Superstitions of different countries (суеверия в разных странах)

Разделы: Иностранные языки, Внеклассная работа

Классы: 9, 10, 11


The Desire of the person to protect itself from an unknown power or create for itself prettier fate has brought to thousands and thousands superstition in the world. At our days, in spite of development of the technology, sciences and cultures exist such notions as superstition and sign. The Life is unpredictable, but occasionally person notices some coincidences, separate events, after which follows lucky or unlucky event.

The Person always searches for the explanations on that or other cause is afraid of anything, dreams about anything. Liability to psychological dependency, manipulate by consciousness follows to superstition. Real life is unpredictable; there are many laws, principle and rules.

The Superstitions are reflected in culture of society (the custom, rites) and reveal itself in the forms of superstition.

The Study of superstition in English and Russian language presents for us enormous interest due to specific regularity of the conservation and issues them from generation to generation.

Many people are superstitious. They believe in unproven and mysterious facts. Moreover, they are afraid of them.  

We decided to choose this theme because we speak about different  superstitions and omens at our English lessons.

The knowledge of superstitions and omens expands our notion about the country and allows  to understand its history and customs of the people.

We’d like to know if the pupils of our school believe in superstitions and omens or not.

We’ve read a lot of materials in the Internet.

Tasks of our project is

  1. To define the words “superstition” and “omen”
  2. To make a list of superstitions and omens in the different countries
  3. To find similar omens in the different countries
  4. To sum up about the role of superstitions and omens in people’s life and the culture of the country

The aim of the project:

  1. To get acquainted with superstitions and omens of the different countries.
  2. To find out the number of pupils who trust in superstitions and omens.
  3. To improve our English.
  4. To practice in English grammar and translation.

Сhapter 1. A General understanding of the superstitions

What does it mean “SUPERSTITON” and “OMEN”?

Superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any physical process linking the two events, such as astrology, omens, witchcraft, etc., that contradicts natural science.

Omen is an event regarded as a portent of good or evil.

Latin “superstes” composed on

  1.  super (over, beyond) 
  2.  sto (to stand)

Belief that stands outside the bounds of clerical religion

What sorts of people are superstitious?

People who tend to worry about life are far more superstitious than others – 50% of worriers were very superstitious, compared to just 24% of non-worriers.

Gender and age differences

Women are significantly more superstitious than men – 51% of women said that they were very superstitious compared to just 29% of men. When it came to individual superstitions, far more women than men cross their fingers (women: 75% and men: 50%), and touch wood (women: 83% and men: 61%).

People become less superstitious as they age – 59% of people aged 13-17 said they were superstitious, compared to 44% of people aged between 31-40 and just 35% of the over 50s.

Many superstitions can be prompted:

  1. By misunderstanding of causality or statistics
  2. “Folk beliefs”
  3. A result of misinterpreting correlations as causes
  4. Urban legends

The most popular and interesting beliefs:

  1. Money superstitions
  2. Luck superstitions
  3. Bad superstitions


Money is the most important part of comfortable life. But it is not always explainable why one person has to work hard to earn them and the other hasn’t. Perhaps this injustice became the main reason of formation of some money superstitions.

1. The coin which you found should be kept it will bring good luck (Italy)

2. Bags can’t be put on a floor – money won’t be (Spain)

3. If you always pick up burnt matches instead of leaving them laying you will find money (England)

4. If you put a spider in your pocket the money will be there.

5. If to spit for example on money, in the future you can get even more. (USA)

6. If you scratch your left hand, you will give money away (Britain).

Luck Superstitions

1. Black cats bring good luck (England, Scotland) but in Russia it is bad.

2. Clover is a small plant. Usually it has three leaves, but a few have four. A clover with four leaves brings good luck (Britain).

3. On the first day of the month it's lucky to say "White rabbits".

4. Catch falling leaves in autumn and you'll have good luck (Britain).

5. Never open an umbrella in the house. That's very bad luck (Italy, Britain).

6. Ladybird, fly to the sky, give me happy time».  (England, Russia).

7. If a girl catches the bride’s bouquet after a wedding, she will be next to mеrry» (Russia, England).

8. Sit down before departure. Before leaving, beginning a travel, the person has to sit down.

9. Travelling. If you travel you should not turn half way; even when you forget something.

10. Present with something sharp. It is not good to give a present that contains something sharp, like a fork or a knife.

