Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Iranian Superstitions, Part 1

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. 



  1. Interesting superstition on sneezing in Persian culture-Patience came. I have sneezed occasionally this year in the US, and I never waited, then I find out my allergy has been getting worse ever since. Probably I should try Persian way from now on and see what happens. FYI, when it comes to sneezing in "Chinese superstitious culture", people will say to you that someone is MISSING you right now!

  2. I am discovering this very late, but I had to comment anyway.
    We have so many silly old superstitions in the US (comes from being a melting pot of so many different cultures, I suppose.)

    I know I'm still scolded by some if I walk under a ladder (bad luck!) or I don't "knock on wood" after speaking of something which I hope will/or will not come to pass.

    In the older generation there are still a few who, after knocking over the salt shaker at the table, will throw a pinch over their left shoulder. (Keeps the Devil at bay) but that is SO old-fashioned.

    Letting a black cat cross your path is not really kept as a superstition any longer. I think it has passed into simple idiom which people say for fun now.

    One that I thought was very funny is when a friend noticed that my necklace was turned around backwards (where the clasp is showing in front.) She said that I must be thinking/hoping of a new lover. I've been married for 23 years! What?! Ha ha! That was a pretty strange one. "Out of left field" as we would say in the US.

    Thanks for the great blog! I am truly enjoying following this on Facebook!

    1. Thanks so much, Cyn! Funny you mention the superstition about the necklace. I never knew it had that meaning, but I always make a wish when the clasp comes around like that. Thanks again for following!

  3. I'm so happy I found this blog! It is so cool! my Grandpa is Iranian!


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