I’m so happy; not only is this Part Five, but Part Six is in the works! 😀
I contributed another superstition that I have learned, but this one came from expat life.
For the first time, we’re going to Sri Lanka and to Haiti. Then we’re going to South Korea to learn about why red is terrifying.
Let’s start with animals that have an extra sense – cats in Russia and geckos in Sri Lanka. 😀
1) Cat Sense in Russia
by me – Becky
Everyone knows that cats have 9 lives, but really superstitious Russians take advantage of this before and when they move.
A lot of Russians are superstitious, but the super superstitious ones believe that if you are the first to enter a new home, you will die. The cat will refuse to go in if it senses that something is wrong, like a bad omen.
Only one student told me about this, but my entire class asked me very enthusiastically if I had let a cat enter first when I had moved into the babushka’s Soviet dream apartment.
This is because cats can also sense good vibes. Before you set foot into your new home, let a cat – ANY cat – in first. It’s good luck, and the spot where it decides to lie down, relax, and curl up is where the good energy is. That is the perfect place for a bed or for religious icons.
My students in that class, as well as others to whom I told this story, were all about my age or younger. They said that they are not superstitious, but most of their parents and other older relatives are. They also said that if they do go through with these superstitious traditions or rituals, it’s for fun or to humour their superstitious relatives, many of whom would borrow someone else’s cat or find a stray one solely for this purpose if necessary.
Scottie, the kitty in the photo, wasn’t in the picture when his owner moved in, so his mother practically begged to borrow a relative’s cat for the job. Scottie’s owner isn’t superstitious at all and couldn’t be bothered; luckily everything is a-okay. 😀
2) Geckos in Sri Lanka
by Yulia of The Foodie Miles
Living in Sri Lanka means your house doesn’t entirely belong to you. You share it with all kinds of insects and small animals. Squirrels running in the balcony, spiders making webs in the corners of the living room, ants in the kitchen, and geckos pretty much everywhere are all completely normal.
The first time I saw a gecko was very much like a scene from a horror movie. I was washing my face over a sink late at night. The moment I opened my eyes and looked in the mirror I saw a gecko crawling on the wall behind me. “What the what?!” I almost cried out as Liz Lemon would in 30 Rock.
In the next three years, I learned to share space with these creatures as long as they didn’t touch me. Not only is it gross when a gecko falls on you, but it can also mean a lot of different things to Sri Lankans.
If a gecko lands on your right leg, for instance, it means sorrow. Right ear means long life, and left is success in business. If it lands on your stomach, you are going to receive money. If it lands on your face (oh, please, no!), you will meet a new friend. Just make sure it doesn’t fall on your head because that means death.
3) Loup Garou in Haiti
by Ellis Veen from Backpack Adventures
I worked in Haiti for 2 years. A lot of people will associate Haiti with voodoo and dark magic. Haiti is indeed full of folktales and superstitions, but voodoo is much more than the dark magic it is portrayed to be in the West. It has its roots in West Africa and is based on a complicated belief system in spirits, both good and bad.
There is a saying that Haiti is 70% Catholic, 30% Protestant, but 100% voodoo. I found this to be very true. Regardless of religion, the people I worked and lived with had different superstitions.
One day, I woke up to my neighbours yelling at each other. This went on for hours and at some point, I was so fed up with it that I went out to see what was going on. The two neighbour ladies were standing opposite each other while the rest of the neighborhood was watching the scene. One thing that kept coming back was loup garou. Normally, Haitians are not very willing to talk about voodoo, but this time they immediately called me over.
One of them explained that her baby daughter was ill and now she was convinced that her neighbour was a loup garou. I asked what exactly a loup garou is and both willingly told me it was a werewolf, a person who changes during the night into a wolf and curses people.
The one neighbour tried to convince me how absurd this accusation was while the other insisted this could be the only reason her baby daughter all of a sudden had a fever. Luckily, the baby was fine again the next day, but it took much more time before the ladies were again on speaking terms.
4) Red Marker in South Korea
by Rebecca of REBMINLU
Two years ago, I was living and teaching English to middle school students in the heart of Seoul, South Korea. One day, while playing a game with my class, I decided to write my students’ names on the board to keep track of points. As soon as I wrote their names down, my students either started giggling or freaking out. One student strongly told me to erase his name from the board, but I couldn’t understand why.
It wasn’t until later while talking to another teacher that I realized the cause of this event was because of a single red marker I used. In many ancient Asian cultures, the color red was often used to mark someone’s name on a gravestone to symbolize one’s death. Today, if a person’s name is written down in the color red, there is a superstition that you either want this person dead or this person will die soon. Let’s just say after this event, I chose only to use black and blue whiteboard markers in class.
Do you believe in an animal’s extra sense, voodoo, or that red is deadly?
*If you’re an expat/travel blogger with a story to tell about how you learned about a different country’s superstition, give me a shout. 🙂