11. Friday the 13th superstitions are among the most pervasive of all bad-luck beliefs. On this day, many people believe bad things are bound to happen, and any luck is bad luck. In France, Italy, Spain, probably Portugal too 13 is actually a lucky number. Interesting that in Italian culture, the number 17 is their 13.

12. England
Put the onion under your pillow at night before St. Thomas and see your future husband in a dream.

13. Scotland

  • If the soup pops out of hand it is not good.
  • Before the wedding, the bride must go swimming in the mud and then she will have a happy family life.

Сhapter 2. Omens and superstitions in the UK and Russia

I analyzed all English and Russian superstitions (you can find them in the scientific article) and got these results:

1) The current levels of superstitious behavior and beliefs in Great Britain and in Russia are surprisingly high, even among those with a scientific background.
Touching wood is the most popular UK and Russia  superstition, followed by crossing fingers, not smashing mirrors, carrying a lucky charm and having superstitious beliefs about the number 13.

2) Superstitious people tend to worry about life, have a strong need for control, and have a low tolerance for ambiguity.

3) Women are more superstitious than men, and young people more than old.

4) Personal superstitions.

The results indicate very high levels of superstitious beliefs and  behaviour.

77% of people in Russia indicated that they were at least a little superstitious and carried out some form of superstitious behaviour, and 42% indicated that they were very superstitious.

53% of people in England are at least a little superstitious and only 25% admitted to being very superstitious.

2.1. Similarities and differences between English and Russian superstitions

I made comparison of English and Russian superstition and got these results:

I can say that between English and Russian superstition there are many differences. Probably, one of the most important difference is interpretation of superstition, for example, when black cat runs across the road. If in Russia that means the failures, in England black cat symbolizes just inverse happiness and good luck. In English this superstition: If a black cat crosses your path, you will have good luck. Possible, exactly so many famous people in Great Britain choose black cat as home pet.

But in Russia people fear the black cat. This is a religious prejudice about black cat; bring misery, appeared many thousand years back.

When people believed in existence of the witches, they associated turn black cat with witch. They believed that black cats were shown disguised witch. Kill the cat did not signify to kill the witch, since witch could take the type of the cat nine times. People started to think that the cat has nine lives.

There are many superstitions in Great Britain, which have no analogue in Russia. For instance, such sign:  If you walk under a ladder, you will have bad luck that means that if you are passed under stairway, that you will accompany the failures or say «white rabbits» at the first day of month.

I want to say about english and russian talisman, differing between themselves. For example, in Great Britain rabbits paw brings the good luck. The Rabbit is a symbol of the kindness, comfort, presents and protection. In Russia the similar talisman is the claw of bear. The Bear is the king of forest, and a person, carrying these talisman, has a power of this animal.

In England and in Russia there is common superstition, connecting with a mirror. In English this sounds so:  If you break a mirror, you will have seven years bad luck.

General Superstitions of Great Britain

English traditions, superstitions and beliefs include superstitions and customs of English people. Many of them are now inseparable parts of everyday life, or simply common social etiquette, though they often have their origins in superstition. The awareness of them, and their perceived importance, depends on various factors including region and age. Some are extremely common and practiced by the vast majority of the population, while some are extremely obscure. There are popular superstitions in England:

Good Luck

Lucky to meet a black cat. Black Cats are featured on many good luck greetings cards and birthday cards in England.

Lucky to touch wood. People touch; knock on wood, to make something come true.

Lucky to find a clover plant with four leaves.

White heather is lucky.

A horseshoe over the door brings good luck. But the horseshoe needs to be the right way up. The luck runs out of the horseshoe if it is upside down.

Horseshoes are generally a sign of good luck and feature on many good luck cards.

On the first day of the month it is lucky to say "white rabbits, white rabbits white rabbits," before uttering your first word of the day.

Catch falling leaves in autumn and you will have good luck. Every leaf means a lucky month next year.

Cut your hair when the moon is waxing and you will have good luck.

Putting money in the pocket of new clothes brings good luck.

Bad Luck

Unlucky to walk under a ladder.

Seven years bad luck to break a mirror. The superstition is supposed to have originated in ancient times, when mirrors were considered to be tools of the gods.

Unlucky to see one magpie, lucky to see two and many.

