Finally, part four of World Superstitions! 😀
This time, I wrote a little something for you about a superstition that I learned in Belgium. If you’re superstitious, you can participate if you find the statue, but you don’t have to be in China, South Africa, or Italy for the 3 other bloggers’ stories.
1) Belgian Luck
Brussels’ Grand Place is top priority, but I didn’t notice the Everard t’Serclaes (1320-1388) monument on my day trip from London eight years ago. It’s on Charles Buls Street in the small arcade attached to the Maison de l’Étoile, the building where he died of his injuries. You’ll probably see people photographing it and touching Everard’s arm for good luck and to ensure their return to Brussels.
Actually, it’s more like rubbing, especially women. According to the guide on my free tour, it’s just good luck for men but women, however, will find a Belgian man. That explains why I saw a few women really rubbing ol’ Everard for at least ten seconds. 🙂
After talking to a local, I found out that superstitious locals also believe that touching the statue also helps with fertility and fortune.
I’m not superstitious, but it’s fun to participate. I like that a man known for reclaiming the city (from the Flemish) in the 14th-century is still remembered and celebrated.
2) Deadly Chopsticks in China
During the summer following my graduation, I travelled from Moscow to Beijing on the Trans-Siberian railway. I joined a Chinese friend who I met at Manchester university for a dinner with friends. At that point, I felt proud of the way that I had learnt to use chopsticks on the train – I’d been practicing.
Dinner was in a local restaurant near the Tsinghua University. The table was full of so many fish, chicken, vegetable and duck recipes – there was almost no room on the table for anything else. After our meal together, I didn’t know what to do with the chopsticks so I just stuck them in the rice.
As I went to move my hand away from them, the older man opposite me looked like I was about to summon a death omen or something. My friend Lei Lei started saying something in Chinese to me – I heard ‘bu’ which usually means ‘no’ in some form or other. Turns out that the death omen almost was very real!
3) Wedding Pearls
in South Africa
My name is Christina Morley and I’m an American expat living in South Africa. I grew up in the States and in Germany. I married a South African in 1995 and have been living here ever since.
No matter where I have been, I have found that people grow up believing certain superstitions. Some can be ominous and others funny, but they keep people bound who believe in them. One superstition that I came across in South Africa took me completely by surprise. The year was 1996 and my husband and I were on a course with other young adults.
I heard, during one of our small group discussions, the African ladies say that girls are not allowed to wear pearls on their wedding day. They believed that pearls would make them barren. I told the ladies that I wore a simple fresh water pearl necklace at my wedding and six months later I was pregnant with our first child. In fact, I was visibly pregnant when I was on that course! I later gave birth to a healthy boy who will be turning 21 this year. I had three more children after him, all girls.
4) Spilling Salt in Tuscany
Since I was a kid, I heard that “overturning the salt is a pretense of misfortune.” I grow up with my aunt and my grandmother yelling any time I did it, unfortunately, and I was a witness of their rite to expel the bad luck. The rite prescribes to take a pinch of the overturned salt, and throw it behind your left shoulder. It is always better not to challenge fate!
Growing up, I asked why it is considered bad luck, and I found that this legend was born because of the value of salt in past. In fact, it was considered as rare commodity and a luxury item with which soldiers were paid and as a result, the word “salario” (salary). It is said that the winners of a war used to spread it on the land of the defeated to emphasize their triumph.
Salt was also one of the few methods of preserving food until the 1700s and thanks to its properties, it was used to prevent sodium and potassium deficiency. Consequently, dropping it was equivalent to major damage and the loss of an important resource.
A story, perhaps invented, but which explains well how this superstition was born, tells us that salt was offered to guests in friendship, placed in a cup at the center of the table. One day, a guest inadvertently overturned the salt in the cup and the landlord got angry enough to kill him.
Also, in the painting “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci, you can see the salt overturned on the tablecloth; the next day, Judas betrayed Jesus.
Salt is also a sacred symbol. In Italy, we also say that the devil always offers meals without salt. This is because salt exorcises badness, but also because of salt property on healing and disinfecting, and it keeps the evil eye away.
Do you believe in luck, the evil eye, or that anything can make you barren?
*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. 🙂