The Strangest Greek Superstitions

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The Evil Eye “To Mati”

The “Mati” (Evil eye) is one of the most well-known superstitions in Greece and with Greeks worldwide. In Greece and numerous other countries (Italy, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Afghanistan,Turkey,) the ‘evil eye’ is believed to be caused by a compliment, adoration or jealousy. Repercussions range from headache, illness, misfortune, harm and sometimes even death. To ward off any curse, people wear charms in the shape of an eye; to remove the curse, the receiver usually asks an elder woman (mother, aunt, yiayia) to recite a secret prayer. Other techniques include spitting (don’t worry, this was BC – before Coronavirus), or by throwing salt over the shoulder. Some wear there underwear inside out after believing they may have contracted the evil eye.

Spitting on someone to avoid the evil eye

Spitting, or rather the spitting sound (ftou ftou ftou, always three times to represent the Holy Trinity) is believed to protect against the curse of the evil eye. It is not rare to also hear someone say ‘ftou ftou ftou’ when they hear about someone’s misery or misfortune to protect themselves or their loved ones from it. But the most common occurrence is with babies, where people make the spiting sound to protect the child from any harm.

Never hand someone a knife

Greeks believe people should never hand a knife directly into another person’s hand if they want to stay friends. Instead, they tend to place the knife on the table and let the other pick it up themselves.

Never give perfume as a gift

Greece has a weird taboo against giving someone perfume as it is thought to ruin any kind of relationship. To counter this, the recipient of the gift hands the giver a coin in return.

Power of salt

The power of salt has already been demonstrated by science, but according to Greek tradition, getting someone to leave the house is as simple as sprinkling salt behind them. Try it the next time there’s an unwanted guest. A little bit of salt sprinkled in the doorway of each room before moving in is also believed to chase away any evil energy.

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Tradition has it that if a single woman places the a Koufeto (sugared almond given at Greek weddings) under her pillow before sleeping, she will dream of the man she will marry.

Photo by Nek Vardikos

Hick ups

According to an old superstition, hick ups are thought to mean that someone is talking or thinking about you.

Cheers! But never with coffee!

Just like anywhere in the world, Greeks cheer by saying “Yeia mas” with alcohol, be it with wine, ouzo, beer or tsipouro (moonshine). But one thing they will never do is cheers with coffee, which is said to bring bad luck.


Pomegranate smashing

Pomegranates, an ancient symbol of prosperity and good luck, are hung above the door throughout the Christmas holidays. On New Year’s Eve at midnight, all the lights in the house are turned out and the pomegranate is smashed on the floor or at the door. The more seeds spill out, the more likely it is to bring good fortune, health and prosperity for the coming year.

Leaving from the same door of entry when visiting a home

When Greeks visit someone’s home they will usually leave from the same door they entered. Leaving from another door is believed to be bad luck.

Itchy hand will lead to receiving money from somewhere

When your hand is itchy many Greeks believe that you will receive money soon from somewhere.