Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Iranian Superstitions, Part 2

*Updated 5/31* In yesterday's post, I talked about some of the superstitions in Iran. But as I was brainstorming this idea in general, I seemed to come up with a lot more ideas of methods of preventing being jinxed than superstitions. 

In my opinion, Iranians as a whole are big on the idea of cheshm, jinx. Cheshm, as you know, means eye, which is why the idea of the evil eye is prevalent. It's common to hear Iranian say cheshmesh nazanam, I don't want to jinx it. For example, cheshmesh nazanam the weather has been beautiful lately. If then it starts to rain, you can say, cheshmesh zadam, I jinxed it. 

Some people don't like to be complimented too much or talk about themselves because they say others may have cheshme shoor, salty eyes. A person with salty eyes will jinx you; therefore often times people who truly care about you may sing your praises, but follow up with cheshmam shoor nist, my eyes aren't salty, meaning that they aren't going to jinx you and only want the best for you. 

A very common ritual not only in Iranian households, but also in public is the burning of espand to get rid of the evil eye. As the little seeds start to pop, Iranians say betereke cheshme hasood, may jealous eyes explode, or cheshme hasood koor, may jealous eyes be blind, while waving the smoke over the heads of their loved ones. Mothers may do this for their children after friends or acquaintances say nice things about them. Iranians also do it every so often throughout their houses as a sort of cleansing ritual to rid the house of negative energy and protect the home. When I went back to Iran after 3.5 years, the first thing my aunt did when I arrived at her home at 4:30 am was burn espand for me.

During another trip to Iran, I went to a women's salon in Tehran to get a haircut. It could have been a salon anywhere else in the world because as long as everyone in there was female, all hijab was lost. It was only when I noticed a lady burning espand above everyone's heads that I was again reminded of where I was. Since women were in there getting made-over, it was the perfect place to protect them from cheshm zadan. This sort of thing at a salon may be a more recent thing to make a little money. You may even be sitting in traffic only to see someone walking in between the cars burning espand. It's nice to give them a little change. 

Burning espand can also be seen at weddings in which case the groom gives money to this person. Something else seen at weddings is atel o batel, a tray with seven spices in seven colors to guard against evil spirits. They include: angelica, salt and green leaves, wild rice, frankincense, poppy seeds, gunpowder and nigella. 

Special espand

atel o batel

In addition, to the eyes, there are phrases related to other senses like gooshe sheytoon kar, may the ears of the devil be deaf, or zabun(am) lal, may my tongue be mute. For example, you are telling someone "I won the lottery, went on vacation, came back, and everything is great! Gooshe sheytoon kar!" Or if someone is saying something negative you could say "Zabunet lal! Don't talk like that!"

Other expressions used in Persian relate to things being door (pronounced with a long o), far: door az in khaneh, far from this house, door as joon, far from the soul/spirit, cheshme bad door, may the jealous eye be far. For example, if you are talking to someone about a funeral you went to, you would say door az in khaneh as a way to not be jinxed. Or if you heard on the news that a teenager passed away and you are telling your child who is also a teenager, you would say, door az joon (door az joone hame javanha, far from the lives of all young people). Or say you have an overly dramatic friend who says that they would rather die than do something. You could follow up with door az joon. 

Then of course there is the phrase bezanam be takhte, knock on wood. There are also the Arabic phrases mashallah and inshallah. When friends see your children after a long time or hear of their accomplishments, they may say mashallah in order not to jinx them. Inshallah is used for anything that you plan to do in the future. "I want to travel to Iran this year, inshallah, God willing." It's out of our hands because it's in the future, so God willing, we won't be jinxed in the meantime. 

There are also a couple of interesting gestures. One is pinching your rear when someone compliments you. Another is biting the area between your thumb and forefinger. Then you flip your hand so that your palm faces up and bite it again. Then you (mimic) spitting three times. 

And just a couple more- in the old days when there was an eclipse, people (more so in villages) would bang copper pots to make it go away. 

When moving into a new house, it's customary to first and foremost take the Koran. 

In this video by beloved singer Andy, he's singing about his yaar, sweetheart, and describing just how beautiful and wonderful she is. So as not to jinx her, he then sings: 

cheshme bad az to door beshe, elahi (may bad eyes be far from you)
cheshe hasooda koor beshe, elahi (may jealous eyes be blind)

So what's your opinion? Does having so many expressions related to jinxing make Iranians a bit superstitious? 



  1. hi pontia. i love reading your blog. i learned alot about iran and it's culture. thank you.

    1. I'm so glad you are enjoying it. Thank you so much for reading!

  2. I am impressed:) It was very interesting, I learned a lot from you.

  3. HAA loved these two posts ! The hand biting thing reminds me of NANEH AGHAH ! hahaha !
    I still burn Esfand every then and now, for loved ones or just bring a bit of luck to myself, I don't know how effective it is but I love the smell !

    1. Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed it. I know what you mean- I guess it's sort of like a "posh garmi", and it smells great! It's the first think my aunts do when I visit them


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