If you drop salt you throw it over your left shoulder.

Jasmine learned this proverb from her mother and she said it was practiced by other members of her family. She is not quite sure of its origination or meaning. She said, “All I know is that it means bad luck if salt is dropped and not thrown over your shoulder”. This superstition would occur whenever you drop salt, whether it is in the kitchen, at a dining table, or out to eat, one is always supposed to throw it over your shoulder. Jasmine was not sure what shoulder one should throw it over, but she said that she usually throws it over her left shoulder. This superstition is also found in Western Folklore and 101 American Superstitions.

Because Jasmine new very little about the meaning and purpose behind throwing salt over her left shoulder, I decided to do a further investigation. I found out that throwing salt over your shoulder comes from biblical practices in early Christianity as well as Buddhist tradition. In the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 7 it mentions this proverb. Salt, during the biblical period was considered a valued commodity; it was expensive, crucial in preserving food, and was often used as a mode of currency. Therefore when one dropped salt it was almost considered to be a sacrilegious offense, and would then be left in the hands of the devil. Therefore, throwing the salt over one’s shoulder was a way of warding off the devil. The salt is either intended to blind the devil so he can’t witness your error, or keep him from sneaking up on you while you’re cleaning up your mess.

The reason behind throwing the salt over the left shoulder is because in many ancient traditions the devil is always seen to be placed to the left. For example, the classic image of a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other often shows the devil sitting on the left side. After looking at a Christian point of view I also found this superstition in Buddhist traditions as well. Buddhist also believe that throwing salt over one’s left shoulder is a way of repelling evil spirits. I am aware there are most likely many other various meanings of this proverb that I have not addressed in this analysis, however, knowing just these two helped me grasp a better understanding of why people considered dropped salt as bad luck.


Collis, Harry. 101 American Superstitions. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, 1998. 43-50.

Hines, Donald M. Superstitions from Oregon. Western Folklore, Vol. 24, No. 1. (Jan., 1965), pp. 7-20 (article consist of 14 pages). Western States Folklore Society.