Historically, men of the sea are known to be a pretty superstitious lot, and it’s no surprise when you consider that sea faring is one of the oldest careers. The unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of the sea has led many sailors to turn to a little superstition in an attempt to ensure they did not fall victim to the sometimes cruel, dark depths of the ocean.
In the 18th century, at the height of the trading empire between Spain and the Caribbean, many ships that went missing were carrying a cargo of bananas. This led to the superstition that bananas on a ship were unlucky. It is now thought that the correlation between banana cargos and ill-fated vessels was nothing to do with bad luck. Some have suggested that, due to the fast rate at which bananas spoil, ships would be inclined to travel faster, leading to more unfortunate events. Another theory is that a species of deadly spider would set up home in the bunches; until disturbed by unlucky crew men, who would be killed with just one bite.
No Girls Allowed
We’ve obviously come a long way since these superstitions were rife, but there was a time when it was considered bad luck for a woman to be on board a ship, as they were said to distract the sailors, which would in turn anger the sea. However, naked women were said to ‘calm’ the sea, which is why you may find a figure of a topless woman on the bow of the ship.
Things associated with death and funerals were not welcome on board a ship. If flowers were given to a sailor as a token of love, they would soon be thrown overboard. Clergymen could also expect a frosty reception with the crew of the ship, as they were associated with funerals.
Birds were thought to carry the spirits of sailors, so killing a bird or dolphin was thought to bring extremely bad luck.
There was (and still is) a lot of superstition regarding the weather and how it is affected by the crew men themselves. Actions that were said to prompt bad weather included clapping on board the ship, bringing an umbrella on board and throwing stones into the sea. However, it was thought that nailing a horseshoe to the mast would provide protection from the storms.
What’s in a Name?
Once a ship was already named, it was thought to bring bad luck if you changed it. The only way to avoid the inevitable ill-fate of a renamed vessel was to have a de-naming ceremony, which involved writing the old name on a piece of paper, and then placing it in a wooden box which would then be burned and the ashes thrown out to sea.
Don’t Say it!
There are certain words that were prohibited from being uttered on board a ship. These included ‘goodbye’, ‘drown’ and ‘pig’. If you said ‘good luck’ to another sailor, it was thought to bring only bad luck. To prevent bad luck after saying these words, it was required to draw blood.
There were some days that were thought to be unlucky to be sailing on. Obviously, some of these couldn’t be avoided, but it didn’t stop the superstition from growing. Fridays were thought to be unlucky due to Jesus being crucified on a Friday, whereas a Thursday was unlucky as it is Thor’s day, who is the god of thunders and storms. The first Monday of April is the day Cain killed Abel, and the second Monday of August is thought to be the day God destroyed the sinful kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah.
As suppliers of marine chandlery, we’re familiar with an odd superstition or two, but we know that with the right supplies on board your vessel, you won’t need horseshoes or the prohibition of women! If you’re looking for online chandlery, you’ve come to the right place! Get in contact with us today by calling 01524 862010 to speak to a member of our team.