On superstitions

I was born and grew up in a country full of superstitions. Almost every aspect of life is featured by a superstition. You could say it is a tradition to follow all kinds of superstitions in Moldova. Earlier I thought these were the rules you had to follow. Now I rather think that they show the sense of humor of the nation or the person they were invented by. The crazier the superstition sounds the funnier and the more intelligent the inventor is; especially because he or she knows that there will be at least one soul following it.

Here are some examples of superstitions we used to adhere to in my family:

“Don’t put knives with sharp edge up; otherwise you will have trouble or argument with your boss.”

“Don’t give things to another person, and especially don’t kiss another person, over a doorsill, otherwise you will have a bad and maybe even irreparable fight with that person.”

Or the international one is also cared for in my motherland: a cat cutting your way. Once going to school many years ago I watched a colonel, I knew was living in the block of flats next to ours, spitting over his left shoulder after he saw a cat – not being black,  by the way – cross the road in front of him. The spitting was supposedly protecting you from trouble or bad day that you could get because of this cat.

While the “cat-caused” superstition might seem quite irrational, there is certain logic to many superstitions practices in the culture I grew in, and in my family in particular. For example,  the one with knives makes sense, since if a knife is stored with it sharp edge up, then you might injure yourself while taking it out. As consequence you hurt yourself and you cannot work as good as you did before the accident. And because of this, your boss might be angry because you are not doing your job as you were supposed to. Well, I agree, today bosses have more understanding than in old days, but still …

Also the one with kissing or giving things over a threshold makes or rather made sense to me. I guess in ancient times the authors of this wisdom thought of a doorsill symbolizing a line separating two humans and that you had to step over this line in order to interact with the person you meant to. On the other hand thinking of today, it is always a sign of being in a hurry when you give something or kiss someone over a doorsill. And when you are in a hurry, you are not paying enough attention to the person you interact with in the current moment. And when being neglected, people do tend to get angry. From here you can easily see how this can lead to a fight.

Ok, ok, I agree with you and confess that it does not have to happen and I can see that you might have given a lot of things over a doorsill without getting into a fight. But I adhered fiercely to this for a long time. And the solution to this is that you step on the doorsill before giving something over it. By this, you are almost in the same room with the person you interact. So, my husband, my friends or anyone leaving after a visit and saying “Oh sorry, I forgot that one thing lying over there. Could you throw it to me, please?” were not getting this thing right away but had to wait until I reached the threshold and put my foot onto it. Otherwise, they wouldn’t get this d… thing. Today, I don’t follow this superstition anymore, but I notice every time when I give something over a doorsill. I guess this is my spell.

My grandmother is told to have invented some superstitions of her own. I know of at least one invented by her. She died when I was two and a half years old, so all I know of her comes from stories about her. And these do sound fascinating. I am really proud of being told that I resemble her a little. So here is the superstition invented by her. In order to make her children, my mother and my uncle, to help her cleaning around the house, she claimed that you had to wipe the kitchen table with a wet cloth as many times as high the school grade you wished to get on that day or for that test or exam. Now, before you start thinking whether this is logical or not, depending what country you come from and what grade system you might have grown up with (in case one is the best, then the whole thing does not make sense, I agree) I must say that the highest grade in Soviet Union, where my parents, my sister and I went to school, was five and the worst was one. So, before each test or exam, having inherited this tradition from my mother, I was wiping our kitchen table five times after breakfast and before going to school. I did the same when I was going later to the University.

I was seriously appalled when, after Republic of Moldova proclaimed itself as independent, which I greeted very much, the Moldovan Government has changed the grade system from “five-to-one” to “ten” being the best and “one” for the worst. TEN! After counseling my mother, I found out that I didn’t have a choice: if I wanted to get a “ten” then I had to clean the table TEN times before each exam. And even when my mom told me that her advice was a joke and revealed that this superstition was invented by her own mother, and even the fact that this whole grading system change happened when I was in my late teens going to the University, this still didn’t convince me to stop wiping the kitchen table ten times before each exam. And please note that the superstition dictated that you had to rinse the cloth between each wiping! Fortunately for me and unfortunately for the table (or vice versa, I don’t know), I grew tired of this wiping after some time and for my graduation exams I wiped the table just once, but thoroughly and I insisted that I do it. I was still afraid that I could get a bad grade if I didn’t wipe it at all.

And then there are superstitions or beliefs supposing that when you witness something and make a wish while witnessing this something, then your wish comes true. Like a falling star, seeing a bride and a groom in their wedding robes or watching cranes heading to warmer countries in fall or coming back in spring. The latter one has definitely worked for the most special wish in my life. But more about it in another story.