Saturday, July 13, 2024

Sailor’s Superstitions and Beliefs



Hello everyone,

First of all, I must say that it is extremely exciting to be featured in the ARTTMODERNMIAMI newspaper. In addition to my philology education, I gained experience in different sectors for many years, when I combined the education, I received in advertising and the media sector, which I have always been interested in and contributed a lot to me. Media and publishing have entered my life intensively in in 2019. In the same year, after publishing my book called Blue Voyage in December, I started publishing my maritime magazine called Blue Route and started working as its editor. As of 2023, I am in preparation to continue the digital platform.

I will take you on a blue voyage in my column in ARTTMODERNMIAMI NEWSPAPER. I will keep you informed about the different travel routes of the world and the maritime world.

Here, in my first article, I will tell you about sailor traditions and superstitions that have survived from ancient times. I’m going to talk a little bit about mythology. Some of the beliefs I encountered while researching our topic and what happens if these beliefs are not followed are quite interesting! It surprised me as I learned.

Marine knowledge; It encompasses centuries of traditions, rituals and superstitions. Some of them have become interesting and entertaining in light of today’s technology and science, and they are beliefs that should be taken seriously for those who spend a long time at sea.

Most of these superstitions, the definition of maritime in ancient times was a brutal war between the sea and the captain, and the crew, as a part of this job, submitted to their fate, following all kinds of symbols and signs that came across and making the beliefs that emerged from these miracles a tradition. Let’s take a look together! What are these superstitions and beliefs?

Sailors should always enter the boat or ship with the right foot. This will help the trip or cruise go very well. It is believed that entering with the left foot will cause an accident. It is believed that if entering with the left foot, exiting the boat and entering again with the right foot will prevent all possible evils.

That’s why the right foot is so important! It is said that the tradition of putting coins under all the masts on a boat to bring good luck and abundance goes back to ancient Roman times. Today, I witnessed this tradition in some foreign videos I watched about boat building. Losing a hat while cruising indicates that that journey will take a long time. (Please watch out for hats!) Having bananas on board is bad luck. Especially in the 18th century, there were deaths because the banana, which was kept on ships, attracted poisonous spiders and snakes to the boats.

The source of this belief was to prevent this situation. Therefore, it must be a precautionary belief rather than bringing bad luck. It was believed that renaming a boat would bring bad luck. If it was to be changed, it was to be done with a ceremony and after making the sea gods aware of it, otherwise they would not be able to protect the boat from storms and other possible dangers. After the name of the boat is written on a piece of paper and put in the box, it should be burned together with the box and the ashes should be thrown into the sea. Everything that has the old name written on the boat should be thrown out of the boat, especially the cushions, pillows and fender covers with the name written on them. It’s time to rename the boat. The name is applied immediately after deletion. A bottle of champagne or sparkling wine is poured into the sea from the front west to east. The owner of the boat and his wife each drink a glass of it. Later, the sea gods Poseidon and Neptune beg for easy wind and a calm sea. I have personally witnessed that this tradition continues today, both for domestic and foreign boat owners. Going on a cruise on April 1 brought disaster, and the reason is: It is believed that Cain, the son of the prophet Adam, was murdered that day. I doubt that this tradition is still practiced today. It is customary to raise a hand to anyone passing by on a boat. Greetings always make the course go well. During the cruises I took in both the Mediterranean and the Aegean last year, we hailed a lot with side boats. 🙂

A coin is thrown into the sea to summon the wind. According to belief, wind is bought from the sea god Poseidon for money. I saw it done especially by foreign sailors waiting for the wind before the race. It is believed that it will bring bad luck if the people on the boat speak with their backs to the bow. I have not come across this belief in my cruises. Having a cat on board brings good luck but angering a cat calls for a storm. In ancient times, it was believed that cats had secret powers that protected boats from storms. If the cat sneezes in the boat, it indicates that it will rain. I’ve heard from sailors about the difficulties of having a pet (especially a cat) on board, so find ways to invoke good luck!

Whistling on a boat is bad luck. The reason is since ancient times, it has been believed that whistling would cause storms and summon the devil. It is not good to whistle, as whistling on the boat means calling the sea to a duel. Normally, it is not good to whistle while on land. They used to say, you must be careful 🙂

Wearing green on a boat brings bad luck. The reason is in the past, when naval officers who died while sailing were brought back blindfolded, their bodies were covered with green mold. Because it is easy to find in the event of an accident, sailors especially prefer red-colored clothes. This situation is frequently observed in sailors traveling to the poles. If the fish caught on the boat is counted, no other fish can be caught that day. Therefore, it is not recommended to count. Of course, if he’s lucky enough to get more than one catch! It is believed that those who buy new boats take a pair of shoes and throw them into the sea before the boat goes down to the sea, and it will bring peace to that boat. Flowers on the boat are considered as a sign of bad luck. If there are flowers, it is recommended to immediately throw them into the sea. The reason is flowers evoke funerals and cemeteries. We are careful not to buy flowers while visiting a boat. It is believed that seeing dolphins and swallows while cruising will bring good luck. It is possible to see dolphins frequently, especially during cruises in Istanbul. It is believed that throwing a stone into the sea while cruising will bring a storm. Free to try 🙂

Looking back from the pier on the boat brings bad luck. I think this belief is too detailed. It is believed that if a sailor has a gold earring, he will never drown and will be reborn as a sailor in his next life. I think that all sailors should do it, because I do not think that even a person who has sailed once and tasted the blue freedom will
give up being a sailor. It is believed that sailing on Thursdays will bring bad luck. The reason is, Thursday is supposed to represent Thor, the god of storms. I have not witnessed it being implemented today. Stirring the tea on the boat with a knife or fork portends bad luck. It’s best to drink it without mixing it in any way, just in case 🙂 It was believed that sailors getting tattoos would always bring them good luck. I think this belief is also a matter of preference. Due to the dangers faced by sailors and fishermen, there are countless superstitions about safety and luck at sea, although some of them may seem a little odd, as you have read. From banning bananas to the
boat renaming ritual, I’ve handpicked my favorite selections from Europe’s ancient sailing superstitions from a variety of sources. While most are no longer relevant, I guess some still remain in the minds of sailors. I hope it piqued your interest.

I wish you all fair winds and following seas!

See you in the blues…

Founder and Editor of Mavi Route Magazine
Istanbul-Bodrum-Gocek, TURKIYE
Instagram: @bluevoyage_blueroute


Share this article

Recent posts


Popular categories



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here