Strange Superstitions From Around The World

Hey, Thoughty2 here The world can be a confusing place sometimes so, often, many of us try to make sense of it with our own little routines and rituals, like always putting on your right shoe first or locking the door three times to make sure you don’t forget

But the amazing thing is how often these habits and ideas become a full blown superstition, some of which last for centuries So cross your fingers, don’t step on the cracks, throw some salt over your shoulder and let’s go look at superstitions from around the world Let’s start in Asia The first thing that jumps out is numbers In China, 8 is considered lucky, since it sounds like their word for prosperity

They really tried to get the most out of it for the Olympics in Beijing by starting the opening ceremony at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8pm on 8th August 2008 By a strange coincidence, in Japan, it also has the meaning of growing prosperous but this is because the character for the number 8 (八 hachi) broadens gradually By that logic, in English, 8 would mean you’re going to become a snowman But cut that eight in half and you have the horrible number 4 Most of Eastern Asia is tetraphobic, meaning they are scared of 4, due to its similarity to the word for death

This is extremely widespread and you’re unlikely to find buildings with a 4th floor, goods sold in four-packs or any parking lots with that digit Even numbers like 14 and 24 or ones in their 40s are avoided, excluding 42 of course, I may have just lost China It’s so severe in fact that giving something to a fellow Asian with the number four in it can be enough for the police to get involved since it’s seen as a death threat So if you’re ever thinking about buying property there, guess which house is going to give you the sweetest deal? India has an aversion to rounded numbers such as 100 or 70, and prices are normally taken up by one rupee to avoid them, a smart bit of business Indians also like to feed milk to snakes, usually as a religious offering

Snakes don’t actually drink milk so thousands die every year due to this practise So don’t feed snakes milk Also, in Korea, don’t feed your boyfriend chicken wings as it’s a sign that he will fly away and leave you Whereas in the west, if your partner feeds you chicken wings it’s usually seen as a sign that they’re a keeper If you’re eating in Japan however, don’t leave your chopsticks stuck in the rice as this is reserved for funerals, instead you should rest them horizontally across the bowl

If you are at a funeral though, remember to hide your thumbs or the recently departed will sneak under your nails and cause your loved ones to die young, that’s if they haven’t already been killed by leaving a fan on whilst they sleep Fan death is a very prevalent fear in South Korea and all fans are sold with a “life-saving” cut-off timer to prevent you being either asphyxiated, frozen or boiled to death, depending on which bit of air conditioning logic you apply No one knows how it all started but there is an excellent conspiracy theory that the government made it up during the 1970s energy crisis It would be like combating the California drought by telling everyone that having a bath makes you fat The Middle East has some of the oldest culture that exists today so they have a rich tapestry of myths and legends

One very common one is the evil eye This is a curse than can bring great misfortune to a person, giving them bad luck, an unhappy life, or perhaps just a bad dinner or no phone reception, in very mild cases The evil eye can get you at any time, cast by a hate-filled glare without your knowing So how do you protect yourself from this terror? What you need is a Nazar; an eye shaped amulet, typically a blue coloured crystal, that can be worn around your neck, hung above your door or lost down the back of your sofa For non-amulet based protection, you can also use the phrase “mashallah” which expresses appreciation and you can try to dress yourself humbly to avoid the eye’s vicious gaze

There is a universal protection against all malicious spirits, not just eye based, called the Khamsa and it’s just an image of an open right palm Occasionally precious possessions such as cars are anointed with right hand prints to make sure they are protected There are many superstitions based around creepy crawlies In Qatar, it was once believed that spiders had the ability to control house fires so if you killed one, it was like murdering a tiny firefighter The spiders were no help at getting cats out of trees though so fortunately they kept the fire department up and running

Also beetles were a sign that guests are coming and you should prepare for their arrival Welcoming guests and people in need into your home is actually a big part of Islamic culture But they must be careful with their feet, and not just to avoid crushing your eight-legged firemen A new home must be entered with the right foot but a bathroom must be entered with the left It’s the household hokey-cokey

