The Bone Phallus and the Groaning Cheese: Superstition Around the World
The Bone Phallus and the Groaning Cheese: Superstition Around the World by T. Rynne for The Daily Coin
We’re all a little spiritual, even if our flirting with fate is confined to reading the horoscope pages in the local newspaper. Ways of ensuring fortune and prosperity into the future vary from country to country though. If you happen to be a Dane, you might be collecting broken dishes all year long to throw at your neighbor’s houses on New Year’s Eve (it brings them luck) while the Chinese revere the number eight above all others.
Inevitably, there’s a conversation to be had about whether luck is actually real, and here’s where things get interesting. It’s a topic that actually has an answer in quantum mechanics; specifically, if future events can be accurately predicted, then luck cannot exist as every outcome is preordained. A six isn’t lucky if that was the only possibility the universe ever had in mind. As scientists have no idea if this concept is real, then the existence of luck is a worldwide unknown.
It’s perhaps for the above reason that attitudes to luck can be culture specific – because nobody really knows Lady Luck’s standpoint on things like broken mirrors. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that luck is not just the domain of medieval witches and astrologers, and unearth some of the stranger traditions designed to ensure good fortune from around the world – with no rabbit’s feet or troll dolls in sight.
The Evil Eye
With such a growing casino culture, it’s perhaps no surprise that Kazakhstan has a fixation with luck. The country, a post-Soviet state occupying mountainous terrain in Central Asia, has recently emerged as a force in world poker, with sixty tables spread throughout Almaty (the capital), Karaganda, and Kapchagay. 888poker, in their Poker Around the World article, highlights Aidyn Auyezkanov as a local pro on the circuit, earning $531,719.
Kazakh superstition focuses on the Evil Eye, a type of curse. For instance, taking photographs of a sleeping person is considered unlucky as the unconscious soul is especially vulnerable to the gaze of the Evil Eye. Similarly, leaving cupboards open can attract evil shaitans or spirits, while cleaning a table with a paper napkin invites poverty into the household. The Kazakhs wish on falling stars just like everybody else though.
Lettuce and Cheese
One of the more unlikely good luck traditions is Japanese – and impossible to do deliberately. Clumsy folk rejoice; smashing bottles accidentally is considered a boon to an establishment in Japan. Across the world, Englishmen jumped the shark long before the Fonz did, carrying acorns to stay young and avoiding lettuce to improve fertility. The ritual of the “Groaning Cheese”, which involves a baby passing through a rind of mature cheese, also started in England.
Food plays quite a large part in superstition around the world. The Spanish sometimes eat twelve grapes on New Year’s Eve while the Argentines consume beans on the same day; the turning of the year is ostensibly the source of much madness. Serbs also spill water behind people deliberately to grant them luck. Thai men take the cake for strange superstitions though, wearing a phallic bone amulet under their clothes to improve their odds when gambling or courting.
Finally, here’s a bit of Kazakh wisdom for when a black cat is nearby; say zholseniki, bakhytmeniki – the road is yours but happiness is mine.