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10+ Weird Superstitions in Portugal You Will Not Believe Exist

Portugal is a country with over 800 years of rich history. Thus, it also has many superstitions and folk beliefs that lead some to irrational fear or strange behaviors. Interestingly, these beliefs are common among people of all ages. As tradition, they are handed down from generation to generation.

You might have heard of strange superstitions from around the world. For example, in Russia, giving yellow flowers means the end of a relationship. In Germany, wishing a happy birthday to someone before their actual birthday calls on bad spirits. Similarly, making cheers with water is wishing death to your companions.

Most of these ideas stem from older civilizations like the ancient Romans. Others are archaic beliefs that originated from Asian or Greek mythology. Still, they shape how people act today. 

So, look into some things the Portuguese associate with bad and good luck. Understand their history and the reasonings behind such weird superstitions. 

Superstition in Portuguese Society

Portugal has many superstitions from around the world. Natives use the classic fingers crossed gesture accompanied by the spoken expression Fazer figas. They also ensure they always enter with the right foot. 

Still, other beliefs related to good wishes, misfortune, and good and evil spirits are characteristic. They might be frequent to other European nations or unique to Portugal. Either way, learning about the origin of each tradition and how they shape how natives live helps you understand their culture better.

Learning about weird superstitions helps you understand the Portuguese culture

Superstitions are also part of a significant market. Many sell talismans, amulets, incense sticks, stones, and other items used in rituals of purification and good luck.

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Things The Portuguese Believe Bring Bad Luck

Many Portuguese superstitions relate to religious beliefs
Many Portuguese superstitions relate to religious beliefs

Here are some things the Portuguese natives believe bring bad luck:

Walking Under a Ladder

From ancient times, religions have honored divine trinities. The triangle is a shape long associated with superstitions. It is one of the symbols of the Holy Trinity, and when you set a ladder against a wall, that is the shape you form.

Portugal is a traditionally Catholic country. So, it is no surprise that many of its superstitions relate to religious beliefs. Thus, if you walk under a ladder, it is as if you are breaking the Holy Trinity and casting ill luck on yourself.

The Evil Eye

The Evil Eye is a weird superstition in many European countries
The Greek eye is an amulet related to the evil eye, a weird superstition in Portugal

The evil eye is one of the oldest superstitions in the world related to bad luck. When someone envies another, they can supposedly hurt their health and affect the course of their life for the worse.

The amulets used by people who believe in this superstition are many, from the Mão de Fátima (Fatima’s Hand) to the Olho Grego (Greek Eye). You will find accessories all over Portugal that include these symbols, said to protect those who wear them from the effects of the evil eye.

Breaking Mirrors

Because of its ancient origins, breaking a mirror is also a sign of bad luck in many other countries. The idea that broken mirrors bring seven years of bad luck came from the Romans. They believed the gods would observe their souls through mirrors. So, breaking one would be an insult to those divinities.

At the same time, they also believed that life renewed itself every seven years. Thus, a broken mirror would only bring bad luck for seven years. This belief remains today and has become common in most countries worldwide.

Seeing a Black Cat

People have long linked cats with the supernatural. References to these beliefs are everywhere, from ancient Egypt to Greek mythology. 

In the 13th century, Pope Gregory IX depicted cats as an incarnation of Satan. Later, these animals, particularly black cats, became commonly related to witches.

Today, in most European countries, superstitious people believe that a person who sees a black cat should expect bad luck. However, superstitions from around the world also link them to good luck.

Black cats are associated with superstitious believes in many countries
Black cats are associated with superstitious beliefs in many countries

Opening an Umbrella Indoors

In ancient Egypt, only the nobles would use umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. Unlike today, these objects were meticulously made, using symbolic feathers and decorative elements. Thus, opening an umbrella indoors would insult the gods and provoke their rage.

Today, despite not having the same religious beliefs, this superstition still stands for many Portuguese natives. Another similar superstition states that when you whistle inside the house, you invite evil spirits in.

Things The Portuguese Believe Bring Good Fortune

Like many other countries, you will see people in Portugal crossing their index fingers for good luck. Some use amulets like a rabbit’s foot, a horseshoe, or a wind chime. Here are some of the superstitions the Portuguese associate with extra luck:

Hearing a rooster's call is a sign of good luck in Portugal
Hearing a rooster’s call is a sign of good luck in Portugal

Knocking on Wood

Knocking on wood is a superstition of the old. Ancient people believed the trees hit by lightning bolts were the houses of good spirits. Thus, they knocked on them with their knuckles whenever they felt guilty about something or wanted to scare away evil spirits.

