One topic that always seems to get my students talking is superstitions. Once I get over the initial battle of explaining what a superstition is (the black cat is usually suffice to make their faces light up in understanding), they love comparing and contrasting superstitions across different cultures.
It got me thinking about خرافات khorafat, superstitions in Iran. While I can't generalize and say that Iranians are superstitious, it has it's fair share of them and even more ways of preventing cheshm zadan, being jinxed.
Perhaps this most commonly believed superstition is that of sneezing. When someone sneezes, Iranians say sabr amad, patience came. So say that you are just about to go out when suddenly you or someone else sneezes. You say sabr amad, and then you have to wait a couple of minutes before leaving. Because the sneeze brings patience, it's thought that this little bit of waiting will prevent a bad event.
Animals also play a part in superstitions. One owl that hoos in the evening is the bearer of bad news, death or mourning. A single crow that caws at the same time and place every day is also bad news; however if there are a group of crows together, this is khabare kheyr, good news- perhaps even a wedding! A rabbit that crosses your path is good luck.
There are also superstitions around astronomical phenomena. An eclipse expresses the wrath of God. Comets signify that someone major (for example, a king or queen) has died. (These superstitions were more relevant in small villages back in the old days. People don't really believe them now.)
A while back, I explained the phrase ta se nashe bazi nashe. This concept of things occurring in threes is also relevant in superstitions in which the third event is something to worry about because it could be disastrous. For example, first, a child falls and has a nose bleed. Then you find out your uncle got in an accident, but everything is ok. Iranians will say khoda be kheyr kone sevomisho, God have mercy on the third thing! They also use this phrase for events that happen on a national level. For example, first, there is a train derailment, then an earthquake (even as I'm writing this I'm knocking on wood), so people would start saying Khoda be kheyr kone sevomisho!
I hope you've enjoyed this post. I'm sure I've forgotten or don't know of many more, so feel free to comment on any that I've missed. And stay tuned for tomorrow's post where I'll talk about the many (many...) phrases and actions Iranians take to prevent jinxes.