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BLOG Superstitions in Turkey: Part Two

27 June 2018 / Culture


4 Superstitions in Turkey

This article is part two of our series on superstitions in Turkey. These days most Turks scoff at superstitions and have come to regard them as funny or, on the odd occasion, totally absurd. For newcomers to the country though, they give a perfect insight into rural and urban beliefs from days gone by.

The dictionary says superstitions are an unfounded belief in the supernatural but on the odd occasion, you can trace a belief back to its origins and see how people’s paranoia, fear or eagerness for a higher power to intervene has borne fruit to the misconceptions.

4 Superstitions in Turkey

1: Jinn

The concept of jinn belongs in Islamic beliefs, and they are also mentioned in the Quran.  Jinn are supernatural beings, and the English equivalent is a genie. However, while some are good, you don’t want to start polishing lamps in the hope of producing a jinn. Working with jinn (singular jinni) is much like dancing with the devil or often compared to witchcraft.

After the Turkish coup of 2016, the mayor of Ankara attracted attention when he blamed jinn. A 2012 report by the Pew Research Centre also said that 63% of Turkish people believed in jinn. Likewise, anyone suffering from mental anguish such as depression or alcoholism could be under the control of jinn.

A conversation with a Turkish person who believes in jinn is interesting learning, not only into Turkish beliefs but also Islam. However, to ensure you don’t attract a jinni, avoid lakes at night-time and don’t sleep near the ashes of a fire because Turkish superstitions say this is where they hang out and steal people’s souls.

2: The Number 40

Another superstition says that if you accept an offer to drink coffee with someone, that friendship will last 40 years. Likewise, if you have a burning desire that you want to fulfil, repeat it 40 times, and it will come true. However, don’t call someone a pig because you will lose your appetite for forty days.

The one connection between all these superstitions is the number 40 and to trace the origin, we again go back to Islam. Although the Quran doesn’t mention these superstitions, there is a definite connection with the number forty.

Muhammad was 40 years old when he received the Quran. He also had 40 followers to spread the word. Isa (Jesus) wandered the desert being tempted by Satan for 40 days while Noah endured the great flood for 40 days and nights. The theme of forty goes on and on.

3: Childbirth

Another connection with the number 40 in Turkey relates to childbirth and the belief that a woman should stay in the house for forty days after birth because she could come under the influence of supernatural powers. The Quran doesn’t back this up, so it is most likely a rural belief that also dictates how to deal with the umbilical cord after it is cut.

Before birth, the umbilical cord is the lifeline for a child, so after it is detached, it shouldn’t just be thrown away. Instead, burying the umbilical cord in specific places will influence the child’s future, i.e. burying it on holy ground will mean the child will be devout. Burying it at a place of education ensures the child will grow up to be intelligent and so forth. These days as increasingly more Turkish women give birth in hospitals, they rarely practise these superstitions.

4: The Right Side

To have a good day, get out of bed on the right-hand side. If your right-hand itches, money is winging its way to you. If your right eye starts twitching, good news is coming while ringing in your right eye means someone is saying good things about you.

Enter a room with your right foot to have good luck, and remember the devil sits on your left shoulder while an angel sits on your right.

The connection with all these superstitions is the right side of the body, which once again features heavily in Islam. The prophet Muhammad used to sleep on the right-hand side of his body and scriptures dictate that when eating and drinking, Muslims should use their right hand because Satan eats with his left.

If you want to know more about Superstitions in Turkey, you can read part one here, otherwise the following articles are also interesting to read.

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