Unlucky to spill salt. If you do, you must throw it over your shoulder to counteract the bad luck.

Unlucky to open an umbrella in doors.

The number thirteen is unlucky. Friday the thirteenth is a very unlucky day. Friday is considered to be an unlucky day because Jesus was crucified on a Friday.

Unlucky to put new shoes on the table.

Unlucky to pass someone on the stairs.

General Superstitions of Russia

Russians are very superstitious and are attentive to various omens. The majority of these omens emerged in the pre-Christian era, and neither the traditional religions that arrived in Russia more than 1,000 years ago nor the ideologues of the Communist regime during the almost 70 years of Soviet rule were able to stamp out faith in them. There are popular superstitions in Russia:

Spit on or touch wood

Like many other peoples, Russians believe in the evil eye—an evil look that brings bad luck or trouble—and fear it. You will often see that after someone has said something complimentary about someone else’s child, the child’s parents will appear to spit three times over their left shoulder and touch a wooden surface three times. This will also happen if, for example, someone is telling you about some potentially imminent success, or that, for example, they’re about to go on vacation. Russians are afraid of putting the evil eye on any good event or any compliment, and will touch wood so as not to suffer misfortune. Incidentally, if there is no wood handy, most Russians will tap their own head, saying with a smile that it has the same effect.

Do not carry an empty bucket

If you see someone with any empty container—bucket or a cart—it is considered a bad omen. Russians believe that if you meet a woman carrying an empty bucket, for example, in the countryside, or a street cleaner with an empty cart in the town, you won’t have a good day. That’s why street cleaners try to put any piece of equipment—brooms, rakes or something similar—in their empty carts.

Don’t put money into someone’s hands

Russians have a lot of “money” omens. For example, a taxi driver or shop assistant might decline when you try to hand them your money, and ask you to put it on the vehicle’s dashboard or in a special tray next to the till. This does not mean at all that they cannot stomach touching your hands. It is believed that the money can transmit energy from its owner, including negative energy. Once the passenger has left the vehicle and the customer moves away from the till, the link with their energy is broken and someone else can pick up the money without fear.

Don’t take anything out of the house at night

If you live under the same roof as Russians, you would be advised not to try to take out the trash at night. It is believed that this can bring ruin on the house. To avoid having an unpleasant smell spreading through the house, put the rubbish into a more substantial bag and tie it, so that it is more or less sealed.

Don’t put empty bottles, keys or change on the table

Russians believe that you must not put empty bottles, keys or change on the table. These are all bad omens of financial loss and tears. Also, this omen works not only in the kitchen at home, but also in public places. If one of the guests at a dinner party in a restaurant grabs a bottle that has just been emptied and puts it under the table or starts looking around for a waiter, it in deference to this omen.

Never give knives, clocks or scarves as a present

These things are not considered the best present for a Russian. Scarves, for example, are an omen of tears, knives an omen of enemies, and clocks an omen of parting. Even if you are prepared to give a Russian girl a luxurious Hermès scarf as a present, she would prefer to buy it herself, if only to save herself the tears. If you do nevertheless give somebody one of these things, do not be surprised if they give you a small coin in return. This is to create the illusion of buying the item. You must definitely take this coin, even if it surprises you that they are trying to pay you for an expensive gift with small change.

The threshold of a house is a place of evil

You must not stand on the threshold of a house or apartment, and you must not talk across it or hand anything across it. The ancient Slavs believed the threshold was a place where demons dwelled. If, say, you have to sign for a package with a courier, you must either cross the threshold of the house or at least put one foot across it.

Look at yourself in a mirror if you have had to go back

For Russians, going back to the house is a bad omen, a portent of bad luck. So if a Russian discovers after leaving the house that he has forgotten something, he will first decide whether it is something he really needs, and if it is, he will go back, but will make a point of looking himself in the eye in a mirror. This is another trick of the trade to deceive an evil omen.

Don’t sit on a table

Many Russians are disturbed when they see scenes in American films where the hero sits on a table or puts his feet on a table. And it is not just because it is unhygienic—sitting on a table is variously seen as an omen of death or poverty.

