Tag Archives: salt

Salt After Funeral

Description: After a funeral, people would put salt on themselves in order to keep spirits out of their home.

Background: The informant observed the ritual from his mother.


ML: My mom puts salt on herself before entering the house after a funeral.

Me: Is there a reason that your mom does that?

ML: I think it’s a japanese thing, it wards off spirits so they don’t enter your home. she sprinkles it on top of her head right before entering our house when she comes back. She tells us to leave the salt by the doorway when she goes to a funeral so she can just grab it and pour.

My thoughts:

In many traditions, salt is seen as a way to ward off spirits. While I do not know precisely why that is the case, I have a few theories. It might be tied to salt’s ability to preserve food, linking it to an ability to ward off death and decay. Of course, the entire concept of preventing evil spirits from entering your home is a staple in not just Japanese culture but Asian culture in general. Home is a sacred place because that is where we spend most of our time. Evil spirits can curse your house and give you family bad luck. So there are often rituals such as this to ward off and prevent bad spirits from entering the home. On the opposite side, there are also rituals, such as presenting offerings, to draw in good spirits to the home and create good fortune.

Bread and Salt for new homeowners

Main Piece:

What is the tradition?

“It’s Jewish tradition when someone has a new house to bring bread and salt. Actually, I don’t think that’s it’s a Jewish tradition, I think it’s just a housewarming tradition because that sounds very Christian, like bread for Jesus, and salt for demons… I don’t know (laughs). Bread is so… for you’ll never go hungry and salt is for you’ll always have flavor, and [jokingly] won’t die from lack of electrolytes. It’s become a thing amongst a lot of ethnic groups within the country.” 

Have you ever brought bread and salt as a housewarming gift?

“Yes! We brought some bread and some salt to, I don’t remember. Over the years, I’ve done it, maybe three times? A handful of times. Bring a thing of Morton’s salt and a loaf of bread, or maybe a sack of flour so it’s actually useful.”


The informant is my mother. She is was raised Conservative Jewish and has an Ashkenazi (Easter European) Jewish background. She has lived in America her entire life. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.


I found it interesting that my informant couldn’t identify which religion this practice came from, and then decided that it didn’t matter. This highlights how engrained this tradition is in American housewarming culture. I thought that my informant’s alteration of bread to flour was very utilitarian. I’ve seen other alterations of this tradition, like a Trader Joe’s body scrub set that features one salt scrub and one sugar, bur bread themed, scrub. This tradition has become such a norm that even large commercial producers are adopting a version of it they can sell as housewarming gifts.

Out of Salt, Out of Money


BR: “I have always lived by the saying, ‘Out of Salt, out of money.”


BR heard this for the first time when he got his first paycheck but remembers a similar saying from even before that. BR truly believes that you are never out of money until you have no salt. He always keeps salt around his house and has even given salt as a housewarming gift for people. BR believes that salt is a comfort level and it goes deeper than simply seasoning your food.

BR: “Salt gives both food and life flavor. When you run out, your life will go bland.”

My Interpretation:

I think this is a very interesting proverb and BR really touched upon its deeper meaning. This proverb lends an excellent insight into American life. Although you may be down, you are never truly desolate unless you have no salt. This gives people agency, as salt is the easiest thing to possess. Thus, if you possess this basic element of daily life, you have a shot.

Peruvian Folk Speech- Salar Tu/La Casa

Main Content:

M: Me, I: Informant

I: The saying was “Salar tu casa,” like salt your house, but in Spanish it means that someone is, put something like a bad omen on your home

M: Oh ok

I: Kind of like the thing like that 

M: okay that’s good , like sal-ar

I: Salar la casa

M: and that’s used to say what?

I: It’s like, the house is cursed, or bad omen on the house.

M: Oh okay

I: and then that can also be like lets say um if someone who doesn’t have good will towards you or harbors bad feeling toward you and you let them into your home, then when they leave, they leave that that bad behind

M: Ohh

I: So you are supposed to purify you home like with sage or with holy water, if you have holy water blessed by the priest and you have it at home. You are supposed to pray and clean your home.

Original Script: Salar la casa

Phonetic script: sa.ˈlaɾ  la ‘ka.sa (Spanish is a phonetic language)

Transliteration: To salt the house

Translation: Someone put a bad omen/luck on your home/ your house is cursed/ your house is jinxed.

Context: This folk speech was used and taught to my informant by her Peruvian mother during her childhood when someone with ill will tainted the house with their ‘badness.’

Analysis: In order to understand this folk speech to its fullest is to understand what ‘Salar’ means. Literally speaking, ’Salar’ means ‘to salt.’ However, to salt in English has a much more limited scope than the meaning in Spanish. In Spanish, on top of the English meanings, it can also mean “to spoil,” “to bring bad luck,” “to jinx,” and even “to ruin.” Thus, the proverb is referring to these forms of ‘to salt’ in Spanish. In trying to understand a proverb, it is important to fully translate the words to express their true meaning. To cleanse the house of the bad luck and badness, holy water is used or sage is burned. This makes sense given how Peru is predominantly Roman Catholic but also believes in shamans and some of their practices.

Burning Salt

Context: The following is an account of a ritual told by the informant, my paternal grandmother. 

Background: My father’s youngest uncle was sick as a baby, so the consensus was that he must have received the evil eye. In order to find out who gave it to him, this ritual was conducted. This same thing was repeated when one of my father’s brothers got sick and died as a baby.

Main piece: 

To find out who gave the child the evil eye, a solid chunk of rock salt was but in a burning fire. As the salt burned, those watching would carefully observe the fire to see what shape the flames would make. If they formed the shape of a person, they were the source of the evil eye. In my father’s uncle’s case, it was determined from the flame that a woman from one of the neighboring houses gave it to him. In his brother’s case, an odd inhuman shape was formed, leading people to believe it was jinn.

Analysis: It is not clear where this practice originated, but it seems to have come about as a result of people not wanting the cause of their child’s death to remain a mystery, so as to attach a name or face as to who was responsible. That being said, it is unknown from my conversations whether there was any confrontation with the person who was seen in the fire, and there was almost certainly no action taken on that basis.