's bad luck, Russians think. Spitting over the left shoulder is viewed as immediate preventive measure able to mitigate the bad effects of it. Whereas In Britain and Japan, seeing a black cat crossing your path, is considered good luck.
The superstitions vary by locale. Quite often rural population is more superstitious. Men say that women tend to be more superstitious - mostly because there are so many superstitions related to childbearing. Well, Russians are superstitious nation. Superstitions represent the nation’s mentality to some degree. The majority of omens they still believe in now emerged in the pre-Christian era and did not disappear after the arrival of traditional religion more than 1,000 years ago or the ideologues of the Communist regime. Many of the superstitions came from folk tales or fairy stories, Russian Orthodox tradition, or had peasant or agricultural roots. Knowing most common sets of rituals and superstitions would teach a visitor about the local traditions and help react correctly. Not to mention, it is an interesting thing to know about.
A woman with empty water buckets coming towards you is considered a bad omen – try to avoid meeting. Poor women. It is considered that if a stranger you meet first after leaving home is a woman, the day will be unlucky, while meeting man first is a good omen.
Another timeless myth is a woman on board of a ship equals bad luck. In ancient times sailors thought that a woman would anger the sea gods, bringing on horrible weather and rough water. Luckily the Soviet leaders were not superstitious, otherwise Valentina Tereshkova would not have become the first woman in space and Svetlana Savitskaya would not have performed a space walk.
Unmarried girl should not sit at the corner of the table; otherwise she risks not getting married for the next seven years. This superstition developed from the ancient times when the old maids, poor relatives and dependants took the corner seats as the humblest places.
Traditional Russian culture considered that a woman in periods had to be isolated – she could not enter the church, cemetery, cook or work on the field, sew or weave as any work she did would be spoilt. Since then many Russian women try not to style or dye hair, bake, have teeth filled, pass exams and even take a loan during the courses
Pregnancy and childbirth superstitions and taboos are probably most numerous. Just to name a few. Russians view pregnancy as a very private matter and thus it is not a good idea to ask a pregnant woman what she is having, what number it is and when is the due date. No baby shower until a baby is born. Russians don’t celebrate the child or bring gifts to a pregnant woman until the baby is born. A Russian woman would not prepare a room for a baby, and buy cloth during pregnancy. Bad omen again. That is why right after the birth husbands have tough times buying all the necessities in a hurry. Cutting hair, knitting, and sewing, posing to a photographer or a painter during the pregnancy is a big no-no as it can harm the baby, some Russian women believe. There is no rational explanation to these limitations of course, yet many of them are still observed.
Lots of superstitions are connected with gifts giving. Gift giving is a huge part of Russian culture and many of traditions are worth knowing before you decide to make a gift to a Russian woman. Just remember: no sharp objects as a gift, correct color and number of flowers and denying a gift does not mean you should take it back.
Russians have a lot of “money” omens. It is believed that the money can transmit energy from its owner, including negative energy. Thus it is better not to give the money from hand to hand, but rater put it nearby. Some important things to remember: no financial operations in the evening: landing, borrowing or paying back when the sun goes down should be avoided. Or at least put the money on the floor and let the person pick it up. Take money with your left and give it back with the right one. Don’t lend money on Monday, pay debts in the mornings in small banknotes
Some Russians believe that if one leaves a wallet or empty bottles on the table, he will have money losses. Most popular Russian superstition that almost very foreigner is puzzled about is whistling inside the house. Do not whistle, as you are whistling away the host’s money, Russians say.
There are some secrets to lure money. Put coins into all corners of your house and not take them way, keep money in order in your wallet with faces towards you, show some coins to the new moon and so on.
Women are more concerned of the mystical side of life. Various omens and superstitions as well as strict observation of ancient traditions may become critical when a woman gets marries. What are most widespread Russian wedding superstitions? It is believed that a woman has to weep before the wedding; otherwise her marital life will be unhappy. A bride and a groom should not be taken pictures of separately, or they will separate. Giving someone one’s wedding ring just to try it on before or after the marriage is a bad sign - a bride can give her destiny with the ring. A strong superstition associated with Russian weddings is that if the groom drops the ring while putting it on, it is a bad omen.
Unlucky wedding days are believed to be Wednesday and Friday. May is the worst month for getting married. One risks having unhappy marriage if married in May. The first glass drank out of after being wed, should be broken-brings happiness. The bride is not allowed to see the groom on the morning before the wedding. In Russian superstition if a couple sets a wedding date and doesn't end up getting married on that date they cannot set another date and should not get married as their union will be curse. When the newlyweds are met with bread and salt, the one who gets the largest piece will be the head of the family. In the States and Europe they tie empty cans to the newlyweds’ car to frighten the evil spirits away. In Russia cars loudly honking their horns are believed to protect the bride and the groom from the bad eye. A Russian wedding is easily recognized in the streets by lavishly decorated honking wedding car convoy. Surely many superstitions are ignored and treated as old wives tales, many people understand that real love cannot be scared away with superstitions, but it is worth being aware of the cultural traditions if you are invited to the Russian wedding or getting married in Russia.
It would be wrong to say that daily life of a typical Russian woman is based on superstitions and strictly regulated by traditions and rituals, but many women still follow them just in case. Let’s see what are the most common ones you will definitely come across while visiting Russia.
After someone has left the house on a long journey, their room and/or their things should not be cleaned up until they have arrived, or at least a day has passed if they are guests in a house. Birthday parties should be celebrated on or after one's birthday, not before. So when one's birthday falls during the week, it's best to celebrate the following weekend. And never give someone birthday wishes before their birthday. Returning home for forgotten things is a bad omen. It is better to leave it behind, but if returning is necessary, one should look in the mirror before leaving the house again. Otherwise the journey will be bad. It is often considered taboo to step over people, or parts of their body, who are on the ground. It is often said that it will prevent the person from growing (if they are not fully grown already). A stranger should not look at a newborn baby before it is a certain age (between two months and one year). If one looks at the baby it is considered bad luck to compliment it. Instead, one could say, "Oh, what an ugly child!" One should not to shake hands or give something through a threshold. When a guest in someone’s home or a member of the family is getting ready for a long journey, everyone in the house has to sit down before they set off. This is a Russian omen for a safe journey.
Superstitions are abundant in any culture, it may be useful to know them, but is certainly not worth being dependant on their power and suffer terrible everyday inconvenience.
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