Never give unmarried girls a corner seat

In ancient Russ, it was usually the old maids, poor relatives and dependants who took the humblest places at the table—the corner seats. From this developed the idea that if a girl sits at the corner of the table she will not marry for seven years. It is true that if modern girls nevertheless like a corner seat and someone mentions this omen, they will cleverly reply, “My husband will have a corner,” in other words, they will have a home, but regardless, most Russians try not to put girls in corner seats and avoid them themselves.

Sit before a journey

When a guest in someone’s home or a member of the family is getting ready for a long journey, everyone in the house has to sit down before they set off. This scene recalls the children’s game “musical chairs.” There is usually nowhere to sit in the hall, especially with all the luggage, but unlike the game, everyone has to sit down, and quickly, as soon as someone says, “Let’s take a seat before the journey.” This is a Russian omen for a safe journey. Everyone in the house has to sit somewhere for a minute. This omen, incidentally, is very useful, because it helps people to calm down after the chaos and remember whether they have forgotten to pack anything.

Good omens

Not all Russian omens are precursors of misfortune. There are also lots of good omens. For example, if a spider or a “message from a pigeon” appears on your clothes, or if, for example, you accidentally step in some dog dirt, don’t be in a rush to curse your fate. These are omens of great financial success.

Another amusing omen of wealth comes not from ancient times, but from just a couple of centuries ago. If you find yourself in a car with Russians one day and you’re going to drive under a bridge that a freight train is crossing, don’t be surprised when your companions start to shake out their purses and put money and credit cards on their heads with cries of, “Freight train, give us money, give us money!” According to Russians who believe in omens, this “spell” often works, bringing unexpected profit to those who believe in it.

There are many more Russian omens and superstitions. They cause a lot of everyday inconvenience and it’s difficult to remember them all, I can assure you that Russians actually think the same! They too find all these frightening old wives’ tales a torment. But the power of superstitions is that they are passed on from generation to generation. Moreover, often just the realization that they have broken some commandment can change a person’s mood, and their inspiration and success may forsake them for a while.

Survey among pupils

We conducted a survey among students and have found out that: 11% of the pupils believe in superstitions, 36% of them do not believe in superstitions and 53% do not know. 24% of the pupils have an amulet  and 76% of the pupils don’t have it. Are superstitions truth or fairy-tales? 21% of students answered that it is fairy-tale and 79% of students that it is truth.

The belief of the pupils in omens.

The belief of the teachers in omens.

The superstition of the students.

The superstition of the teachers.

The best day of the week.

The worst day of the week.


Superstitions and omens are argued about for a long time. And people of absolutely different professions, different characters and temperaments debate about it.

On the one hand superstitions and omens make our life more various, on the other hand they can complicate our way of life. That’s why you should be sensible and don’t let the superstitions to rule over you.

The List of literature

  1. Barbin A.V. The Superstitions. M.: Eksmo, 1999
  2. Hoggarth S. Culture and traditions of Great Britain. M.: White city, 2004
  3. Mathews B. Customs, traditions and superstitions in Great Britain, Prosweshenie, 2005.
  4. Shalaeva G.P. The Great encyclopedia: M.: Word, 1994.
  5. Great thoughts of the great people. The Anthology of the aphorism. In 3-h t. M.: Ripol-classicist, 2000.
  6. Lavrova R. Russian superstitions. M.: Prosweshenie, 2001.


  1. › ... › United Kingdom
  4. › ... › Dictionary

The problem omens and superstitions controversial and much debated, because when dealing with these issues are addressed such topics as religion, psychology, cultural and spiritual life of people, questions about destiny and evil spirits. But, anyway, it cannot be denied that omens and superstitions play a huge role in our lives. This was proven when.


Interviewing students and teachers of our school. The results of the survey showed that 11% of students and 20% of the teachers strongly believe in omens and always follows the rules associated with superstition (look in the mirror, if anything is left at home, wearing talismans against the evil eye, and so on). 53% of students and 70% of the teachers confirmed that believe in omens and selectively follow certain rules, but always follow the traditions and customs that are associated with the holidays, which is also a manifestation of superstition. And only 3% of respondents say they do not believe in omens. These results already suggest certain questions and make the work attractive.

Having studied some of the superstitions of Britain and Russia, we discovered many new things. Knowledge of culture, traditions and beliefs helps us to become better acquainted with the customs of another country, with its history and spiritual life, to enrich their own worldview. The more we know about other country, the less the gap between our understanding and friendly relations.