Superstitious as a Seafarer

August 8, 2013   Seafaring has always been one of the world’s most dangerous occupations, and throughout history sailors have searched to find the cause or underlying reason for accidents or disasters. This has given rise to popular superstitions that have continued through today. The popular expression “knock on wood” is based  on seafarers pounding the hull of the boat to test for rotten wood, since a solid hull “thumps” a good solid sound and a rotten hull thumps a dull thud. So, with a pending multi-month voyage ahead, seafarers wanted to be sure they were on a “sound” and ship shape vessel. A good, sound, stout vessel was just the start of insuring the good fortune, there were many other superstitions to heed........   Bad Luck Naming a ship after an engaged woman, which will make the ship jealous Changing the name of a vessel without the proper ceremony Cutting one’s hair, beard or nails at sea Whistling into the wind could summon up bad weather, or “whistle up a storm” Sighting a shark behind the ship, a sign of inevitable death Having women or redheads aboard, both of which could distract the crew Starting a voyage on a Friday or the first Monday in April Bringing bananas on board Saying the words “drown” or “goodbye” or “good luck” on a ship   Good luck Christening a ship for protection as it embarked upon the vast and mysterious sea Having a woman as a figurehead at the bow to provide guidance and calm seas Getting tattoos to ward off evil or gold piercings to bring good fortune Having a cat on board (probably because it could kill disease-carrying mice and rats) Spitting into the ocean prior to setting sail or casting coins into the sea as a toll to King Neptune Nailing a horseshoe to the mast to turn away storms Sighting seabirds, which were believed to possess the souls of dead sailors   .      

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