Why is it bad luck to pass salt in Spain?

Last week I was getting a facial and the facialist shrieked ‘stop!’ as I went upstairs to the treatment room. Another beautician was rushing down and apparently it’s common knowledge that you never cross someone on the stairs for fear of bad luck.

staircase photo

This got me thinking about all the superstitions I’ve learnt in all the places I’ve lived. In Angola, after rescuing a couple of stray kittens, my cleaning lady wouldn’t enter the house. She feared some kind of voodoo, so I agreed to keep them in the garden when she was inside. Alas the kittens died before we could even decide on names and while my husband was genuinely upset, my cleaning lady was relieved. Good had conquered evil, she claimed, although I didn’t feel that way when I was in tears at the vets on a desperate mission to save them.

Another friend in Angola went to see a witch doctor as a last-ditch effort to help her conceive. The details are a bit too, ahem, personal, to post here, and while it sounded like a lot of hocus pocus to me, she felt it helped. In any case, she’s now a mother of two.

Over in Germany, friends would get really irritated if I toasted them with a glass of water. It had to be alcoholic or it was bad luck, they claimed. I’m not sure if multiple alcoholic drinks always brought them good luck, mind you.

paulaner beer photoPhoto by Deigote

Meanwhile my Spanish husband doesn’t approve of passing the salt from hand to hand at the table. Personally, if I spill any, I throw it over my left shoulder. Who knows where his superstition stems from, but my mother always taught me that throwing salt over one’s shoulder was akin to throwing it into the devil’s eye.

My best friend from India gave me a string of beads in the shape of a lemon and chillies to ward away evil. I read that in times gone by people would carry a combination of lemons and chillies when crossing a jungle – if a poisonous snake bit them, they would lose their sense of taste, so biting into the fruit and spice would clarify if the snake bite was poisonous or not. I know what you’re thinking, you’d be dead already anyway, right?

lemon chilli india photoGood luck for sale at a very good price. Photo by Mags D

I’m pleased to report that despite my staircase faux pas, my facial went well. Just in case, I won’t be crossing anyone on a staircase anytime soon, though. I’ll try not to pay too much attention to all these other superstitions, but can someone please, please fill me in on why it’s bad luck to pass salt in Spain?

Feature Photo by Markus Grossalber

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