Ukrainians are very superstitious, and many foreigners find it difficult to understand the meanings of the beliefs. Superstitions result from a long period of paganism; thus, they explained natural and life events.
In this post, we will explain why you shouldn’t give an even number of flowers, whistle inside the building, or sit at the corner of the table if you are female.
Don’t come back home halfway
Our ancestors believed that the doorstep is a border between the world of alive and dead; that’s why you need to be careful with crossing it. If you come back home without finishing your plans outside, bad luck will follow you.
You can see that Ukrainians put all necessary things near the door in order not to come back. So don’t forget your mask!
Don’t pass objects over the doorstep
Again this superstition is connected to doorsteps. In old times Slavs buried the ashes of their ancestors under the doorstep of the house. They believed that the spirits of their relatives would protect the home from all negative things.
When people give something to each other, they need to be on the same side: in front of or behind the doorstep.
Spit over your left shoulder and knock on wood three times
When Ukrainians say a prediction and they want it to come true, they say: “Сплю́нь і постучи́ по де́реву” (spliun’ i postuchy po derevu).
For example, if you say you are doing well at studying Ukrainian and want it to continue, you need to spit over your left shoulder and knock on wood three times. Otherwise, the evil eye will ruin your plans.
Don’t gift an even amount of flowers
Eastern Slavic pagans associated an even amount of flowers with the word of the dead. And despite the strong influence of Christianity, this tradition lives on.
Don’t eat from a knife
Не їж з ножа́. Ne yizh z nozha.
A knife is associated with a weapon, and many people in Ukraine believe that if you eat from a knife, you will become an angry and jealous person. A knife used to be a sacred item and could be used in black magic. So if you eat from it, you can awake evil spirits and hurt your mouth in addition.
Don’t whistle at home, or you won’t have any money
Не свисти́ – гро́шей не бу́де! Ne svysty – hroshei ne bude.
Slavs believed that whistle could attract evil; that’s why you shouldn’t whistle inside a buildings. They say there won’t be any money and prosperity in the place you’re whistling inside.
It’s especially bad to whistle at a wedding, although singing doesn’t bring any bad luck.
So learn some Ukrainian songs!
Don’t spill the salt
In the past, salt was costly and hard to extract, that’s why it was bad to spill it. Now, salt doesn’t cost much, but superstition still exists. There is a belief that you will fight with the people from the building where you spill the salt.
Don’t sit in the cornerof a table
In Kyivan Rus it was a custom to split corners of the house into “good” and “bad”. At the good ones, people hang icons and embroidery towels, and bad ones remain empty.
Recently, this belief has also been used for corners of the table. Unmarried people who sit at the corner will remain unwed.
Note that in Ukrainian culture, it is considered not polite to sit on the table and put your legs on it.
Bird poop brings money
If bird poop lands on you, expect good luck, happiness, and money.
Have a sit before the journey/leaving
Прися́дьмо на доро́жку.
Prysiad’mo na dorozhku. Let’s have a sit before leaving.
Many Slavic folks believed in a house spirit. Some people still believe that each house has it’s domovyi (домови́й). When we leave our home very fast, our house spirit follows us, leaving the house without protection. But if we take time to say “goodbye” to the home and a house spirit, he will stay and do his job.
Now you know the meaning of the most common Ukrainian superstitions.
With what beliefs have you come across in Ukraine? What is the weirdest superstition for you?