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Lesson Transcript

Oksana: Hello, and welcome back to the RussianPOD101.com, the fastest, easiest and most fun way to learn Russian! I'm joined in the studio by...
Eddie: Hello everyone. Eddie here.This is All about, Lesson 14. In this lesson we gonna talk about Russian Superstitions. I think it’s safe to say that every culture has its superstitions.
Oksana: Yes I agree. These range from widely known sayings that have lasted through generations and history, to lesser known folklore known within smaller communities and families.
Eddie: Yes, my Great Aunt Mildren used to say that if you eat cabbage on the second Tuesday in October, you’ll forever have good luck!
Oksana: You just made that up didn’t you?!
Eddie: Maybe!
Oksana: Aside from Eddie’s very dubious family stories, this lesson will concentrate on well known Russian superstitions that will be very useful for you to know as part of your Russian learning.
Eddie: Yes, this is true whether you plan to visit Russia or even if you have any Russian friends.
Oksana: So, Eddie, do you get worried if a black cat crosses your path, or if your hotel room number is 13?
Eddie: Not the black cat, but I must admit I may think about the unlucky aspect of the hotel room number though it wouldn’t stop me staying there.
Oksana: Right. Well, many Russians would be greatly affected by these things!
Eddie: Yes that’s very true. If you haven’t visited Russia yet, you might be surprised to learn that superstition in Russia plays a much greater role than in the West.
Oksana: It affects all ages so isn’t related just to the older generation. Even young, highly educated Russian people sometimes believe most weird things, and even if they don’t believe them they still pay lip service to them.
Eddie: It’s just part of the culture and simply a way of life.
Oksana: Yes, it isn’t like people obsess over superstitions, it’s just habits and the way some things are done.
Eddie: Superstitions are so deeply imbedded in Russian culture that ignoring them can be considered bad manners, so if you don’t want to commit a social blunder, you should at the very least be aware of them.
Oksana: So sit back and let’s learn about them as it’ll be really good to know and have an awareness of them.
Eddie: Yes, as you’re learning Russian, you’ll be speaking with Russians so it’s important to learn about what makes them tick!
Oksana: OK, what shall we start with?
Eddie: Well, if you are invited to a Russian friend’s house, one of the worst things you can do is start whistling!
Oksana: It’s believed that if someone whistles in a house, the host will lose all his money!
Eddie: So, lesson number one, keep those lips sealed! Keep your whistling to the outdoors!
Oksana: Do you whistle Eddie?
Eddie: Never in a Russian house!
Oksana: Next is about when you visit someone.
Eddie: Like knock on the door?
Oksana: When you knock on the door and your host opens the entrance door, don’t rush to shake his hand, wait till you are in.
Eddie: Yes, that’s because Russians believe that if two people shake hands over the doorstep, they will eventually quarrel.
Oksana: True, wait to be invited in first, then go in before shaking hands.
Eddie: Did you know that Vampires can’t come into your home unless you invite them in?
Oksana: I had heard that actually yes, and that would be relevant if this was a podcast about Vampires or strange facts known by Eddie!
Eddie: We should do that!
Oksana: No we shouldn’t.
Eddie: Oh well. Next is very interesting and I don’t think it is known in the West.
Oksana: If you buy a knife for a Russian friend, ask them to give you a coin in exchange.
Eddie: A knife, which is associated with violence, shouldn’t be “offered” but only “sold”.
Oksana: That’s quite interesting.
Eddie: Yes I wonder how that came about.
Oksana: I wonder that about most superstitions.
Eddie: I know, many must have been known for hundreds of years.
Oksana: Talking of gifts, if you give a wallet as a gift, you should put a coin inside, it is believed that this will attract other coins so that the new owner will be very lucky financially!
Eddie: Great! Coincidentally, it’s my birthday next week and I really need a wallet.
Oksana: Good luck with that!
Eddie: What about black cats? Everybody has a superstition about black cats right?
Oksana: You got it, especially Russians. Black cats are taken very seriously in Russia. If a black cat crosses the road in front of your car, it isn’t uncommon to turn round and take another route to your destination, or, if it’s impossible, stop and wait for another car to pass.
Eddie: Yes, because if you let this happen, it’s the driver of the other car that will have bad luck! Let’s hope it doesn’t happen on a quiet road, you could be there for hours!
Oksana: It’s not all bad about cats.
Eddie: Good I’m glad, cats are great.
Oksana: Absolutely, in Russia cats can bring good luck too. If you move into a new house, bring a cat with you.
Eddie: What if you don’t have a cat?
Oksana: Borrow one!
Eddie: What do you mean “borrow one?”. Hello dear neighbour, can I borrow your cat to show them around my new home?
Oksana: What’s wrong with that? It’s believed lucky if a cat crosses the threshold of a new house before everyone else does.
Eddie: Oh! I better get a cat then!
