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BLOG 6 Surprising Turkish Superstitions and Beliefs

28 December 2020 / Culture



Turkey is rich in tradition and superstition, and no visitor can fail to be charmed by the many rituals and beliefs that abound. For many, they are just one more reason to fall in love with the country.

We may find them quirky, but to the Turks they are rooted in truth. Here are some Turkish superstitions and beliefs you may encounter when you visit Antalya.

1. The nazar boncuğu

You see it everywhere – the blue and white eye that hangs in cars or from trees is embedded in walls, woven into carpets, or worn as jewellery. Many different designs are available to buy in shops and at markets, snapped up by both tourists and locals. But do you know what it means?

The nazar boncuğu (naz-ar bon-ju-uh), or Turkish evil eye, is a good luck charm, a talisman against evil, ill wishes and bad fortune. Its exact history is lost in the mists of time and Turkey is not the only culture to embrace it. Some believe its colour goes back to ancient legends that said anyone with blue eyes was possessed by evil spirits.

New buildings will often feature at least one nazar boncuğu as part of the design, usually cemented above the entrance door or into a step. When someone moves to a new home, it is a popular housewarming gift. You might receive one as a gift during your holiday in Antalya – many shops give them to their customers as a good luck charm, attached to a pin so you can wear it.

2. Throwing money on the ground

If you happen to be the first customer of the day, you might be surprised when the shopkeeper takes your money and throws it to the ground. This first sale is known as siftah (seef-tah) and it holds a high status.

It’s a way of thanking Allah for their good fortune and a hope the rest of the day will be suitably prosperous. Sometimes, instead of throwing money on the floor, they might sweep the banknotes you give them along both cheeks.

This custom doesn’t just happen in shops, either – taxi drivers and other sales people also do this.

3. A word about water

When you leave a place to journey somewhere else, a common tradition is for your hosts to throw water in your wake as you go. It represents a wish that your onward travels are as smooth as flowing water.

The Turkish people also believe that if somebody dies, you should empty any water from jugs or other containers, while doing your laundry on a Tuesday or boiling water without a specific reason is said to bring bad luck.

4. Pinch your ear and knock on wood

If you speak about some good fortune you have had, or express the feeling that life is going well, the Turks believe you should take steps to protect your good luck. So, immediately afterwards, pinch your right ear lobe and knock on wood twice, saying ‘Maşallah’ (mash-a-lah) as you do so.

As well as ensuring the devil doesn’t hear about your good fortune and decide to reverse it, this is said to be a way of thanking Allah and asking that things continue to go well. Alternatively, in some parts of Turkey, you may find people knock on wood three times instead.

5.  40 is the magic number

There are several Turkish beliefs and superstitions around the number 40. One says that if someone invites you to drink coffee with them and you accept, your friendship with them will last for 40 years. Another says that if you call someone a pig, you will have no appetite for 40 days. Or, if you have a particular wish you want to come true, repeat it out loud 40 times and it will happen.

It is thought the various beliefs around the number 40 can be traced back to Islam, as it runs as a theme throughout religious history. Muhammad received the Quran when he was 40 years old, while Isa (Jesus) was tempted by Satan as he wandered in the desert for 40 days. The great flood lasted for 40 days and nights.

6. Keep on the right side of fate

Another superstition is that the right-hand side is the way to a good life, good health and good fortune. Getting out of bed on the right means you will have a good day. There is money on its way to you if your right palm itches, but you’re about to lose or spend money if it’s your left.

If your right eye is twitching, you’ll receive good news. Is there a ringing in your right ear? That means someone is saying good things about you. If it’s your left ear, then they are talking behind your back.

If you want to have good luck, you should enter a room with your right foot first. And of course, always remember there is an angel on your right shoulder – while the devil sits on the left.

Thinking of buying?

If you’re considering buying property in Antalya province, whether it’s a holiday villa in Kalkan or an apartment to rent in Side, talk to us. Our team has a wealth of experience and can help with everything from matching you with your ideal home to completing your purchase. View our current portfolio here and get in touch to start the process.

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