Sunday, May 10, 2015

Maritime Superstitions, Part ll

Here are more beliefs that are considered to bring ships bad or good luck.

In the 1700s during the height of the South Atlantic and Caribbean trading empire, an interesting superstition at sea began. Bananas were considered a bad omen that brought bad luck.

The reason for this is many ships carrying cargos of bananas during this time had more deaths on board. This was especially true onboard ships that carried African slaves.

The reason for these deaths was twofold. Bananas being cargo were kept in the hold--African slaves were also kept in the hold. Fermented bananas give off a methane gas that became trapped below deck.

Everyone who was in the hold would succumb to this poisonous air. Others that went below deck to help would also die.

The second reason was a species of lethal poisonous spider that was found in bunches of bananas. If these spiders bit humans, they died.

This is why a maritime superstition was connected to bananas. This superstition evolved into a belief that if a sailor brought a banana on board, no fish would be caught.

There are also many superstitions that surround preparations for a sea voyage.

It was believed that a stolen piece of wood embedded into the keel of the ship would bring good luck and help the vessel sail faster. 

Often a silver coin was placed under the masthead to ensure a successful voyage.

A horseshoe was often nailed to a mast to bring good luck to a ship. 

But flowers were never allowed aboard because it was believed since they were connected to funerals they brought death.

Sailors warned others not to wish them “good luck” before they set sail--it was considered a bad omen. If this was mistakenly done, the sailor had to draw blood to avoid bad luck. This was most often accomplished by punching someone in the nose.

Sailors would step onto a ship always with their right foot. 

They would offer wine to the gods before they set off. Today sailors pour a liberal amount of wine right onto the deck.

Once their ship sailed, sailors would not look back. If they looked back, it was believed they were sending a message they were not prepared to begin the journey. It was said this attracted bad luck.

Other superstitious beliefs include: sailors would never to trim hair, shave off their beards or cut their nails at sea, for it was said this angered Neptune, the god of the sea and water.

While underway a sailor would never wear a deceased sailors clothing this was considered terrible luck.

Also while at sea a sailor would never say the number “13” instead they would say 12+1. Other words, a sailor would never utter were “drown” or “pig.”

Losing a bucket overboard, or seeing rats leave a ship were considered bad omens. Flat-footed and cross-eyed people were said to bring a craft terrible luck.

It was also considered bad luck to change a ships name. 

Sailors that had beards or tattoos were said to bring good luck to ships.

A dire superstition involved sailors that fell overboard. They often were not even thrown a rope. This was because sailors believed this man’s death was preordained--meaning, “What the sea wants, the sea will have.”

It was also viewed as an opportune sacrifice. Ancient sailors felt the gods would appreciate this sacrifice and therefore would not take another life from their ship.

In Part l Maritime Superstitions, more beliefs are shared.

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