Today, whenever natives speak about bad things and misfortunes, they knock on wood so they don’t come true.

Hearing a Rooster’s Call

Hearing a rooster’s call is a sign of good fortune in Portugal. The rooster of Barcelos is a national symbol linked to good luck. Related to various miracles and usually to the Pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela, its story dates back to the 15th century.

Throwing Spilled Salt Over Your Left Shoulder

Spilled salt is an omen of disgrace in many countries. Still, picking up some of it and throwing it over your left is thought to undo any harmful effects and bring good luck.

Placing a Broomstick Backward Behind The Door

In Portugal, it's a New Year's Eve superstition to eat raisins for good luck
In Portugal, it’s a New Year’s Eve superstition to eat raisins for good luck

One of the weirdest superstitions in Portugal is placing a broomstick upside-down behind the door. It is a common belief that this meaningless gesture makes unwelcome visitors leave. This superstition is also common in Brazil for the same reason.

Eating 12 Raisins on New Year’s Eve

Most people avoid sleeping before midnight on New Year’s Eve. The standard celebrations include fireworks, champagne, and making noise with pots and pans. After all, no one wants to start the new year with the left foot.

In Portugal, people usually eat one raisin for each stroke of midnight. The raisins represent wishes and the strokes the months of the starting year. Thus, natives ask for their good wishes to happen one at a time.

Other Superstitions in Portugal

Despite keeping many strange superstitions, the Portuguese culture has so much more for you to uncover! Check out The Journey, our gamified language program introducing a culture and its people. Start learning Portuguese from Portugal now!

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Sweeping Someone’s Feet

Did you know that, in Portugal, sweeping someone’s feet affects their love life?

If you sweep a person’s feet, they will remain single for the rest of their lives. Many countries around the world also share this superstition. Italy and some South American cultures are among them. The victim can supposedly break the curse by spitting on the broom.

According to an ancient superstition, sweeping someone's feet stops them from getting married
If you sweep a person’s feet, they will remain single for the rest of their lives

Feeling Your Ear Getting Hot

Have you ever felt your ears getting hot? In Portugal, that means someone somewhere is speaking about you. This belief dates back to the Roman philosopher Pliny The Elder and has become popular in many countries.

Many state that if you feel your right ear burning, someone is speaking well of you. Contrarily, if it is your left ear, they are speaking poorly of you. Other versions of this superstition include that a burning sensation in your ears means luck if it is the right ear and bad luck if it is the left one.

Placing Your Bag on The Ground

Many Portuguese natives believe putting your bag or purse on the floor makes you lose money. Despite being prevalent all over the world, this belief originated in China. It is an ancient Feng Shui superstition that putting your purse on the ground can bring bad luck in financial matters.

According to Feng Shui, placing a bag on the ground steers away money
According to Feng Shui, placing a bag on the ground steers away money

Numbers

Many numbers are objects of superstitious beliefs. For example, the Chinese word for death and the number four are very similar. Thus, the number four supposedly brings bad luck.

In Portugal, most superstitious people associate Friday the 13th and the number 13 with bad luck. Besides, it is common even for people who do not consider themselves superstitious to have a lucky number.

woman, blow, blowing
You will often hear natives say Santinho when someone sneezes

Saying Santinho When Someone Sneezes

No matter where you are in Portugal, you will hear the natives saying Santinho (Little Saint) whenever someone sneezes. Other countries use expressions like God bless you or Gesundheit, the German word for health.

One theory is that this custom originated during the Bubonic Plague in Rome. Sneezing was a common symptom of the disease. So, whenever someone sneezed, others wished for their protection by uttering a blessing.

Another belief is that our hearts stop when we sneeze, so this utterance welcomed the person who sneezed back to life. Today, it lost most of its meaning. Still, many people consider it rude not to say anything when someone else sneezes.

Wrapping up on Weird Superstitions in Portugal

Learning about superstitions allows you to dig deeper into Portuguese history and culture. Despite their ancient origins, some of these beliefs still shape how people act today. So now you can identify and understand the superstitious behaviors you see in Portugal and other nations.

Which of these Portuguese superstitions surprised you the most? Are there any weird superstitions in your home country? Share them with us in the comments below!

Learn more about Portuguese Christmas traditions! Read “Natal” in Portugal: Christmas in The Iberian Country. Dive into our rich culture through The 7 Wonders of Portuguese Culture: From Azulejos to Pastéis de Nata. Besides, explore unexpected curiosities about our beautiful language! Read The Portuguese Language – 10 Fascinating Curiosities (You’d Never Guess).

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