Today I’m going to continue with my Life in Russia series and I’ll talk about Russian superstitions. There is actually too much material on this topic to cover it all in one episode, so I’m pretty sure that I’ll be doing this as a two part episode.
You really should go to my website at: www.markinrussia.com to listen to this, or at least open the page to read the show notes, regardless of where you are listening to this. The reason for this is because the show notes also include several photos to help you get a better idea about what I’m talking about.
I’m not really even sure where to start with this topic because there are so many superstitions here. I guess that I’ll start by saying that not all Russians believe in all of their superstitions, but it seems to me that all Russians believe in at least some of them. We could say the same about Americans, but it would be to a level several orders of magnitude below that of Russians.
As a general rule, superstitions play a much bigger part in the life of an average Russian than what I’m used to, most of which date back to pagan times and even Christianity and Communist times were not able to eliminate most of them.
If I came off at all as insulting or condescending during this broadcast, then I apologize in advance. It’s not my intention to insult, but it is also important to let you know up front that I’m not objective with this topic. I happen to pretty much despise most all superstitions and have no room in my life to let these things interfere with my plans or my way of living. That being said, it is especially important for any foreigner who is either in Russia, planning to visit Russia, has Russian friends, or who just wants to understand the culture to be acutely aware of the superstitions in order to avoid uncomfortable situations and unintended offence to anyone.
If it sounds as if I’m trying to teach how to be PC (politically correct), I’m not, and furthermore I despise political correctness and find those that use it to be cowards and not worthy of my time. That being said, all cultures are different from each other and it’s best to know these differences ahead of time.
Maybe I’ll start with a make believe story that will illustrate three different superstitions.
American visitor to Russia story
Three superstitions illustrated:
Even number of flowers is not good, it should always be an odd number such as 1,3,5,7……..
Yellow flowers are for a funeral or to be presented to a woman indicating that she has betrayed you.
Do not pass anything through the threshold of a doorway.
Father in-law story
Shaking hands through doorway story
Sorry, but I can’t really give you the origins of the odd/even flowers, or yellow flowers superstitions, I can tell you that the reason for the threshold story is that it was believed that by ancient Slavs that this is where demons lived and this is why we quickly pass through and never dwell in this area or conduct interactions with others in this space.
I don’t know how there are any rich Russians, otherwise known as oligarchs. I say this because there are so many superstitions about money here, and nearly all about losing money. After hearing about some of these superstitions, it’ll explain to you why doing wire transfers through Cypriot banks is preferred. Let me regale you with a couple of my favorite ones.
Whistling at home superstition, my history of whistling at home and my daughter.
Not handing money to each other, even in stores.
Not handling money to anyone after the sun goes down, but rather placing it on some surface.
If your right hand itches you’ll be receiving money soon. If your left hand itches, you’ll soon be paying someone money.
Here are a couple of drinking superstitions:
Never have an empty bottle on the table; when you finish the bottle, place it on the floor.
When Russians drink, there should be a toast and then everyone clinks their glasses. But, if it is the anniversary of a death, or a funeral, the glasses should not be clinked together.
Now I’m going to discuss some superstitions concerning pregnancy and newborns and I also need to say, having two daughters born in Russia, that personally I find these superstitions both insulting and stupid. It’s easier to respect someone’s superstitions in some everyday situations, it’s quite another when you find you or your family insulted by this extreme ignorance. In these situations I felt as if I was transported back in time to some period of populated by ignorant, pagan, dirty peasants. I’m not a big fan of the proletariat. The good news is that many to most Russians don’t abide by all of the following traditions.
Do not buy anything or make any preparation for the birth of a baby, before the baby is born. This certainly eliminates the “Baby Shower”, which for my Russian listeners I won’t even bother explaining, so foreign will the very concept be.
Now, I’m an American living in Russia and my wife is Russian, fortunately one of the thinking types when it comes to superstitions. I have to explain that because I’m American, I’m immune to the monstrous pile of Russian Superstitions, but this doesn’t prevent the more intrusive people in society from interjecting their warnings.
The backwards thinking behind this particular superstition is as follows: If you buy things in advance, or make preparations, you may actually jinx the baby and/or its birth. Well, having been in this situation I am extremely subjective and look at those that believe this with a look that may be reserved for some pagans that still practice human sacrifice. Let me be clearer here in case you didn’t fully catch my drift. I believe you to be stupid, ignorant, uneducated and insulting. So let’s see about this. If you made preparations before the baby’s birth and something, God forbid, went wrong with the birth, the fact that you made some preparations in advance caused this? I made my preparations for our daughters’ births totally in advance, mainly because this is smart and also because I’m not a backward useless idiot. I have two beautiful daughters, thank you.
If someone had a big problem at childbirth and later it was found that they had bought a crib before the baby was born, well, if someone tried to blame this crib for the problems, I would expect the father to rip off the persons head and shit down their neckhole. If he didn’t do this, then I have to question his manhood. Even if it was his mother in-law that made the comment. Come to think of it, it might be good if the mother in-law made the comment.
Things can occur during, before or after the birth of a baby and this has no bearing on whether or not the parents bought some baby clothes in advance. The fact that some low life, floor flushing, subhuman piece of crap would dare to try and place guilt on the parents for some tragedy unrelated to the parents is the height in hate and ignorance.
As you can see, or rather hear, having been through childbirth here, I don’t take kindly to ignorant superstitions when it concerns my family.
After a child is born, others are not supposed to see the baby for the first 30 days…. What? Yeah, that’s right, something about jinxing the baby. Even close family members that can see the baby during this period, they are supposed to say something like, “what an ugly baby” rather than anything positive, in order to not jinx the baby.
You should not hold a mirror up to the baby or let the baby see themselves in the mirror for the same screwed up reasons.
If a young woman is pregnant and she thinks that someone near her is evil, or possibly even a witch, she will keep her arms and hands over her stomach to protect the baby from your evil. And yes, you heard me right, “witch”. Let me dissect this just a bit. This hormone overloaded girl who fancies she sees “witches” behind every tree is now sitting in front of a quite normal woman and “protecting” her unborn fetus using her hands. Hey, you stupid useless idiot dolt of a girl! Do you not understand that you have just greatly insulted this most likely nice “non-witch” woman, who understands quite well the implications of your protective hands while in her or his presence? I’ve seen this first hand, so I know what I’m talking about. I think that there is a special place in hell reserved for ignorant people of this type.
Look, I’m going off on both a tangent and a rant now. I think I should stop my Superstitions Talk here. I get a bit pissed off when I remember some of these childbirth ones and I need a week to cool off before I go any further.
Next episode I’ll talk a bit about witches and their bizarre influence on Russian life with many people, and other more benign superstitions.
On my last broadcast I told about a new internet radio station I’m working on and hope to launch very soon. I have to say that this process, especially the technical end is more difficult than I thought and therefore is taking a bit longer, but I want to get things right before I start. Whereas I had hoped that the radio station would be ready now, I think that I’m looking more toward the beginning to middle of April before we start. The name of this radio network is “Russia Speaks” and will be full of many different English language Russian talk radio shows. The website, and the location of the player is: www.russiaspeaks.com For any of you that would like more news about this, or about my podcast in general, you should go to my website at www.markinrussia.com or the www.russiaspeaks.com website and on the right side of the main page sign up for our newsletter. This way you will also receive news in advance. Also, please visit our Russia Speaks vKontakte page and become a follower; this will also keep you up to date on coming events.
Please come back again next week and I’ll try, in a non-pissed off manner, to continue my talk about Russian superstitions. Until that time, GoodBye!