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“Very superstitious” – a guide to Turkish superstitions

Superstitions have a great place in society and most people exhibit some superstitious behaviour without even realising it. Do you walk under ladders? Do you think you’ll have seven years of bad luck if you break a mirror?

If you are a frequent visitor to Türkiye you have probably already realised that the people believe in a lot of superstitions. There are many that overlap between the UK and Türkiye , common things like black cats, the number 13 and walking under ladders being bad luck.

There are also many others that you may not have come across before so welcome to our guide to Turkish superstitions.

Nazar Boncuğu

The one most people will have come across is the nazar boncuğu or evil eye. This small, eye-shaped blue and white amulet decorates nearly every vehicle, is pinned to the clothes of babies and put in the doorways of houses, shops and offices. They can also be worn as a bracelet, earrings or necklaces.

Turkish people believe that the evil eye amulet will protect you from bad energy, especially from the envious glares that are believed to cause one harm. Nothing can harm you as long as you are protected with the nazar boncuğu because it will absorb the bad energy. However, if this amulet cracks, this means it has probably done a good job of protecting you and you should immediately replace it with a new one.

Water is thrown after people leaving for a happy return

In Anatolia, it is believed that if you throw water after a person who is leaving, you are wishing them a happy return soon. The water is supposed to make their journey as smooth as possible. It is said “su gibi git, su gibi gel,” which is translated as “go smooth like water and come back as quickly.”

Black Cat

If people in Türkiye see a black cat, they immediately need to hold something black otherwise it can bring bad luck.

Cutting nails

Turkish people have very specific rules when it comes to cutting nails. The belief is that cutting fingers or toenails at night will bring bad luck, poverty and even death to your family.

Turkish Coffee

You should never miss out on the chance to have a cup of Turkish coffee with a friend. It will reward both of you with “40 years of friendship.” After you have finished, you may also make use of the common Turkish practice of having your coffee cups read. “Don’t believe fortune telling, but don’t be left without fortune telling,” it is said.

Knock on Wood

In Türkiye, when someone hears about a bad experience someone else had, he/she may gently pull one earlobe, and knock on wood twice, which means “God save me from that thing”

Make a Wish

Keep your eyes open for “wish trees.” Wherever you see trees with small ribbons or coloured cloths tied to their branches, don’t hesitate to make a wish and do the same. These are “wish trees,” which means that you can expect your wish to come true.

Broken mirror

When a mirror or glass breaks it means that the nazar (evil eye) was so big that it broke an actual object. Of course, the broken items need to be disposed of immediately, preferably somewhere far from the home.

The “right” side

In Türkiye, the right side is the “right” side in the truest sense of the word. Turks traditionally like to start any activity on the right side – this includes getting out of the right side of the bed in the morning, washing the right hand first, and entering a house with the right foot.

When shaking hands or giving something to someone, the right hand must be used. The left hand is considered a sign of bad luck.

The number 40

The number 40 has a special meaning in Turkish culture. Turks believe the number to be lucky, so if you say anything 40 times it will come true.

Throwing out bread is bad luck

Bread (ekmek) is considered sacred in Türkiye and throwing it out is believed to cause serious bad luck. Old bread should be given to birds and it should also be placed safely in the home so it doesn’t come into contact with the floor.

And finally here are a couple you might like…

Washing clothes on a Saturday brings bad luck.

Cleaning the house on a Friday can be unhealthy.

We had such a great response from our readers when we first published this article and asked what other superstitions they were aware of, that we just had to bring you the sequel.

This article was first published on 26 February 2019.

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Lyn Ward

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