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Why is it Bad Luck to Spill Salt?

Table salt.
Judas supposedly spilled salt at the Last Supper.
In some cultures, it is considered unlucky to spill salt.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2014
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In many cultures, it is considered unlucky to spill salt, due to very old superstitions. Fortunately, many cultures also have a solution to the problem, which usually involves throwing a pinch of salt over your shoulder or making a similar offering of salt. The superstitions surrounding salt may seem confusing to modern humans because salt seems so ubiquitous, but knowing that it was once incredibly valuable can change this perspective.

The most basic reason for considering it unlucky to spill salt has to do with its cost. For thousands of years, salt was an extremely rare commodity. It was difficult to extract, and as a result salt was very expensive. Many major trading routes were set up to carry salt, people were paid in salt, and salt was sometimes worth more than its weight in gold. Therefore, spilling salt was considered wasteful, since salt was a precious resource.

Since salt was so highly valued by most humans, it was also associated with friendship and good fortune. Offerings of salt were included in many religious ceremonies, and people might bring salt to a new home for good luck. These associations would have suggested that it would be bad luck to spill salt, since it would seem like a violation of salt's fortunate properties.

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Salt is also an excellent preservative. As such, it came to be linked with health and longevity. Some cultures believed that it might be bad luck to spill salt since it could reduce your longevity or happiness. In Britain, for example, each spilled grain was said to represent a tear, while in Germany spilled salt awakened the devil, bringing about enmity and a string of bad fortune.

Many of the superstitions about spilled salt pre-date the Christian era. As was the case with many other traditions and superstitions, the fear of spilling salt was also adopted into the Christian faith. It is said that Judas spilled salt at the Last Supper, and since he later turned out to be the betrayer of Christ, spilled salt is considered unlucky by many Christians.

Should you be unfortunate enough to spill salt, you might want to try throwing a pinch over your left shoulder to spite the Devil. This practice is widespread in many parts of the world. Of course, salt can also be spilled deliberately, as it is in Asian cultures. Salt is traditionally tossed into a sports arena before games begin, for example, and salt may be scattered on the floors of a new home for good fortune.

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Discuss this Article

anon316911
Post 6

It was thrown over the left shoulder in Germany to spite the devil.

anon126056
Post 4

i think if they valued salt so much and spilled it, would they rub more salt on them? that's just plain old dumb.

anon81079
Post 3

I think if they valued the salt so much and spilled it why would they rub more salt on them that's just plain old dumb.

anon74478
Post 2

Thank you. I just wanted to know why my mom was so crazy about spilling salt.

anon61615
Post 1

If salt was so valuable, why would a person that has already spilled some salt, turn around and throw some more salt over their shoulder?

Not only would that person have wasted the salt they spilled but, also wasted the salt they threw over their shoulder. Just wondering.

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