In my I Never Missed My Home Town Until I Stayed Away Too Long post I mentioned that a lot of Bosnians are super superstitious. What most people would call superstitions many Bosnians (not all of course) see as a fact and today I want to talk about a few of them because, yes it makes us look crazy but they are a big part of understanding the culture. From superstitions about hiccups to itchy nose and cutting your nails.
Superstitions about cutting nails
Cutting nails after dark is a big no no because that attract evil ghosts. And don’t ‘whistle while you work’ in the evening too, as this will mean you’ll need to call the Ghostbusters too. You don’t want to know how many nights I cried in my bed because my cousin whistled after dark and I thought the ghosts would kidnap me and drag me to the cemetery.
In Bosnia you can’t walk over someone’s legs (if they’re laying down or sitting), because apparently then they won’t grow anymore. My cousin came up with a way to turn it around and save ourselves: you had to walk backwards, cross you fingers, run outside and spit six times to avoid having kid size legs for life. We were pretty OCD that one summer.
As a kid you were told that if you leave your clothes inside out after they’re washed you will go mad. It’s just mamma’s little trick to scare you and get things done, but ever since I can’t bring myself to leave clothes inside out.
Whenever someone mentioned Baba Roga I would hide under the stairs. She is a scary old witch that steals children. She is very popular in Bosnia (and other Slavic countries where her name is similar) and your parents will subtly mention her in a conversation to scare you when you don’t listen. She’s thought to have inspired the witch who has those classy gingerbread digs in Hansel & Gretel.
If you hiccup it means that someone is gossiping about you, probably a cousin who is jealous you copied her new haircut, jeans or blog post.
Soaking your socks in rakija (fruit brandy) and wearing them overnight when you have a fever will cure it … and I have to say that it helps me every time. Rakija is also the cure for sore throat, toothache, headache and any other first world problem. I haven’t tried it for FOMO, blog fatigue or writer’s block yet though.
You’re not allowed to go outside if your hair is wet because you will get upalu mozga (literate translation is: inflammation of the brain) and probably die. But no one really knows what this inflammation of the brain really is. As a kid I thought it meant your brain would suddenly catch a million flames and melt.
Itchy Nose superstitions
An itchy nose means you are about to get angry. I notice this a lot because it’s damn annoying. And an itchy right palm means you are about to get money while an itchy left palm, means you are about to spend money. Sadly my right palm never needs a scratch!
Sitting on a doorstep brings poverty or ghosts (them again). Seriously, don’t mess with this and get yourself jinxed. I always wonder why those ‘Most Haunted’ reality shows were never popular here, but I guess people have the real thing…
Don’t be too surprised when someone calls a newborn baby an ugly cutie pie in Bosnia, it’s pretty common to call a baby ugly because it is believe that if you say the baby is sweet or beautiful it will be cursed. And it avoids a lot of awkward situations.
I don’t know about you guys, but as a kid I often tried to count the stars because I couldn’t believe how many there were. But was always shushed and told I would die if I counted my own star. The story is that when a baby is born, a star appears in the sky and that star is your star and will shine all your life. And whenever you see falling stars it means that the one who had that star has died or will die. The reason you can’t count stars is because if you stumbled upon it you are going to die. I’m not sure it counts for those glow in the dark stars I’ve stuck on the ceiling in the past.
Do you have any superstitions from your cultures to share?