Interviewer: I know you ain’t very fond of passing the salt shaker when eating without putting it on the table first. Why is that?
Informant: Well, there’s a little bit more that goes into it than just not wanting to pass the salt. I do believe luck is real, and it’s something that can be affected by other people. I feel that when someone hands the shaker directly to you, it could pass their bad luck or bad energy to you… or you could end up fighting(arguing) with that person in the future. That doesn’t worry me too much, because I don’t really get into fights with people often. However, since I play golf, I understand that sometimes luck can be the difference between a birdie or landing in a sand trap. There are also events in life that you’ll only experience if you luck out or, in some cases, have terrible luck… So I don’t hand someone the salt shaker directly because I don’t want to take any chances.
Interviewer: And are there other people that share this belief?
Informant: My mother used to believe the same, and my sister also believes that passing the salt can be bad luck. My husband doesn’t really like the idea of superstition, he’s a very religious man.
Interviewer: And is there anything you can do if you accidentally hand someone the salt shaker?
Informant: Yes, you quickly shake some salt in your hand and toss it over your shoulders. It’s a way of putting the bad luck “behind you,” so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. But I think it’s better not to come across the bad luck at all if possible.
Although I don’t know how widespread this particular belief is, I do have my theories as to how it came to be originated. The belief in luck is quite popular, but I think this specific case stems from a certain expression in Spanish (Mexico): “Echar la sal” (lit. to throw salt on something), which usually means to predispose something to failure, to “jinx it,” or to outright ruin it. I think it’s very possible the expression influenced and birthed this superstition.