Summer has officially arrived, which means it is the season of sailing, especially along Turkey’s southern coast, aka the “Turkish Riviera.” Whether you embark on one of Turkey’s famous “Blue Cruises” and sail along the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, take a day trip offered in almost all of Turkey’s holiday destinations or even ride a ferry to cross continents in Istanbul, there is no denying that in this country boarding boats is an integral part of life for many. Thus, it is important to become familiar with some of the many superstitions surrounding the sea, some of which have since been debunked and others that have stood the time becoming boating traditions worldwide.
Check out these age-old superstitions regarding sailing, boats and the sea:
Always pay special heed to stepping on a boat with your right foot as according to superstition this will bring good luck. Whereas if you were to place your left foot first when boarding then it is believed disaster may strike on the voyage.
One thing you don’t want to do aboard any ship or vessel is whistle as there is a longstanding superstition that whistling will provoke the wind, which will respond to the challenge with a tornado or a storm. There is also a superstition that throwing rocks into the sea may be perceived as disrespect resulting in the waves responding and causing deep swells.
Having a cat on board has always been considered to bring good luck. It didn’t hurt that they keep the pests at bay and serve as the perfect sailing companion.
Sailors are strictly opposed to the killing of seagulls or sea birds, due to the belief that when a sailor dies at sea and his body cannot be buried on land, their soul is said to transform into a seagull. The seagull then spends its time soaring over voyaging ships and warning of approaching storms by calling on its fellow species. Thus if you hear seagulls squawk it may be the forewarning of an impending storm.
Dolphins accompanying a boat on its journey are always considered to be a good sign; however the same cannot be said for spotting a shark. According to superstition, seeing a shark could mean an unavoidable death is on the horizon. Swallows are also considered to be a good omen while spotting a black cormorant is considered a dark forewarning.
I bet you didn’t know bananas are not supposed to be on boats. Whether this belief stems from the disappearance of many trading ships carrying bananas back in the 18th century, which was chalked up to bad luck, or whether it is due to certain practicalities related to the fruit, either way transporting bananas is not considered to be a good idea. Bananas ripen and rot quickly and lend to the decomposition of neighboring produce. They emit toxic gas in enclosed spaces and can carry a lethal spider said to have a bite that would kill sailors suddenly. Whether it be due to a curse or a myth, a superstition has developed amongst boatmen to discourage any bananas on board.
There may be some truth to the age-old adage in English that goes, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning,” as it refers to the movement of high- and low-pressure weather systems. A red sunset predicts high-pressure and thus good sailing weather the following day and a red sunrise is said to mean the good weather has already passed leaving behind a wet and windy low-pressure system.
No matter what you do, just don’t say the word “rabbit” on a boat. The superstition spans back to the belief the devil may be able to disguise himself as a rabbit. Either way, neither the animal nor the word is allowed on board.
There has been a longstanding tradition of placing a coin under the mast for good luck, a superstition said to date back to the Roman era. There are actual coin ceremonies that continue to this day that take place during a ship’s construction in which a coin is placed either under the keel block or welded beneath the mast and is believed to bring prosperity and good luck.
According to legend, when every ship is named it goes into a “Ledger of the Deep,” which is a scroll of all of the boats at sea kept by Poseidon himself. Thus, renaming a ship without conducting the proper ceremony to do so could mean you are trying to slip a fast one on the mythological Gods and thus you may be punished in return. Due to this superstition, there is a special ceremony to rename a boat in order to appease Poseidon and Neptune and the deities of the seas. To do so, the original name must be purged from existence anywhere and everywhere involving the boat after which a new name ceremony can take place.
There are a number of bizarre and outdated superstitions involving who can board a boat and what sort of luck they may bring. For example, women on a ship were said to ignite jealousy from the boat itself, which were considered to be feminine in gender. This is due to the infamous lore that virgin girls were sacrificed to appease the gods at the boat’s naming ceremony. Another bizarre superstition involves redheads and those that are flatfooted. Certainly not to be taken on board, the only way to break the impending curse of even coming across such people is to make sure you talk first.
One of the rudest things one can do on a boat is to bring aboard flowers. Considered grave omens of bad luck, flowers, which are also used at funerals, are for this reason never allowed on a vessel.
It turns out there is a reason behind the sailor and pirate look we have all become so familiar with and it is steeped deeply in superstition. From Popeye to Jack Sparrow, the iconic pirate image includes two significant elements: tattoos and earrings. Tattoos were believed to protect against drowning and shipwreck and secure a safe return. Sailors in World War II would tattoo a pig and a rooster on either foot in the hopes it would keep them from drowning. The superstition is derived from the fact that when ships transporting animals went down, their crates would float, leaving such animals as the sole survivors. As for earrings, it was believed wearing an earring would not only protect against drowning but also alleviate symptoms of rheumatism and seasickness. Having an ear pierced was also believed to improve eyesight in the opposite eye. Myth or not, the earrings did serve a number of practical purposes; pirates would hang wax on their earrings to use as earplugs when cannons were shot and if a pirate washed wash ashore, the gold hook served as payment for the proper burial. The reason pirates and sailors, in general, tend to have beards is due to the superstition that cutting hair, shaving or trimming one’s nails could insult the sea god Neptune, which would surely bring about a grim fate in the journey. On a final note, the eye patch preferred by certain pirates was just that, a preference. Supposedly they would wear them to allow them to quickly adapt to the darkness below deck.
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