Oksana: Talking of your home, if you go out and realize you forgot something at home...
Eddie: Happens to me all the time!
Oksana: ... it’s better not to go back there.
Eddie: No?
Oksana: Not if you can help it. However, if you have no choice, you should look in the mirror before leaving again.
Eddie: The mirror? What will that do?
Oksana: That will stop you from having bad luck.
Eddie: Well, I’ve already forgotten something in the first place, what else could go wrong?
Oksana: A lot!
Eddie: True. Put a mirror by the front door.
Oksana: That’s a good idea anyway, check your look before going out. There are quite a few Russian superstitions about mirrors.
Eddie: I can imagine actually, I think there are in many countries.
Oksana: Breaking a mirror is considered very bad, it means there will be a death in the household (others say seven years of bad luck).
Eddie: Wow, I’ve heard of seven years bad luck, but not about the death. How morbid.
Oksana: And when someone dies in the family, all mirrors in the house are covered with sheets or curtains till after the funeral.
Eddie: Yes, there are a few explanations about this but probably the most common is that the soul of the deceased could get lost in the mirror and will stay in the house forever instead of departing.
Oksana: As well as mirrors, there are quite a few superstitions about dropping things too.
Eddie: Like in some Western countries, spilling salt is considered bad luck and you should throw some over your shoulder.
Oksana: Left shoulder isn’t it?
Eddie: Yes I think so.
Oksana: If you drop a knife, you’ll have a male guest.
Eddie: And what if you want a female guest?
Oksana: It isn’t about “wanting”, Eddie! But the answer is the dropping of a spoon!
Eddie: What about dropping and breaking things?
Oksana: Well surprisingly, the breaking of a dish or a glass is believed to bring happiness and sometimes people break glasses deliberately at weddings!
Eddie: Don’t they do that at Greek weddings or something too?
Oksana: That rings a bell. Actually and probably not surprisingly, there are a lot of superstitions that have something to do with weddings.
Eddie: Like if you have a Russian fiancée, don’t suggest getting married in May!
Oksana: Never ever do that! It’s believed that if you get married in May, you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your life!
Eddie: Where does that come from?
Oksana: Well it’s all because the word for the month of May which is “май” and Russian verb “маяться”, to suffer, both sound a little similar.
Eddie: That’s very unfortunate. Like in some Western countries, in Russia the groom shouldn’t see the bride’s dress before the wedding.
Oksana: And quite right too!
Eddie: It’s also considered bad to get married in a leap year.
Oksana: ... and not only get married! All bad things that happen during a leap year are explained away by the fact that leap years are generally unlucky.
Eddie: I’ll stay in bed next time then!
Oksana: For the whole year!
Eddie: Good point, maybe just at weekends then.
Oksana: Moving on from weddings and leap years. Students have their own superstitions, most of them about exams.
Eddie: That’s right. When a student is leaving for an exam, you should wish them, “Ни пуха, ни пера” which mean, “neither fluff, nor feather”.
Oksana: And when you say this they must reply “К чёрту!” meaning,“go to the devil!”
Eddie: Actually, it’s very important not to reply “thank you” instead of “go to the devil” or you are bound to fail.
Oksana: Students also sometimes ask their parents or friends to say bad things about them, “ругать” while they are taking an exam. It is believed to bring luck in exams!
Eddie: Goodness I’ve never heard of that one!
Oksana: Generally you should think twice before saying that something good will happen.
Eddie: Russians believe that being too optimistic about the future can make the luck go away. If you were thoughtless enough to utter something optimistic, you should at least make up for it by knocking on the wood or pretending to spit three times over your left shoulder.
Oksana: You can say “тьфу-тьфу не сглазить” at the same time, this is bound to impress your Russian friends!
Eddie: Make sure nobody is standing too close when pretending to spit!
Oksana: That will bring a whole new level of bad luck!
Eddie: OK, finally one of my favourite Russian superstitions. If someone is going on a trip, just before they leave, everyone in the house should sit down for a while. Putting aside the belief that it’s supposed to bring luck, preparations for a trip can be quite stressful. Sitting down for a moment helps everyone relax and it’s a way to say goodbye to each other in a calmer, stress free environment.
Oksana: Yes, that’s a good one and as you say, it’s nice too.
Eddie: So here we have covered all sorts of superstitions.
Oksana: Some may be familiar to you and some perhaps new.
Eddie: Make a note of them, especially ones that may affect an upcoming visit to Russia where you’ll be visiting people.
Oksana: They will not only appreciate your adherence to their way of thinking, but it’s good to respect other people’s customs and traditions. You’ll learn all about Russia with RussianPod101.com.
Eddie: Okay, before we go, we got an e-mail asking,
Oksana: Пока for now.
Eddie: Bye!

