Суеверия Великобритании и России

XI Международный конкурс научно-исследовательских и творческих работ учащихся
Старт в науке

Суеверия Великобритании и России

Яковлев А.Д. 1
1МБОУ "Омская СОШ"
Яковлева Е.А. 1Дрофа С.Ю. 2
1МБОУ "Омская СОШ"
2ФГБОУ ВО "Омский государственный университет путей сообщения"
Автор работы награжден дипломом победителя III степени
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My strong desire to protect myself and my family and a great curiosity to the unknown power has brought me to the topic of superstitions in our world. In the modern century of technology and progress lots of people continue to believe in them. In my opinion, this work will interest many people because today we can visit Great Britain for travelling and study, so knowledge of British superstitions will help us to understand the life of British people and avoid some misunderstandings. What is more, this work will concern those pupils who are interested in the English language and British traditions.

The object of research is superstitions.

The subject is the most popular British and Russian superstitions.

The aim of my work is to find out the similarities or differences between British and Russian superstitions.

The goals are to find, study, analyze and compare information about British and Russian superstitions.

As there is a close connection among different countries and cultures nowadays, my hypothesis is superstitions in Britain and in Russia are similar.

To prove my hypothesis I used the following research methods:

searching the information




1.1. According to the Oxford dictionary the definition of the word ‘superstition’ is the following: “the belief that particular events happen in a way that cannot be explained by reason or science; the belief that particular events bring good or bad luck” [6]. The Cambridge dictionary defines this word as “the belief that particular actions or objects are lucky or unlucky” [4]. So a superstition is a belief in something that is non-physical and does not follow the rules of science. It is a mystery why people don't pay attention to facts and still believe in superstitions. Superstition is often associated with good or bad luck. Different superstitions often came from beliefs, religions and cultures had in the past. The Superstitions are reflected in culture of society.

Scientists cannot give a clear answer why people believe in superstitions. Some people want to be sure in future events, others are not certain and signs help to find them their confidence. For some people the cause is in the stories of their friends and relatives about the influence of superstitions on somebody’s life. Professor Stella Mc Guaira from London University made a research. She asked 5000 people and made an interesting conclusion: superstitious people live longer. Among the respondents, 97% older 90 and 93% older 80 years are strongly believe in superstitions [5]. So this belief allows a person to think carefully about his own actions, prepare for a possible failure and protect him from stress.

Irrational as they may be, we all have a superstition or two. Whether it's a black cat or Friday the 13th, superstitions are important to us because they give meaning to the nature of luck and put us in the driving seat of our destiny. Here we run through the surprising cultural histories behind some of the world's most common supernatural beliefs. Many superstitions are based on some human traits that cause us to believe in monsters and ghosts [1]. When our mind cannot explain something, we invent something. In fact, a 2010 study found that superstitions can sometimes work [3], because believing in something can improve performance on a task.  In a series of experiments employing tasks involving memory and motor skills, the scientists studied the effect of behavior and "object superstitions" – which rely on good luck charms – in college students. As the study showed, superstitious beliefs may also increase people’s confidence in his or her own abilities and talents. For example, the fact that charms promote good luck, or protect you from bad luck [2].

1.2. Each superstition has its own history. These are some popularBritish superstitions and their origins.

Opening an umbrella inside.

You may have noticed that it rains a lot in the UK and Ireland! So carrying an Umbrella with you at all times becomes a necessity. However, make sure to never open your Umbrella inside, as this is said that bad luck with 'rain down' on you. This superstition has lots of history to it, dating back to ancient Egypt when peacock feathers and papyrus was used to protect people from the sun. Opening them when indoors would be seen as an insult to the sun deity 'Ra' and mean you would be cursed. Later, in the Victorian era, umbrellas were constructed with steel spokes and opening one indoors could cause injury or eye loss. Nowadays, we still think that opening an umbrella inside is unlucky.

Getting pooed on by a bird.

Although it may seem unlucky, getting pooed on by a bird in Britain is deemed good luck! Good news for those studying at BSC Brighton, our school located by the coast, which has an abundance of seagulls! Even though there are many birds in the sky, it's supposedly more rare to be pooed on by one than it is to win the lottery. That's why, if you are one of the 'lucky' ones who gets pooed on, it comes as a surprise and is deemed very lucky. It's also a good belief to make good of a bad situation, so we're big fans of this one!

Breaking a mirror.

Another one with an ancient history here! Some people believe that breaking a mirror is meant to give you 7 years bad luck. This harks back to the Roman times, when they believed that mirrors were a portal to the soul, and breaking one would damage the soul, which couldn't be amended until life renewed itself, which was believed to be every seven years.

Touching wood.

Ancient Celts believe that good spirits lived in wood. So when they touched the wood, they got the help of good spirits.

