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10 Superstitions Popular Amongst Seafarers

Well, you must be thinking that is bizarre. Seafarers don’t have superstitions. Do they? Yes, they do. Actually, they have more superstitions than us common people. And these seafaring superstitions took birth in ancient times when the risk at sea was too high and the peril much. But still seafarers incurred the risk for glory and recognition, going on an unknown journey to an unknown region. Even today, when technology has succeeded to a great extent, we cannot totally rely on it. We tend to believe in some supernatural power to save us from the unknown wrath that may descend upon us. Seafarers are no exceptions, rather superstitions and beliefs are attached to the very existence of human species. However, let’s take a look on the most common seafaring superstitions.

  1. A woman on board– a complete no-no! – Believe it or not, but having a woman on board is regarded as bad luck. Despite the stories of sailors associated with woman, many seafarers strongly believe this superstition. Women symbolized distraction and aroused jealousy among sailors! In many stories, we have heard mermaids distracting sailors into the dark corners of the ocean.
  2. No whistling! – Yes, you heard that right. Whistling while sailing is not allowed. It is a strict no no for all seafarers. It is said that whistling tempts Poseidon – The God of the Sea. Another myth says that whistling tends to strengthen winds.
  3. No bananas– Weird it may sound, but you cannot take bananas on board. Though in this modern era, it does not apply that much. However, previously bananas were regarded as bad luck. This superstition might have started after a ship carrying bananas disappeared between Spain and Caribbean during the 70s.
  4. Sky colour–Seafarers have different myths regarding sky colors too. Red sky in the night i.e. a red sunset indicates a calm day to come whereas a red sunrise indicates rain and bad weather. So, look up!
  5. Dolphins and Sharks– Everyone knows Dolphins are great friends of ours. So if a dolphin swims with the ship, it is treated as good luck while a shark swimming with the ship is treated as bad luck.
  6. Forbidden words– Words have always played a vital role in satisfying different superstitions. Many words are prohibited on board like ‘good bye,’ ‘drown’ etc. Again, Seafarers are not allowed to utter the word ‘good luck’ as it is considered to bring bad luck to the ship. And the only way to reverse such bad luck was to draw blood by a swift punch.
  7. No noose! – Ropes are widely used in ships as they form very essential part of the journey. However, while tying Ropes, Sea surfers never form a noose as it indicates bad luck to the ship.
  8. Red head! – If you encounter a red head i.e. a person with red hair en-route to your ship, talk to them before they can talk to you. Otherwise, it will be treated as a sign to a disastrous journey ahead.
  9. Don’t Shave– Shaving, cutting hair and trimming nails are regarded as extremely bad luck. These cuts are referred to as offering to Proserpina, and you don’t want to make Neptune jealous.
  10. Earrings and Tattoos– Earrings and tattoos are regarded as good luck on board. So Seafarers often wear earrings or get tattoos.

Oceans are massive with deep secrets and dark corners which have not been discovered yet. Hence, don’t be alarmed at the presence of seafaring superstitions. Just accept them for what they are i.e. superstitions and enjoy your life at sea.

If you encounter any problems and want help, rather than relying on seafaring superstitions, contact one of the organizations that support seafarers.

If you are a sailor or a sailor’s spouse and have a story, pictures, video, or article that you would like to share with the world, email us at submissions@maritimeolympiad.com. For any information, feedback, queries or suggestions feel free to email us at info@maritimeolympiad.com.

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Subharthi Bhattacharya

Hey, Subharthi here! Currently pursuing B.A. LL.B. from Calcutta University and raising my heels for more. Passionate photographer. Logical outside and creative inside – A great combo. Love to play with words. And a writer, occasionally!

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