Passing Salt for Bad Luck

Context: Informant is speaking about superstitions and then proceeds to introduce the specific implications around salt.


[During a face-to-face conversation]

“There’s a lot of superstitions, it’s a lot of really like… like basic ones. But even in Mexico, even when I’m there, you DON’T walk under a ladder. NO shoes on the bed, no bags on the floor OR on the bed. No hats either. Um, umbrellas can be opened… and you can’t pass salt… Let’s say you want salt right? I can’t give it to you in your hand. I have to put it on the table and you pick it up.”

KA: And why’s… is there a reason why-

“It’s bad luck.”

KA: Okay.

“All of this is bad luck.”

KA: Okay, and do you know where this comes from, or is this just like… something that’s been there for a long time?

“It’s been there for a long time. Like we all do it. Um… and it’s taken very seriously.”

Introduction: This piece was introduced to the informant by their mother.

Analysis: I think there are many renditions of salt superstitions which can be found across cultures and this causes me to question what salt, in particular, symbolizes since there are so many beliefs, especially regarding back luck, surrounding it. Growing up, my mom always told me that if you knocked a salt shaker over, it was bad luck, and to undo that luck, one would have to toss the salt over their shoulder. As I got older, I was told it needed to be your left shoulder specifically by others who also had a version of this superstitious practice to reverse bad luck. To this day, I still participate in the tossing of the salt to avoid back luck and have seen more versions including this Mexican idea of not being able to pass salt.


For reference to another rendition of a salt superstition, refer to

Welsh, C. (2019, Jan 3). Spilling Salt. Retrieved from