Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spilt Salt

I have always been told that it is bad luck to spill salt, and you must throw the salt over your left shoulder. Being a generally clumsy person I have participated in this ritual, with your right hand many times, but never knew the reason or origin of the superstition.
In ancient times, salt was an expensive commodity. It was a status symbol to be able to have a cellar of salt to present guests with during a celebration. Wasting salt by spilling it was frowned upon by many. The superstition of spilling salt came about as a way to warn people against being careless with it.
The throwing of the salt over the left shoulder specifically comes from a Christian belief that the devil resides and hangs about on the left side of the body. Throwing the salt over the left shoulder is in essence throwing the salt square in the devils face. Using your right hand to throw is important because it is regarded as “the good side” of the body. Therefore you are getting rid of the bad using the good.
Another superstition that is linked with spilling salt and Christian belief is attributed to the Last Supper of Jesus. The famous painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci shows Judas the betrayer spilling a salt vessel.
Now that I know where this superstition came from I will still continue to throw salt over my shoulder, even if only as a way to show off my newly gained knowledge.


  1. I was always curious to why you have to throw salt over your shoulder after it is spilled. I think it is interesting that people continue to do these rituals even when we have no idea why we are doing them. I also always wonder if people find out why they started, but then stop doing them once they know the reason. Even though I know the reason, I will continue to throw salt over my shoulder as well.

  2. I thought this was interesting because a bunch of people I know participate in this superstition. I've even seen chefs on Food Network do this without any explanation to the audience. It's nice to find out why people believe in this tradition.