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Superstition: The Seas' Ruler

Updated on January 9, 2013
Kronstadt, Monument of the Revolutionary Sailor.
Kronstadt, Monument of the Revolutionary Sailor. | Source


Searching and knowing about different superstitions around the world has always been a matter of interest for me. As a result being raised by the bank of mighty Rivers near sea in my boyhood, I came to know different superstition which sailors and fishermen homage. It is strange that still in this modern age, many captains, sailors and fishermen are still superstitious. Many ancestors of them were in maritime ventures and their superstitions along with customs and rituals are passed on generations after generations.

Tackling danger and being in constant uncertainty made them conservative and superstitious. Since they can’t control natural phenomenon, they rely on superstitions to avoid them.

Lets see what controls the seas.

  • To name the ship with a word/s ending with “a” brings bad luck.
  • As priests sometimes wear black gowns, they are not good for ship.
  • Killing a swallow, albatross, gull or dolphin brings bad luck. They are believed to carry the souls of dead sailors
  • Seeing swallow in the voyage is a good sign. So is the dolphin.
  • Flat footed people are unlucky.
  • Egg shells should be torn into pieces (not just a 2 pieces).
  • Having Bananas on board is an omen of disaster.
  • Friday is the worst day to start a journey.
  • Never start a journey on the first Monday of April, second Monday of August and 31st December.
  • Tattoos and pierces keep devil away.

Among sailors it's a traditional tattoo to get on their first voyage.
Among sailors it's a traditional tattoo to get on their first voyage. | Source
  • Black Travelling bag is bad luck for a seaman. Black is the color of death.
  • First step on a ship with left foot brings disaster.
  • Throwing stones in the sea cause great storms.
  • Flowers are not welcomed onboard. They are used in funeral wreath for the dead, therefore, becoming a symbol that someone could die on the voyage.
  • Cutting hairs and nails onboard is bad luck.
  • Never stir a cup of tea with fork or knife.
  • Don’t pass salt in dining. –“Pass salt, pass sorrow”.
  • Taking a watch to sea brings significant bad luck.
  • Mentioning the words- Fox, Cat, Hare, Salmon and Rabbits can bring bad luck.
  • Dolphins swimming with the ship are the sign of good luck. Dolphins are considered as seaman’s good friend and their presence indicate that the ship is under their protection.
  • “Fiddlers Green” is call to those deceased sailors who served more than 50 years in sea.
  • The whole will be in danger if the clothes of a dead sailor is worn by another sailor in same voyage.
  • Repairing a flag in the quarterdeck brings bad luck.
  • A Shark following the ship is the sign of inevitable death.
  • No turning back look after the ship leaves the port. It may bring bad luck.
  • Naming a ship after an engaged woman brings bad luck.

  • No whistling in wheelhouse or anywhere on board. It may cause “Whistling up the Storm”.
  • A statue of a naked woman on the bow calms the sea and her open eyes ensure safety.
  • Coins are thrown to sea when a ship leaves port expecting this will please the god of sea, Neptune.
  • Horseshoes on ship’s mast keeps away storms.
  • Seeing a Cat on the way by a seaman to the port for starting a voyage brings good luck.
  • Rats leaving the ship is sign of bad luck.
  • Speaking the word “drown” can lead the ship to said condition.
  • Monta rays are considered ill thing for a ship. It is feared that they can stick themselves with anchor and drag the ship the bottom of the sea.
  • Fishermen in Scotland consider a left boot caught in net instead of fish a very bad luck. Whenever a left boot is found in the net, they spit in it before tossing it back to water. Catching a right boot is considered as good luck and always fastened to the mast believing that it will bring fortune.

A Little story about a superstition-

Christ was crucified on Friday. The superstition of not starting a voyage on Friday became viral by 1800's century. The British Government was unhappy of wasting a day for superstition. They thought of taking strong measure to prove the falseness of the superstition. They laid the keel of a ship of Friday, recruited all the crews on a Friday, launched the ship on Friday and named her HMS Friday. The ship was under in command of Captain James Friday and was set sail for her maiden (first) voyage on a Friday. Everything was well up to this point but after this she nor her any crew was never seen or heard again. HMS Friday is a urban legend.

A superstition for all women

If a woman sees a robin flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it means she will marry a sailor. If she sees a sparrow, she will marry a poor man and be very happy. If she sees a goldfinch, she will marry a millionaire.

Ships in a Storm on a Rocky Coast
Ships in a Storm on a Rocky Coast | Source

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