In some areas of Africa, superstitions carry a lot of weight and are a big part of daily life, especially when it comes to things like sickness and success Many villages across the continent have a witch doctor, who will be consulted before consulting a medical professional Some of the cures that are suggested involve the patient acquiring ingredients such as the eggs of a snake or the claws of a wild cat I imagine it reduces the amount of people calling in sick for work, imagine if you needed to go get some alligator teeth in order to be written a sick note…um… no thanks, I’ll be at my desk In Sierra Leone, Alhaji Suliaman Kabba runs the union of traditional healers and one major area of concern for them are Witch Guns

These aren’t pointy hatted women holding firearms like you might be thinking, but a way of killing with a curse According to Kabba “the earliest and deadliest type of witch gun is made out of the husk from rice” so beware anyone carrying a bag of basmati through the airport check in Although you don’t need to be on the plane to do the damage, since the range of these guns is unlimited And although witchcraft is not officially recognised in the courts, suspects have still been tried and convicted for these suspicious killings nevertheless Anyone who dies young without an obvious cause is often thought to be a victim of a witch gun attack

And if you can’t find a witch’s gun, then grab her broomstick, since in Nigeria, it’s thought that hitting a man with a broom can cause him to becomes impotent, even making his entire genitals disappear Fortunately, the victim can quickly save himself if he grabs the broom and returns at least seven blows to his attacker I don’t even want to think about what happens if you hit someone with a vacuum cleaner Speaking of manhood, in order to reach it within the Maasai tribe in Kenya, the young boy must head out to the plains and catch himself a lion, using only a spear We come to Europe now and we’ll start with one of the favourite pastimes; drinking

From Russian vodka, to German beer and French wine, the Europeans love to drink A report from the World Health Organisation, published in 2014, showed Belarus leading the world in alcohol consumption per capita – with 175 litres of alcohol drunk per person per year Just to be clear, that’s pure booze, so in more realistic terms, that would be equivalent to about 900 pints of beer, per person, per year In fact, European countries occupy 26 of the top 30 alcohol consuming nations, with only Grenada, South Korea, Australia and South Africa joining in for another round at the winner’s bar

So, given Europe’s love of the bottle, there are plenty of alcoholic superstitions going around In Russia, you should always finish all of your drink and if it’s a shot, you must never put it back on the table until it is empty You should clink glasses for each new round of drinks, unless you’re at a funeral If you want to send your friends to their funeral in Germany, you just have to say cheers, or “prost” in German, with a glass of water It’s considered very rude in places like Bavaria, since you are wishing death upon everyone

But the Germans often meet up for a drink down their local, often called a Stammtisch – meaning regular’s table When you walk in, rather than waving to the group, you should knock on the oak table that they are sitting around Now, as you all know, the devil can’t touch oak, he has some sort of allergy I believe So, to prove you are not the devil, you should rap on the table In France, if you are drinking, you are likely to be eating too

They have the generic fear of the number 13, like much or Europe and the US, but it’s especially true for a dinner party Thirteen guests will mean things turn out very badly for one unlucky diner This is thought to come from Jesus’ last supper, where Judas turned out to be a traitor Any bread on the table should always be the right way up, since upside down bread is the bread for the hangman In olden France, the bakers didn’t want to serve the hangmen but the king warned them that it was either that or they would end up as toast themselves

So they picked out the worst bread and turned it upside down, in disdain for their least popular customers In Denmark, if your dinner party gets drunk and disorderly and you end up breaking all the crockery, not to worry, just scrape it up and save it for the end of December On New Year’s Eve, take all your smashed plates and cups and chuck them at your friend’s house as a way to break in the New Year According to the Danes the more you pelt them with, the better their next twelve months will be South America has the world’s largest jungle and river; the Amazon and, as you can imagine in a place with such a wild abundance of life, the plants and animals have given rise to a huge amount of different stories and beliefs

