Top 10 superstitious beliefs and practices of Turkey
Enjoy reading an article with a rare selection of superstitions to help you have a cultural journey through the country.
When talking about superstitions there are hundreds of them widely known in Turkey. Depending on the regions of Turkey some superstitions are used more often than others. By used I mean they are being mentioned when it suits to the context or when an action takes place, accordingly. Some of those are known internationally such as a mirror that is broken may bring bad luck.
Some are typical for Turkey such as the meaning of number 40. Turkish people believe this is a lucky number and if you say anything 40 times it will come true. The origin of this number’s belief comes from the facts that Mohammed was 40 years old when he received the Quran, Jesus wandered the desert for 40 days, Ali Baba fought 40 thieves and the Ottoman military band has 40 musicians. If somebody keeps repeating what they say, e.g. a girl denying to love the boy, her friends might joke and say if you deny it 40 times you will actually stop loving him.
Beliefs about the nazar, also known as evil’s eye or blue eye, is the most widely known superstition in Turkey. You will find accessories, jewellery, porcelain and even clothes with the design of nazar amulet anywhere in the country. Turkish people usually believe if somebody looks to you with jealousy, hatred or other negative thoughts it is evil’s eye. Wearing something with nazar amulet is meant to neutralize the negative energy sent to you by others. Although, this is not scientifically proven, to many of us it had happened that we found our nazar amulet broken. Most probably this happens after being in an uncomfortable situation. If the amulet broke it means it has protected you from a bad incident.
If you bid a goodbye to your loved ones who are travelling far away, you pour water after them which means literally “go smooth like water, come back flowing like water “. Normally, it is around 1 litre water in a cup or bowl that you poor after your guests. Nowadays people don’t hesitate adding some sense of humour into it. What they do is, pouring an entire litre of water directly on their beloved friends using the sentence mentioned above. Right after that the clever ones of course run away to avoid becoming a victim of revenge. That is when the others might say “kaçan kovalanır”. It means who runs away will be followed. Turkish people believe the psychology of humans work the way that whoever runs away makes others curious and causes them to follow him. On the other hand, who does not go away and is always there will not be appreciated much because people will take him for granted.
In order to not make enemies Turkish people will not hand another person a knife or a scissor. They will rather put the sharp object down and wait for the other party to pick it up. This is a way of avoiding involving into trouble with the other person in the future.
Traditional Turkish people tend to start any activity on the right side. Besides of sleeping on the right side like our prophet Mohammed used to do it, they also get up on their right side in the mornings. From washing their hands to entering a house, they always start with the right hand, foot or simply the right side. This legacy comes from the Roman times of Ottoman Empire. In Latin, right means ’dexter’ and left is ’sinister’.
This is also why if your right hand is itching it means you will receive money and if the left one is itching you might lose money.
The ’kitchen community’ has also invented quite an amount of Superstitions. Until date it is a habit amongst the elderly that when many are getting together at somebody’s house the ladies switch to the kitchen for a gossip and to not make the living room too crowded. For example, if you put a knife down and by coincidence it lands with the sharp side looking up it means you will soon receive a visitor.
Another belief probably invented by the kitchen community is, after you take a pot with boiling water inside from the stove and put it on a trivet it should stop boiling immediately. If the water continues boiling on the trivet it is a sign of bad luck and one’s enemies might increase in the near future.
There are also plenty of creative superstitious practices related to wedding ceremonies. Depending on the cultural background of the bride’s and groom’s family the practices differentiate from one and another more than one would imagine. Some break Turkish tea glasses before the bride and groom enter their new home in order to keep bad people away and scare evil thoughts off. Actually, every region in Turkey has their own unique way of practising so called nazar in weddings which is meant to keep evil thoughts away and help the couple live happily ever after.
One common wedding pursuance is that when the bride is brought to her new home, someone from the crowd will put a child on the lap of the bride or just hand her one if she is standing. The superstitious belief here is that if the kid she is holding is a girl her first child will also be a girl or vice versa.
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