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Wednesday, 26 November 2008 00:00

Common superstitions in Turkey

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"Pardon, what did you say? Yesterday night you were cutting your nails? And you were looking at the mirror while doing that?

Don't tell me that you were also whistling at the same time! Oh dear, don't you know that all this brings evil? Come on! We'll go and buy you an evil eye!"

Do situations like this one have a familiar ring for you? Well, then you have probably already realized that people in Turkey seemingly believe in a lot of superstitions. Indeed, having thousands of explanations for bad luck and good luck, Turks can be obsessed by auspicious and inauspicious happenings. You find that funny? But if you're aiming to really get acquainted with Turkey's culture and society, you shouldn't miss out on its superstitions. This week, Today's Zaman explains what is behind the traditions.

One thing you have probably stumbled upon with your first step into Turkey is the "evil eye" (nazar boncuğu). This small, eye-shaped blue, white and yellow amulet decorates nearly every vehicle, from cars and cabs to buses and even airplanes. It is pinned to the clothes of babies, built into the foundation of modern office buildings, put in the doorways of houses, shops and offices, and can either be worn as a bracelet, earring or necklace. Sure, you know what we are talking about.

But do you know also what is behind this Turkish superstition? Well, Turkish people believe that the evil eye amulet will protect you from bad energy, especially from the envious glares that are believed to cause one harm. Nothing can harm you as long as you are protected with the nazar boncuğu because it will absorb the bad energy. However, if this amulet cracks, this means it has probably done a good job of protecting you and you should immediately replace it with a new one.

So, have you just had a new child? Got a new job? Bought a new car? Built a new house? Then use an evil eye to protect yourself, your house, your office or your loved ones.

Make a wish

What else can you do to give your luck a boost? Keep your eyes open for "wish trees." Wherever you see trees with small ribbons or colored clothes tied to their branches, don't hesitate to make a wish and do the same. These are "wish trees," which means that you can expect your wish to come true.

To ensure, for instance, that the new year is prosperous and peaceful, you may open the padlocks at midnight and sprinkle salt at the thresholds of your house. Similarly, Armenians open their shops and workplaces for at least one or two hours on Jan. 1 and sprinkle the kernels from pomegranates around. If you enjoy traveling, you should go out for a short walk at midnight. This will lead you to travel a lot in the new year.

Speaking of traveling: Never forget to pour a glass of water after someone goes on a trip to ensure his journey will be "as smooth as water."

A couple of superstitions are linked to eating habits: For example, if you found a new job, with the first salary you should quickly buy sweets and candy for your colleagues. "Let's eat sweets so we can talk sweet" is the saying. Moreover, you should never miss out on the chance to have a cup of Turkish coffee with a friend. It will reward both of you with -- as a saying goes -- "40 years of friendship." After you have finished, you may also make use of the common Turkish practice of having your coffee cups read. "Don't believe fortune telling, but don't be left without fortune telling," it is said here.

Better to be prepared

You see, Turkish people have a lot of superstitions concerning good and bad luck. Let's prepare you with the most important dos and don'ts.

It could be good to keep in mind that in Turkey the right side is the "right" side in the truest sense of the word. To start your day well, you should always get out of bed from the right side. A shop owner probably enters his establishment with his right foot to guarantee good business. Generally, it could be better to enter your own house (especially after moving in) with your right foot so you will have happiness in your house. Some say the right side rule is for stepping inside as well as outside. In short: To prevent yourself from any bad luck, you should simply concentrate on your right side whatever you do and where ever and whenever you go.

While you're outside, you should watch out as well. You ran into a black cat this morning? You definitely have to change your route to prevent bad luck. Just the opposite -- if a snake crosses your way, it's a sign of good luck.

Things you should never do include walking under a ladder. And never break a mirror. This could give you seven years of bad luck -- unless you bury the pieces of the broken mirror immediately. And never hand over a cutting utensil, like a knife or scissors, directly to someone; this could provoke a fight. In case it is unavoidable to do so, it is better to spit on it while giving -- or at least to pretend to do that.

Nights are another quite complicated topic in Turkey. You should not cut your nails at night. Turkish people believe that you will shorten your life for that. You shouldn't whistle at night because it brings evil; sweeping your house at night brings poverty. If a dog howls at night, it could also be sign of an upcoming catastrophe, but you avoid it if you immediately reverse your slippers. If an owl hoots on the roof of a house at night, some regions see this as a signal of bad luck or even death. But different regions have different superstitions, and some believe the hooting owl is a sign that the family will receive a message.

And never, never talk about bad illnesses, and never mention the illness by name. If it happens, it is best to knock directly on wood and pull your ear.

Other beliefs and habits are linked to marriage. If a young girl tries on a married man's wedding ring, she will probably have bad luck in her own marriage. If you are married already: Never knit a pullover or something else for your own husband to wear. If a woman eats eggs during her pregnancy, her child will be very naughty. If she eats liver and the liver falls, touching a part of her body, the child will have a black mark at that place later. You just had a baby? Don't dare to measure its length, or the baby will remain short.

We can expand this list endlessly. Washing clothes on Saturday brings bad luck, but cleaning the house on Fridays could be unhealthy.

What? You still don't believe in these things? Sure, we don't either! But it's good to know just in case, isn't it? I mean, we don't want to provoke a disaster …


Read 5662 times Last modified on Monday, 02 March 2015 15:31