Seeing a magpies.

You may have heard the rhyme "One for sorrow, two for joy..." when someone sees a Magpie. These black and white birds can signify good, or bad, luck depending on how many you see. Magpies have been associated with death, so seeing a lone Magpie is said to bring sorrow to your life. Seeing two, however, will bring luck! Although the rhyme does continue up to ten, it is most commonly used when seeing one or two.

Putting new shoes on the table.

While some of these superstitions may be common across the World, the stigma around putting new shoes on the table seems to be distinctly British! Believed to originate from the North of England, this superstition is related to the coal mining industry. When a miner died, their family would place their shoes on the table as a tribute. Therefore, placing shoes on the table was seen to be tempting fate.

Being afraid of the number 13.

The number thirteen is seen as an unlucky number by many. It is said that this superstition originated in Christian beliefs from the Bible. At the Last Supper, Judas, who betrayed Jesus, is thought to have been the 13th guest to sit down. Similarly, Jesus’ crucifixion was on Good Friday, hence the origin of Friday 13th being extremely unlucky!

Walking under a ladder.

Another ancient superstition is the fear or avoidance of walking under ladders. In medieval times, people believed a ladder leaning against a wall resembled the gallows, where they used to hang people condemned to death. Therefore, if someone walked underneath a ladder, it was believed that they, too, would die at the gallows.

Coming across a black cat.

The folklore or superstitions surrounding black cats varies from country to country. Black cats are generally believed to be bad luck because of their association with demons and witches as they were often believed to be symbols of evil omens. However, in the United Kingdom if a black cat walks towards you it is thought to bring good luck and if it walks away it is thought to take its good luck with it.

Finding a four-leafed clover.

Thought to bring good luck in a number of English speaking countries, the four-leafed clover is a symbol of luck and good fortune around the world. A simple explanation for their lucky reputation is that they are extremely hard to find (it is thought there are 10, 000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leafed one).

1.3. All those British superstitions that are described above have their parallels in Russian culture. I have found the superstitions in my country, analyzed them and compared. Here are the common Russian equivalents [7].

Russia lacks some of the superstitions Westerners find commonplace. Most Russians are not particularly concerned with opening umbrellas indoors or walking under ladders. However in Russia there is belief that if it is raining when you leave a place, it means you will return, and it is considered a generally good omen. Or if someone whistles inside a house, they will become financially irresponsible and lose money.Moreover, if it rains on someone's wedding, it means they'll be wealthy.

In Russia similar to Britain there is a superstition if one or more birds defecate on you or your property (commonly cars), it is good luck, and may bring you wealth.Knocking on wood is practiced in Russia as in other countries. However Russians tend to add a symbolic three spits over one's left shoulder (or simply with the head turned to the left), and Russians will often knock three times as well. Traditionally one was spitting on the devil (who is always on the left).

Breaking a mirror is considered bad luck in Russia like in Britain. And looking at one's reflection in a broken mirror as well. But the effect is also more severe than 7 years of bad luck (as in British culture). It is considered taboo to give something that is broken or has a defect as a gift. However in our country accidentally breaking a glass is considered good luck.

Of course as in many cultures, a black cat crossing your path causes you bad luck. People will often avoid crossing the place where it crossed, or will at least wait for someone else to cross it first. Sometimes people find the button on their clothes, touch it and bravely cross the place with a black cat.

As for finding a four-leafed clover, I have found only the superstition in Russian culture if you find a bay leaf in your soup while eating, it means you will get mail from someone.


So I have analyzed many English and Russian superstitions and got these results:

1. I have researched many British superstitions, found the most common ones. Also read about the origins and history of them, made the comparison and analysis. The current levels of superstitious behavior and beliefs in Great Britain and in Russia are surprisingly high, even among those with a scientific background. Superstitious people tend to worry about life, have a strong need for control. People who tend to worry about life are far more superstitious than others – 50% of worriers were very superstitious, compared to just 24% of non-worriers.

2. In my work I have found out the similarities and differences between British and Russian superstitions. There is a close connection among different countries and cultures nowadays. The majority of the British superstitions have their analogues in the Russian culture. For example, a black cat, touch wood, breaking a mirror or getting pooed on by a bird. However there are those which are different, such as putting new shoes on the table or opening an umbrella inside .

I think the goals to find, study, analyze and compare information about British and Russian superstitions are gained. I am satisfied with the results of my work, my hypothesis is proved.


1. Mathews B. Customs, traditions and superstitions in Great Britain, Prosweshenie, 2005.

2. The Nature of Superstition/J. Brewton Berry/The Ohio Sociologist/Vol. 3, No. 3 

3. https://www.livescience.com/8392-superstitions-bring-real-luck-study-reveals.html




7. http://paganism.msk.ru/primety/prim06.htm


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