A History of Salt and its Superstitions

Battered salt shaker by Helena Jacoba, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicensePhoto by  Helena Jacoba

Umm, Salt! What meal wouldn’t be complete with the wonderful flavor of salt. But did you know that salt is not only an ingredient in the foods we eat, but also has a great significance throughout history.

Salt, scientifically known as sodium chloride, has over 14,000 known uses. We won’t cover all 14,000 of them, but I can tell you it’s widely used as a preservative as well as being used for healing, fertilizing, cleaning and making medicines, dyes, cheeses and plastics.

Over the centuries there have even been roads constructed solely to transport salt and there have even been wars fought over this precious commodity. This substance will easily dissolve in water and reappear when the water is evaporated.

Salt, a Precious Trade

You may not know this, but it was actually the Phoenicians who were first involved in the trade of salt. The Egyptians also used this mineral in the mummification process. They would use what’s called natron, a mineral that contains sodium chloride. This natron would be used to keep mummified remains from decaying. A kind of preservative if you will.

Ancient Greeks referred to salt as a divine substance, and the Romans even used it to pay workers for their services. They called it salarium, which is the original term for salary that is used today.

Salt has even been used in religious rites and ceremonies due to it’s ability to reform after being dissolved. It’s been compared to God’s unchanging love.

Salt is a natural mineral that is found within rocks on Earth. Now we’re not talking about table salt like you would put in your shaker. But this is the natural element sodium. Deposits may also appear above ground in the form of `salt mountains`, or could lie deep underground so far that mines have to be dug in order to reach it.

Over long periods of time some of this salt is liquefied by the natural rain and gets carried out to sea through the rivers. Once it reaches this area it will build up into what’s known as salt pans. There the sun will bake away the water leaving the salt crystals behind.

Superstitions of Salt

Just like any thing else that has been around for such a long time, salt has formed many superstitions over time. The most common tradition of salt says it bring prosperity. This is why many times people will give it as a gift upon reaching a new year, or when moving into a new home.

Another tradition of salt says it will bring fertility and some say you should give a bride salt on her wedding day.

But probably the most common superstition for salt is that it will bring you great protection. I suppose this is all derived from it’s ability to preserve dead bodies and foods. Only sounds natural that if it can do all that, it should be able to protect you from evil as well, right?

"Hug" Salt & Pepper Shaker Set

“Hug” Salt & Pepper Shaker Set

Salt is also thought of as a defense against witchcraft and curses that have been brought upon by the evil eye, or “stink eye” as I like to call it. But on the flip side, it is also known to be extremely unlucky if you spill the salt. Maybe this is because it has great value and should not be wasted, or it could be because it may awaken demons if spilled. But if you do spill the salt it’s said you must throw a pinch of it over your left shoulder. This is supposed to get rid of all the evil spirits that have arrived due to the spilled salt.

Anyway I thought this might be some interesting information to share with you all. Let me know in the comments if salt is just as important in your culture as it is in mine here in the USA. One things for certain, I couldn’t eat a bite without it…lol


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Founder of Odd Random Thoughts and plenty of things on the mind. I love bizarre and interesting information and will always form a unique opinion on it. If you have an interest in strange and unusual subjects and would like to share what you've learned, please feel free to Apply to Become a Contributor.  I would love to hear from you!

Robert Tuttle

Founder of Odd Random Thoughts and plenty of things on the mind. I love bizarre and interesting information and will always form a unique opinion on it. If you have an interest in strange and unusual subjects and would like to share what you've learned, please feel free to Apply to Become a Contributor.  I would love to hear from you!

30 Comments:

  1. I have to have salt on nearly everything I eat, things do not seem
    to taste right without.

  2. Spill salt, spill sorrow …I always throw a pinch over my left shoulder. …quite funny if I’m at work at lunch and there is someone on the table behind me. :D

    Jackie @ Minerva Collection UK Handbags

    ….great site btw!

    • ROFL, that reminds me of a time I dumped the whole salt container on the restaurant table. I quickly grabbed a handful and threw it over my shoulder before I realized this woman was sitting right behind me. She had a bewildered look on her face and really didn’t know what to say as the salt showered down upon her! lol

      Thanks for that comment, brought back some fun memories!
      Robert Tuttle recently posted…Meanings for Having Accidents in Your DreamsMy Profile

  3. I love salt! I think I’m addicted to it. I have to admit I wasn’t really aware that it used to be referred to salarium and that’s where the word salary came from. I will be telling all of my co-workers about this tomorrow morning. Whoo hoo, thanks for making me look smart. :P

  4. I also love salt! that is really appreciate your article.

  5. I love that scene in Dumb & Dumber where Harry chucks the salt over his shoulder although interestingly he throws it over his right shoulder not his left.

    I’m not a superstitious man at all though so it wouldn’t even come into my mind if I spilt it…and I do love a bit of salt on my fries.

  6. haha, I love that show, it’s freakin’ hilarious in a dumb sort of way. Yah I think Harry throwing the salt over his right shoulder is probably just another way of showing his ignorance.

    My favorite quote from that movie, “Our pets HEADS ARE FALLIN’ OFF!”
    Robert Tuttle recently posted…A Strange Addiction, the Mutilation of Mind and BodyMy Profile

  7. A very nice and interesting article on salt. Superstitions are surprisingly widespread, including a fear of Friday the 13th and a belief in good-luck charms and also… But I don’t believe on superstitions.

  8. Nice one!

    In Feng Shui, Salt (actually rock salt) is considered to absorb negative energy!

    • Very cool Rummy, I find it fascinating how other cultures perceive different minerals and superstitions that go along with them. Although I guess it’s not right to refer to Feng Shui as a superstition, more of a way of life I suppose.
      Robert Tuttle recently posted…Meanings for Dreams, Your Dream Adventure AwaitsMy Profile

      • Very true.
        With such things like Feng Shui, it is always a debate of whether it is art or science. Best to leave it to – most such things are a combination! In general, you believe in it, you believe in it … you don’t, you don’t!

  9. This is a great post, thanks for sharing it with us! You’ve got some very strong ideas!

  10. I honestly love to test people’s superstitions with it at restaurants. Casually push the salt near their hand and watch as the salt tumbles over. Most, without hesitation, will throw some of those little salt bits right over the shoulder. The small things that entertain us.

  11. Restaurants in Marathalli

    Thanks for sharing nice tips i hope everyone like it….

  12. I am interested in looking for more of such topics and would like to have further information. Hope to see the next blog soon.

  13. I really used salt to my food it can really satisfies me the taste i wanted. Thanks for sharing your blog to us:)

  14. paradisebuilder

    very interesting

  15. salt is useful in many way from ancient days.there are many form of superstitions in salt.it can be used as gift and used for preservative item.

  16. I once brought my Nanna her dinner into her room. I was opt a young girl and I thought I would salt her meal with the salt shaker for her. She stopped me and she said “Self to Salt, Self to Sorrow” . To this day I’m not sure where the origin of that saying comes from and why she was extremely superstitious of someone salting her food. If anyone can shed any light that would be great.

    • Wow Laura, that is a very interesting quote from your Nanna. I’m not aware of its meaning or origin at this time, but you can bet I will be doing research now that you’ve caught my attention. When I find out something I will reply again to this comment with my findings. :)
      Robert Tuttle recently posted…Fire Walking on Hot Coals, Burn or be BurnedMy Profile

      • Thanks Robert. Keep me posted if you discover anything about the saying…she lived with us in the same house in Australia that’s why I used to bring in her meals to her room. She passed away about 26 years ago, she was 93 and came from the north of England around Cumbria.

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