13 Super-Polish Superstitions
#lifestyle & opinion
small, 13 Super-Polish Superstitions, A still from the TV series ‘Four Tank-Men and a Dog’, directed by Konrad Nałęcki, 1966. In the image, you can see the tactical number of the tank refe, 102_czolg_fn.jpg
You’ve heard of international superstitions like ‘don’t walk under a ladder’, but how about some exclusive to Poland? The 13 super-Polish beliefs presented here include why you shouldn’t count pierogi while they’re still cooking, what you need to say to dwarves when you can’t find something – and why you have to watch out for the number seven...
Before we start off, something needs to be made clear: it’s quite hard to be absolutely certain whether a given superstition is native to a particular country – mostly because of the sheer volume of superstitions out there. Still, Culture.pl did its best and came up with this list of 13 (!).
Lucky number 102
In Poland, like in many other countries, the number 13 is usually considered unlucky. How about lucky numbers? Everybody has their own, of course, but in Poland, the number 102 is supposed to be especially lucky. The reason for 102 being held in such high regard is shrouded in mystery, but since reasoning isn’t the most important when it comes to superstitions, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. You can use 102 as a good luck charm, or you can describe something positive with it, for example: ‘Będzie impreza na sto dwa!’ – ‘It’s going to be a 102 party!’
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Don’t count the pierogi
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Pierogi being cooked in a pot, photo: Studio Lipov / East News
Speaking of numbers, remember never to count the pierogi while they’re still boiling! Should one irresponsibly count the dumplings while they’re still in the pot, without a doubt, half of them will end up stuck to the bottom of the pot or torn, letting all their yummy insides out.
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Interestingly, this is one of the very few cases when a superstition does seem quite rational, as indeed, usually one or two pierogi from the batch tend to end up ruined. So, by not counting the pierogi before they’re ready, you may be saving yourself the disappointment of getting less of their stuffed goodness than you were hoping for.
Don’t sit down when baking a cake
Here’s another culinary superstition: when a cake is in the oven, you should never sit down. If you do, the cake will ‘sit down’ as well: it will sink and come out flat, rather than nice and fluffy.
Can’t find something? Ask the dwarves
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A still from the movie Ryś directed by Stanisław Rózewicz, 1981, photo: Polfilm / East News
If you happen to be baking a cake at home and you misplace the mixer, don’t worry – there’s an easy way of finding it. Actually, this method applies to all things lost at home, so it’s sure to come in handy. Just step out of the room where the loss occurred, close the door behind you and in a loud voice, through the sealed doorway, tell the dwarves (they’re there, you just can’t see them): ‘Play and put away’. The missing item is bound to pop up!
Where there’s a squirrel, there’s smoke
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A fiery-red squirrel, photo: Andrzej Grygiel / PAP
Another superstition linked to homes says that a squirrel on a roof is a harbinger of fire. So, if you notice one of those adorable little creatures on top of your house, don’t hesitate: call the fire department immediately, and explain the gravity of the situation. Surely, the dispatcher will understand that a squirrel poses a dire safety hazard and will hastily send out a team of the finest firemen to the rescue.
A chimney sweep, a priest & a white horse
To not stray too far away from the topic of roofs, encountering a chimney sweep is said to bring good luck in many cultures. In Poland, however, for the superstition to work, you need them to ‘confirm’ the good luck by grabbing one of your buttons.
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But there is another variation of this popular belief which is super Polish. This immensely powerful and rare superstition has been unearthed by Culture.pl’s keenest investigative reporters from the deepest arcana of esoteric lore… Are you ready? There’s nothing better than seeing a chimney sweep, a priest and a white horse in a row. That combination is the best omen of them all. Keep an eye out!
Unlucky theatrical play
Just like the chimney sweep superstition, the conviction that a particular theatrical play may be unlucky to the cast isn’t specifically Polish. But there is a variation of this international belief that’s more or less limited to Poland’s theatre scene.
The Polish play that’s most prone to send chills down the spines of superstitious actors is Mazepa by one of Poland’s most important Romantic poets, Juliusz Słowacki. In this drama set in the second half of the 17th century, sometimes described as a story about ‘blind envy’, a coffin appears on stage. The appearance of a casket during a performance is apparently rather unsettling to some Polish actors, and that’s why Mazepa is considered unlucky.
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Fall in love in May
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A still from the movie ‘With Fire And Sword’, directed by Jerzy Hoffman, 1999. In the image: Zagłoba & Bohun
Another well-known Polish piece of writing, the historical novel With Fire and Sword by the Nobel Prize-winner Henryk Sienkiewicz, is linked to an entirely different superstition – namely, that people born in May are prone to falling in love easily. In the story, set in the 17th century during a Polish-Cossack conflict, you find the following words spoken by Zagłoba to Bohun:
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You must’ve been born in May – that’s Venus’ month, a time when there’s so much delight that even wood chips start feeling for one another, whereas people born in this month carry in their bones an interest in dames greater than others.
Marry in an ‘r’ month
Falling in love sometimes leads to marriage. If you’re planning a wedding, be sure to set the date in a month that has the letter ‘r’ in its Polish name. A wedding that takes place in such a month is supposed to be blessed with good luck. You can therefore choose between: marzec (March), czerwiec (June), sierpień (August), wrzesień (September), październik (October) and grudzień (December).
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The superstition is said to be of French origin, but the French list of ‘r months’ is quite different. For instance, it includes January (janvier) and April (avril). To the average Pole, these two months aren’t particularly lucky for weddings, as they are ‘r-less’: January being styczeń and April kwiecień.
A happy marriage tree
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A linden in the Bieszczady mountains, photo: Marek Kosiński / Forum
Shortly after the wedding, its best to plant a linden tree together with your new spouse. Should the two of you, knock on wood, have an argument, a chat under the tree you planted together will help you reconcile.
Where mullein grows, the maiden with no dowry goes
This splendid Polish saying: ‘Gdzie rośnie dziewanna, tam bez posagu panna’ points to another superstition linked to plants, one that ought to be of exceptional interest to all you eligible bachelors out there. Take heed of any mullein growing near a maiden’s place of residence. Its presence is clear evidence that the fair lady has no dowry!
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This one is about wealth again. In Poland, if you find a coin on the street, it’s considered good luck. But before you put the precious discovery into your wallet, you have to blow on it. That way, the coin will work for your benefit, not its prior owner’s. This superstition is said to be a distant echo of the old custom of blowing on a deceased person’s lips in order to support their soul.
Beware of number 7
The morbid belief that the number 7 is dangerous stems from the resemblance of the number’s shape to a scythe, a well-known attribute of the grim reaper – the personification of death.
Written by Marek Kępa, Nov 2017