11 Comments

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RussianPod101.comVerified
Monday at 6:30 pm
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Are you superstitious?

RussianPod101.comVerified
Saturday at 9:49 am
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Hello Jet Sebus,


Thank you for sharing. ?


Elena

Team RussianPod101.com

Jet Sebus
Saturday at 8:38 pm
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In Holland we also have the custom that you five a coin back when you are offered a knife. A knife cuts off the friendship, we say. You should only sell a knife, no give one.

RussianPod101.comVerified
Sunday at 10:54 pm
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Hello Edwin,


It is a set phrase, so it is better to remember like it is. Probably it came from ancient times, when people were afraid to wish good luck directly because they believed they can fail with "direct wish". :wink:


Elena


Team RussianPod101.com

Edwin
Friday at 7:52 pm
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I'm really confused about the reply "К чёрту", on wishing a student the best when he/she is going to an exam. The reply implies that the person can go "f" himself, instead of appreciating his gesture. Does taking this kind of (pessimistic?) approach have to do with the superstion of not being too optimistic because interstingly, this approach also could result in the student to fail?

RussianPod101.comVerified
Tuesday at 3:39 pm
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Hello Lorren, really funny one. :smile:


Elena


Team RussianPod101.com

Lorren
Monday at 2:38 pm
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When I was at my grandma's funeral, one of my relatives said that someone in the family had told her that if you wore socks to bed, you'll get worms. I think that's the strangest superstition I have ever heard!

RussianPod101.comVerified
Monday at 11:08 pm
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Hello Rhona Hoggan,


Thank you for writing about Scotland. It was really interesting to know that some Russians signs are the same in other countries.


Elena

Team RussianPod101.com

Rhona Hoggan
Saturday at 8:44 am
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Some of these are familiar in Scotland, but not necessarily with the same explanations.


The giving of knives is not good - people give a coin in exchange. The explanation I got was that it's about the two people quarrelling). The one about the coin in a purse or wallet is the same.


The one about breaking mirrors is of 7 years bad luck.


Black cats are lucky here, not unlucky as in the USA. Dropping things is the same. Here it's actors who have superstitions about good luck. Some of these superstitions are the same - like not getting married in May. Maybe the same reason, more or less


Russians needn't worry about me whistling anywhere - I can't worth a whit! :smile:

RussianPod101.comVerified
Tuesday at 10:25 am
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Hello Carlos, yes, you are right. :smile:


Elena

Team RussianPod101.com

Carlos
Sunday at 10:05 am
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In pdf #2 and #4 are the exact same thing just a heads up


1. If a Russian friend invites you to their house, one of the worst things you can do is start

whistling! It's believed that if someone whistles in a house, the host will lose all his money!

2. If you give a wallet as a gift, you should put a coin inside, this will attract other coins and so

the new owner of the wallet will be financially lucky!

3. If you buy a knife as a gift for your Russian friend, ask them to give you a coin in exchange.

A knife, which is associated with violence, shouldn't be "offered" but only "sold."

4. If you give a wallet as a gift, you should put a coin inside, this will attract other coins and so

the new owner of the wallet will be financially lucky!