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BLOG Turkish Superstitions and Beliefs

27 June 2018 / Culture


4 Turkish Superstitions and Beliefs

Like any other culture, Turkish superstitions and beliefs are plentiful. Some are grounded in fear, and hopelessness and a need for protection. Some say events can predict your future, while others imply a higher power is at work, and there are ways to twist it in your favour.

The dictionary defines a superstition as a belief in the supernatural that has no credibility or scientific explanation. It is a belief that a person attracts good or bad luck depending on their actions.

A similar analogy is old wives’ tales, that have also been around for centuries, and were simply mankind’s attempt to explain or justify mysterious circumstances and coincidences. 

Turkey has hundreds of age-old superstitions, and in most cases, the origin is hard to trace. The beliefs also vary from region to region. So, do Turks believe and practise them?

Mostly, no. Fully practising Muslims always take the word of the Quran over any other beliefs and younger generations, especially those who embrace a modern lifestyle tend to “take them with a pinch of salt.” If you see any superstitions being practised, it is probably just out of habit, routine and tradition.

Turkey has many similar myths with other countries such as the number 13, walking under ladders and breaking mirrors but which are the Turkish beliefs that tourists and foreigners will see?

4 Turkish Superstitions and Beliefs

1: Warding off the Evil Eye

This is by far the most common belief and is similar to other countries who have talisman or amulets. The blue, white and sometimes yellow Nazar Bonjuk, wards off the Evil Eye, otherwise people that may be jealous of your success.

Often seen in homes, shops and offices, most souvenir shops around Turkey sell the Nazar Bonjuk as necklaces, bracelets, keyrings, bookmarks and much more. The evil eye features in many cultures and has been traced back to the old days of Mesopotamia, although some history experts say it was even used before then.

Given the popularity of the Nazar Bonjuk, anyone would be forgiven for thinking that blue-eyed people in Turkey are considered lucky, yet the opposite is true. An old superstition says that blue-eyed people carry around a lot of envy and can cause much distress to their intended target.

2: Pinch the Ear and Knock on Wood

Are things going well for you in life? Does it seem like luck is on your side? If, so, after you’ve spoken about your happiness, pinch the lobe of your right ear and knock on wood twice, while saying mashallah.

Knocking on wood stops the devil from hearing about your fortune and by saying mashallah, you are thanking God for his protection and wishing for it to continue. Another version of a wood superstition is to knock on wood three times to ward off bad luck.

3: First Customer of the Day

The Turkish word “Siftah” means to make the first sale of the day, and particular importance is paid to it. So, if you are the first customer for a shopkeeper, taxi driver or anyone else in the sales business, you could suddenly find yourself elevated to super important status.

If the person taking your money believes in superstitions, they may throw it on the ground or brush the notes against both cheeks. They are thanking God and wishing for a fruitful day ahead. Dropping money to the floor could also be seen as planting a seed for more fruit, i.e. money.  This is not purely a Turkish belief as the word siftah also features in many Middle Eastern cultures.

4: Water

One common belief is to throw water behind someone that is leaving on a journey. Your wish is that their trip will be as smooth as flowing water. This isn’t an excuse to waste water though because if you boil it with no set purpose, bad luck will befall you. Also, if someone dies, you should pour water out of any jugs, or containers that hold it.

Lastly, it is a bad idea to wash your clothes on Tuesdays. If you want your baby to be wise, conceive on a Friday, and chewing gum at night is the equivalent of chewing on dead flesh.

There are hundreds more Turkish superstitions and beliefs, so we’ve listed more in part two of this series and you can read here.

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