Many of us would like to think that there some magic forces that affect our life and make us happy or unhappy. You are in the right country, because a lot of Russians still believe in magic. Don’t be shocked when you see something strange or illogical in your Russian partner’s behavior. It is not his or her fault – it is superstition. This the first in a three-part series on superstitions actively practiced in Russia.
Text and illustrations by Elena Krivovyaz
First of all, Russians have lots of beliefs about money which most people would find rather strange. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to put a bank note on the table instead of putting it into somebody’s hands, this has nothing to do with corruption, but is a reflection of a deep belief that money shouldn’t be actually put into to your hands, as doing that would make it more likely that you are going to run out of money soon. Why? God knows, perhaps. However, if you don’t obey this strange rule, you may see your Russian friend shaking his hands: “No, no! Don’t give me your money! Put it on the table or I’ll lose my money someday…” It seems funny for the first time, but when you see how serious people are about this superstition, you begin to believe in it yourself. Perhaps it is a reinforcement of a feeling of an almost religious that cash is somehow dirty and should not be touched, however this is only practiced in a widespread way in Russian homes, not at work.
You are asked to step over the doorstep when stretching out your hand to your friend or a partner so there is no barrier between you and him. Why? Even Russians don’t know what happens if you don’t obey this rule, but they are afraid of it and always say: “Don’t stretch out your hand to me (or pass something to me in your hand) over the doorstep! Please step over it!” Afford them that pleasure, cross the threshold, no questions asked, and that will be appreciated very much, thank you
Somebody touches his lips with his forefinger if you whistle. This means you should stop whistling immediately, because you will both lose your money. Why? Whistling, of course, is not a common habit, and maybe you don’t purse your lips together and blow at all. But be careful even if you want to whistle, especially if you are staying at somebody’s home. Homes are usually non-whistling zones, and this may cause loss of money in the future, you have been warned. “Don’t whistle! You’ll frighten off money” you may hear somebody cry out. Observing superstitions may bring you luck, as well as prosperity and wealth, and not observing them may bring the opposite. Many Russians zealously believe in higher powers and try to convince everyone that superstitions are not superstitions. So this is all highly amusing on the one hand are rather serious for those who you might laugh at.
Superstitions are means by which Russians perceive reality
“You will be rich!”
This often happens when you ring somebody and don’t immediately recognize somebody’s voice on the other end of the phone. This is good luck for the person you are phoning, and Russian popular superstition says he will be rich if you don’t recognize his voice. So in Russia, the following conversation may often be heard: “Hello, I’d like to talk to Petya, would you… Who? Petya (Masha, Tanya, Kostya), is it you? I didn’t recognize you… So you will be rich!” I wished this superstition worked! Everybody could become rich if we mention the quality of GPRS communications in Moscow’s high buildings and in the metro.
“Guess which ear?..”
If one of your ears is ringing, don’t waste your time: make a wish and then ask anybody near to guess which of your ears is ringing (right or left) and if he is right, it means your wish will be fulfilled. You need to make your wish whilst your ear is ringing. If you’re in the middle of making your wish but your ear suddenly stops ringing, your attempt has failed. An amusing superstition, but please don’t go insane in the process.
Itching for money
What do you do when your skin starts itching? Right, you go to your doctor. But Russians get happy, because it means that money will be coming your way soon. So if a Russian scratches his nose or hand, he won’t get worried or call a medical center, he’ll be waiting for a sudden arrival of money. This superstition is not very helpful for people who are subjected to skin disease and sometimes it is more sensible to go to a doctor than wait for a pot of gold.