LM: ” If your ears or nose are itchy, that means that someone is talking about you. If they are hot, then they are talking ill towards you. I remember both my mother and my grandmother telling me this. My grandmother was from Russia, and she always told me it was a Russian superstition, which meant it was true. I don’t really remember if anyone outside of my family said this, but I know I always told it to my children.”
I was told this superstition by my grandmother, LM. She is 83 years old and lives in California. She is of Russian decent, and this superstition she says is Russian. I remember her telling me this on numerous occasions growing up, usually when I said I was itchy, or specifically my nose/ears were itchy. She shared this information with me in an over the phone interview.
This is a superstition that has been passed along through each generation of the family. When my informant learned about this superstition it was presented to her as fact, and she believes it to this day, even if it has no logical or scientific reasoning. Usually, superstitions like this are believed without any proof, especially if many people within the culture believe it or it was taught to them while a person was a child. Superstitions are often even subconscious beliefs, like avoiding walking under ladders. Usually there is some supernatural or spiritual component that grants good or bad luck. That is not the case here, but in other iterations of this superstition, the person with itchy will have good luck if they can guess who is talking about them right. However, this is not the version that LM learned or believes. This superstition has a lot of multiplicity and variation amongst the various cultures that it is found in. It is also interesting that LM’s grandmother believes that only Russian superstitions are true, whereas other culture’s superstitions are silly or false. Often, the cultural specificity of a superstition or folk belief plays a significant role in a person’s willingness to believe in the superstition or not. Because the superstition is “Russian,” LM’s grandmother believes it because it connects her to her culture, even if the superstition did not originate in Russia.