Let Me Remind You… about a sailor’s superstitions
Back in the days when world trade involved travelling across the seas in a ship powered by sails and the God-given wind, there was not a lot the men could control aboard. If the wind died, they were stuck until another gust; if disease plagued the ship, there was nothing they could do until they reached the next port– short from throwing the sick overboard.
Naturally, when humans can’t explain a reason for their misfortune, they will come up with another, outside explanation or accusation. Before science and reason were a mental commodity, superstition wasn’t ruled out, instead it was widely accepted.
If you were a sailor on one of these ships, you may step on the boat with your right foot first, you wouldn’t use words like “good-bye” or “good-luck”; you wouldn’t whistle for fear of stirring up the wind and causing a storm, and if you had red hair you may not even be allowed onboard.
Some more superstitions included:
In the 1700’s, when bananas were more widely traded throughout the Caribbean and beyond, they quickly became a problem for many reasons. Fisherman, especially labelled them as bad luck.
The boats that carried bananas had to move quickly because of their spoilage rate, but the fast speed of the boat prevented the men from good fishing.
Bananas also let off a gas called ethylene, which caused fruit stored with them to spoil faster (This is why they say to put unripe avocados in a paper bag with bananas). It also creates a perfect hiding spot for snakes and tarantulas, which could find their way into cozy little spots on the ship.
When the banana trade was booming, many of the sunken ships were banana boats, and while the ship sunk, the bananas floated, which lead people to blame the bananas.
No Women Onboard
If you were a woman and lucky enough to even be aboard a ship, you would have to pray for a good trip and be looking over your shoulder if there wasn’t. There’s record of a ship during the middle ages that was carrying multiple women. When they found themselves in bad weather, the men started chucking the women overboard in the middle of the ocean to uphold their superstition.
There’s a few reasons why women were considered bad luck. Aside from their mere presence angering the ocean gods *insert eye roll*, the ship was usually considered a “she/her” and a woman onboard was said to make her angry or jealous.
It’s very plausible that the women could also distract the men or cause jealousy between them, which would prevent them from doing their jobs properly.
But, it’s good luck to have a woman bare her chest to the sea…
You’ve seen the well-endowed maidenhead, a women’s torso, placed along the bow of a boat, usually they’re ½-naked for this reason. Much like men, when the ocean was presented with the sight of boobs, it became placated and calm, almost tranquilized, one might say.
Don’t Change The Name
Once a boat was named and christened, it was said to have a personality of its own. A skilled sailor would know exactly how to handle the ship; how it moved and how different conditions may affect it. Changing the name may create problems and anger the boat.
Some sailors of the old days thought that a boat’s name change would trick the gods of the sea and anger them.
More likely is that the boat and crew would have a reputation in each port, and showing up to the port with a new name might look suspicious, maybe like a criminal trying to create a new identity.
Today, many people will change a boat’s name. Sometimes, if they’re superstitious, they will have a de-naming ceremony with a tradition that includes something like tossing a plaque or paper with the old name into the sea and popping a bottle of champagne, offering some to the sea-Gods.
Don’t depart on a….
Friday, Thursday, 1st Monday in April, 2nd week in August… There were many days sailors were suspicious of leaving on. Friday for example, was the day Jesus was born. In respect to him, they stayed put. Thursday was the day of Thor, who was the god of thunder and storms. Many days had meanings behind them like this. In fact, I’m not sure what days they could sail.
Take Care Of The Cat.
It was good fortune in a sense to keep a cat aboard as they are natural rodent killers. It was supposedly a good omen if the cat would approach you. Wives would sometimes even keep a black cat at home as protection for their husbands at sea. The cat was so trusted, if it did certain things, it could mean foreboding weather. For example, if it sneezed it meant rain; if it licked it hair against the grain, it meant a hailstorm.
So next time you’re on a boat, make sure you listen to the captain and heed the warnings, so you don’t get tossed off the side in the middle of your journey.
Kristina Moore is there author of The Pecan Trees novel, available on Amazon.