Every culture has old wives’ tales, even mine. When I dreamed about snakes, my mother said, “You know, if you dream about snakes, the Indians say you have enemies.” Another was was my grandmother deciding she had too many kids when my mother was born, so she went out and fed corn shucks to the cow to try to erase my mother’s birth. This one never made any sense to me. Most people have heard things like “don’t walk under a ladder” or “if a black cat crosses your path, it means bad luck.” Here in Korea, like everywhere else, they have their own set of interesting superstitions.
I have already talked to you about the strange gifts they give in Korea. If you remember, if they give toilet paper, it means they wish you a long life. If they give you cooking oil, it means they wish you riches. I was also reminded that if they give you something with bubbles like dish soap or laundry soap, they are also wishing you riches. There is another I didn’t realize that I have been told recently. If you want to give someone a wallet for their birthday or Christmas, you must put money in it, even if it is just 1,000 won which is worth about one American dollar. It is bad luck if you don’t put money in the wallet. There is more than gift superstitions.
One interesting thing there are a lot of superstitions about is the seaweed soup. I may have told you that every Korean eats seaweed soup on their birthday. If you are going to take a big test at school, never eat seaweed soup because the seaweed is slippery, and it will make the answers slip away from you. The way you keep your answers on the day of a test is to eat dock, rice cakes because they are not slippery at all, and they will make the answers stay with you. Someone who must eat a lot of seaweed soup is a pregnant woman. The seaweed soup is supposed to do a couple of things for her. The first is actually a fact. Pregnant women need a lot of vitamins, and seaweed soup has a lot of vitamins, so they recommend she eat it. However, the second reason they give is a superstition. The pregnant woman must eat a lot of seaweed soup because seaweed is slippery, and it will help the baby slip out easier.
Another interesting idea I heard recently is about pigs. Many people don’t realize that pigs are a symbol of wealth in Korea. If you go to a place where Korean souvenirs are sold, you can find lots of pigs painted gold. I especially saw pigs everywhere when it was the year of the pig. Every year in Korea, according to the Chinese zodiac, has a different animal representing it. The interesting superstition I heard recently is if you dream about pigs in Korea, it means that you are going to become rich. Too bad I have never dreamed about pigs, but there are times I have dreamed about snakes, but not recently. 🙂
Each culture has their own set of interesting old wives tales or superstitions. I am sure the longer I live in Korea, I will learn more of theirs. In America, if you think something is an old wives tale or superstition and try to tell an American, many will argue with you, and it is probably the same in every country. We all have strange beliefs that have been passed down from our ancestors. My grandfather used to have a horse shoe hanging on the wall. He insisted that the horseshoe must be positioned so that the horseshoe looked like a “U.” The open part must be pointing up. If it points down, all the luck runs out. I never believed in water witching even though my parents did, and I was surprised when someone on Facebook argued with me insisting that water witching worked. Who know? Maybe it does. After all, seaweed soup does have lots of vitamins, but I still can’t figure out my grandmother’s corn shucks.