In Brazil, the river dolphins, or Boto, have a mystical place in society Anyone lost amongst the trees is thought to have been taken into the water and turned into a dolphin They can’t turn back to human but they can sneak onto the land, wearing catfish for shoes and stingrays for hats, and impregnate the local women In Argentina, no one turns into a dolphin but if you are foolish, and fertile enough, to have a seventh son; beware He will turn into a werewolf

And it won’t be every full moon that he changes, rather every Tuesday and Friday specifically, so he’ll never be able to join that yoga class If you want to un-werewolf him, you’ll need to get the president to adopt him One president who will be of no help though is Carlos Menem The Argentine leader throughout the 90s, his name is now a curse, so avoid saying it in public In Venezuela, it’s the Jaguars that are bad luck and you must kill any that you see lurking around the village

For good luck though, many South Americans have a great way of wishing in the New Year The key is yellow underwear Nothing like a little splash of colour to get you going for the next 6 months However in Chile, beware of the splash, for if a woman gets her dress wet while she is washing the clothes, she will end up with a drunk husband Now the US in particular, given its history, is really a melting pot of superstitions from around the world

So, there are some obvious ones that we all know about but do you know how they came about? Many people have paraskevi… paraskevidiki… they have this (onscreen – paraskevidekatriaphobia) It’s a fear of Friday the 13th Now it’s quite a new superstition, but certainly older then Sean S Cunningham’s movie from 1980 It’s probably been around for a couple of hundred years and is just a combination of a long held distrust of the number 13 and the fact that Friday is the day Jesus was crucified, so not his best day Many superstitions such as this one, start small but spread through a psychological reaction called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, sometimes called frequency illusion Say you meet someone at a party and they tell you about this old band that they love, which you’ve never heard of, let’s call them Superdrive, for example

Then, the next day, you’re on a train, possibly hungover thanks to the party, and you see a guy wearing a t-shirt with Superdrive written on it Is the universe speaking to you? Is this all an illusion and you’re the star of your own Truman show? Are Superdrive investing in a crazy marketing promotion? Or just a glitch in the Matrix perhaps? No, it’s none of this The world is full of a vast, unmanageable amount of data You can barely process a tiny fraction of it But what your brain does do incredibly well is spot patterns and connections

That’s why you can recognise faces from different angles and read words that are spelt incorrectly So when you have some new information, your brain keeps an eye out for anything related to it If you’d seen that t-shirt a day before or a week or two after, you wouldn’t have even noticed You only noticed it because your friend had told you about the band the day before This is known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

So how does this relate to superstition? Well once you think something is unlucky, like a certain date, you will immediately remember anything bad that happens to you and associate it with that day So if your date cancels on you on Friday 13th, it’s all the calendars fault, but if you spill coffee on yourself on Saturday 14th, it’s because you are a badly coordinated moron Like Friday 13th, crossing your fingers is also Christian in origin since anything with the shape of the cross was considered a good thing And in fact, it could have started in a different form, very early on in the history of Christianity Now back in the day, around the time of the Roman Empire, Christians were not exactly everyone’s favourite and they would often be sent off as a snack for the lions

So, in order to identify a fellow Christian, there was a kind of secret handshake that involved forming a cross with another’s outstretched finger And finally, probably one of the most common superstitions around the world is that breaking a mirror will bring you bad luck This springs from the times of the Romans, who were the first people to create glass mirrors It was thought that your reflection contained a little piece of your soul so if the mirror broke, not only was your soul disfigured, but it was also trapped in its shiny cage The association with seven years of bad luck, is due to the Roman idea that your body renews itself every seven years so you had to wait it out till you grew whole again

We all have our own ways of making sense of the world and there’s nothing wrong with the odd ritual and superstition to get you through the day But if you can’t leave the house without wearing your lucky pants, carrying a horseshoe and a rabbit’s foot, and breaking a wishbone every 7 minutes then I’m afraid bad luck has already struck; because you’re clearly mental

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About Thoughty2

Thoughty2 (Arran) is a British YouTuber and gatekeeper of useless facts. Thoughty2 creates mind-blowing factual videos, on the weirdest, wackiest and most interesting topics. Combining fascinating lists with answers to life's biggest questions.

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