12 February 2012

Are you triskaidekaphobic?


Peruvians certainly aren’t. Instead of Friday 13th, Peruvians are afraid of the dates Tuesday 13th and Sunday 7th. I have no idea why and locals I’ve asked haven’t been able to explain it.

They may not be afraid of Friday 13th, but Peruvians definitely are a superstitious people and here is just a sampling of the things they’re superstitious about:

Just as in many other countries, Peruvians won´t walk under ladders. This idea has always struck me as just plain sensible, rather than superstitious.

The idea of touching wood or knocking on wood is just the same.

Most shops and market stalls, many buses and various other places of business will have a bunch of the yellow-
flowering plant ruda (we know it as rue) in a vase (or, in the buses, in a cut-off plastic bottle, taped to the window near the driver). This is supposed to ensure that your business will prosper and you’ll make lots of money. At markets in the country towns, you often see stallholders holding the rue in their hands and tapping or touching their produce with the plant – for the same reason.
In a country of black-haired people, it is good luck for a child to have white hairs in amongst the black.

If they break a mirror, they do believe bad things will happen in the future, but not for 7 years.

There are variations on what happens if you see a black cat. Some people think this is good luck, others think it’s bad luck. Those who believe it’s bad luck will turn around 3 times to ward off the bad vibes that come their way when they see a black cat. Oh, and cats here are considered to have 7 lives, not 9 - something I only discovered recently when I saw this poster stuck to a lamp post.

If, when you leave the house in the morning, the first person you see is a man, you will have good luck that day. If the first person you see is a woman, you will have bad luck all day.

If you accidently spill salt, you have to pour water on the salt, otherwise you will cry very soon. This actually happened when I was at a cafe with a friend – the salt spilled, she poured water on it, and the waiter looked very pleased and relieved that she did so!

There are two solutions to the bad vibes associated with having a nightmare. The most simple is to turn over your pillow. The more complicated is to wear a piece of clothing inside out to counteract the bad omens of the dream.

When you receive presents, you must destroy the wrapping paper (e.g. burn it or, at least, throw it in the rubbish), then you’ll soon receive more presents. No recycling here!

Peruvians also believe in the good luck brought by horse-shoes, which must surely be something the Spanish introduced here, as Peru has no native horses. You can find horseshoes - usually one facing in each direction - on the floor at the entrance to restaurants, shops and buses.