Tag Archives: spitting on the devil

Russian Spit Luck


“So basically, my Russian great grandmother would spit in her daughter- my grandmother’s hair, for good luck. My grandmother then went and did it to my mom, which passed down the tradition to her. And then my mom would do it to me. It’s a little tiny spit in your hair, and she’d do it to me before I’d go in for any audition or big sports game. That sorta thing. I don’t know how far back it goes beyond my great grandma, but it’s always been present in my family.”


The informant, CR, is an ashkenazi jew/russian-american college student who is pursuing acting. He often has performances and big events like this where, if he’s with his mom, she will spit on him for a little extra luck. He believes in the power of this superstition and thinks it to provide that boost of confidence that can make all the difference.


CR had brought up this ritual superstition and I inquired what the full picture was. Specifically asking where this practice emerged from and what he knows about it.


Having noted how this was a practice on his Russian side of the family, I dug into the archives to see if there was any other occurrence of this strange little ritual and found that there was! In a post called “Spitting on the Devil,” a folklorist describes a tradition spitting over/on your shoulder three times to prevent the Devil from interfering with your good intentions. In this case, it’s a practice that follows the common superstition of “knocking on wood” when you say out loud a belief of good fortune so as to not “jinx it.” While CR’s example has deviated from the religious affiliation of this luck practice and anti-jinx, the lucky spit seems to be correlated.


To read more on the spitting practice, check out the archive post linked below.


Spitting on the Devil


“Whenever you talk about something good happening, like if you mention you’re doing good, you have to spit over your shoulder three times. The Russians believe that’s where the Devil is, so you’re spitting on the Devil real quick, just to make sure that he doesn’t, uh, to make sure that nothing negative happens. Speaking of that, you usually don’t want to talk about anything good happening in the future or anything, you wanna be pessimistic. Or else it means that it won’t happen, if you talk about it a lot.”


I asked the informant about his Russian culture, and he proceeded to tell me a lot about Russian superstitions and things that his family practices. He said that he first encountered this when he was very young, because when he was young he wanted to talk about what he wanted to do when he was older, but his mother would always remind him to spit on his shoulder, as outlined above.


This is interesting to me because as someone who grew up without “culture” aka, my family is generations removed from its original culture from wherever in Europe, I never encountered the idea that talking about the future could be bad. I think this says a lot about Russian temperament that a lot of people talk about — I’ve heard that Russians are in a bad mood all the time, etc. I like the idea that something could be ruined by talking about it, as I’ve had good news that is almost true, but didn’t want to share it with people in case it didn’t actually end up happening.