Posted by: Andy | January 26, 2010

Turkish Superstitions

Stephanie and my family (who we talk to on Skype occasionally) have been pestering me that I need a haircut.  Even my students from time to time will say so.  What I told my students was that I wasn’t cutting my hair because my NFL team was in the playoffs and I hoped they would get to the Super Bowl and it is a fairly well known superstition that one doesn’t cut their hair while their team in any sport is doing well.  That wasn’t the real reason, but the students got a kick out of it and we began discussing superstitions.

(Stephanie’s note: The Vikings are done – get a haircut!)

There are many that overlap between the US and Turkey: common things like black cats, the number 13 and walking under ladders being bad luck.  And some have slight variations that I find quite interesting.  For instance, breaking a mirror is seven years bad luck, so the superstition says.  This is true in Turkey as well; however, an Turkish off-shoot is if a single woman looks in a broken mirror she will remain single for another seven years.

In America we say (at least my grandma does) that if your nose itches, somebody is thinking about you or gossiping about you.  Well, the Turks have lots of similar superstitions.  If your right ear itches, somebody is saying good things about you.  If your left ear itches, somebody is saying bad things about you.  If your right hand itches, money is about to come your way.  If your left hand itches, money is about to leave you.  If your right foot itches, you are about to go on a journey and if your left foot itches, hungry visitors are on their way to you.

The Turks also have a variation of “knock on wood.”  I think they’ve thought it through a bit more than most Americans.  The story I got from the students is that when a person is speaking about something that is going well, they pull on their right ear, then knock on wood twice saying Maşallah (God protect me and my family).  The reason they say what they say is so the devil won’t hear what they’ve said; furthermore, when I rhetorically asked why knock on wood, one student told me it was because wood has no conductivity.  It is solid and the words you’ve just said won’t be able to reach the devil’s ears if one knocks on wood.  Now the Turks believe these are superstitions as much as Americans do.  They know they are silly things that hold no value, but are simply for a laugh once in a while.

I simply found it interesting that so many were the same and so many had these interesting variations.  It makes me wonder the history of such superstitions.  Where were they started and how did they become morphed into what they are today in different parts of the world?  If you have any ideas, I’d be curious to hear them.



  1. Just have to say, I love Steph’s interjected comment. Made me laugh out loud! 🙂

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