Secondary school №4

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Municipal budget educational institution

"Secondary school № 4"

Balakhna district

Students Scientific Society

English Section

Country study

 Beware magpie flying under the ladder

Completed:Yurieva Yulia ,

Grade 10 student

Supervisor: Sharov EL,

English teacher






CHAPTER 1. Common English superstitions………………………………..4

    1. History of occurrence ………………………………………..5

    2. Classification of superstitions………………………………..6

      1. Animals.................................................................7

      2. Natural phenomena……………………………...8

      3. Person’s action…………………………………..9

      4. Other signs of good luck………………………...11

      5. Some bad omens………………………………...12

      6. Wedding superstitions…………………………...13

      7. Flying superstitions……………………………...15

CHAPTER 2. Superstitions of Russia………………………………………...16

CHAPTER 3. Similarities between Russian and English superstitions……..21

CHAPTER 4.The differences between Russian and English superstitions....25

CHAPTER 5.Superstitions of students………………………………………..27

CHAPTER 6.Survey……………………………………………………………29





The importance of the research is demonstrated clearly by predictable code of conduct. To begin with, despite all the modernization that has taken place, superstitions still exist in our society. Do many of you believe in folk omens? Will you turn off the road if you see there a black cat? Will you superstitiously knock on wood not to hoodoo? There are lots of such superstitions and the majorities of people continue to keep fingers crossed and look in the mirror when they come home. So, what is this stability connected with? We hope to trace superstitions to a common origin.

The problem of omens and superstitions causes many arguments because such themes like religion, psychology, cultural life of people, questions about fate are affected. Omens and superstitions play a very important role in society and it cannot be denied.

The second reason for doing this project is an interest in culture and traditions of other countries, particularly Great Britain. Knowledge of folklore, for example proverbs, omens, fairytales, folk songs and legends, helps to understand a country and its history.

THE AIM of our work is to investigate the most common superstitions in Britain and in Russia and to prove that in the age of advanced technology and science people don`t believe in superstitions as they used to.

THE RELEVANCE of research

1. The theme is of great interest.

2. Education plays a very important role in modern society and extra knowledge about culture of some countries will be very useful.

3. Comparison of customs and superstitions helps to understand the cultures of these countries better.

OBJECT of study:

    the most well-known and commonly used signs and superstitions in the UK and Russia

TASKS of the study:

-To study the literature on the subject.

-To find out the origins of superstitions and their causes

-Create a list of common signs and superstitions

-Consider, compare and analyze superstition in two cultures - English and Russian

-Conduct survey






-Superstitions do not play an important role in modern society due to the development of technology and knowledge of the modern world, comparison of superstitions England and Russia.

Common English superstitions

The definitions of «omen» and «superstition»

The question whether we should trust omens and superstitions or not worries many people. The definitions of «omen» and «superstition» will help to approach to the truth.

Omen \ō-mən\:

  1. Something that is believed to be a sign or warning of something that will happen in the future. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

  2. An event or phenomenon regarded as a portent of good or evil; a prophetic sign, an augury. (Oxford English Dictionary)

  3. Something that is considered to be a sign of how a future event will take place.

(Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

Superstition \ˌsü-pər-ˈsti-shən\:

  1. A belief that certain events or things will bring good or bad luck. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

  2. Excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the supernatural. (Oxford English Dictionary)

  3. Belief that is not based on human reason or scientific knowledge, but is connected with old ideas about magic, etc. (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

The etymology of the word superstition

from Latin superstitio(n-), from super- 'over' + stare 'to stand’. It can be interpreted as "‘standing over a thing in amazement or awe.

History of occurrence

Where did the folk omens and superstition? History of omens and superstitions counts thousands of years and began in ancient times. People wanted to protect themselves and their families from different troubles and misfortunes at all times. They observed phenomena occurring around, looked for regularities and made conclusions. Thus, there are bad and good omens, there are various customs and rituals that help against unpleasant events.

Our ancestors have watched the world, nature and animals’ behavior for centuries. And they noticed connections between these events. That’s why the most reliable omens are omens about the weather, animals, birds and harvests.

Also, humans could not explain different events logically and tried to find answers in mysticism. People began to notice what happened to them after any event, trying to connect it to the influence of supernatural forces and they attempted to «reach an agreement» with them.

It is easy to notice that the origin of omens and superstition is based on the observation of ordinary life situations and correct conclusions. It is known that many superstitions have firmly settled in our lives, but some are ignored because of absurdity.

Superstition may have different origins, but all of them generated by fear of the unknown. Ancient people tried to explain the strange phenomenon for them with the help of signs and superstitions.

  And to promote a European and native of the Tuareg tribe, believed in the miraculous power of talismans and fear the evil eye. All of this is passed on from generation to generation for centuries.

Classification of superstitions

Appearance take was usually associated with animal behavior. Generally, wildlife is more sensitive to what is happening in the nature of the change: swallows flying low before the rain, the abundance of mosquitoes promises to bring a lot of berries a year, and many others. Appearance will associated with animals, can often be explained logically. For example, swallows fly low, because below flying insects, which they eat. Insects, in turn, are omitted, because in the upper layers of the air increases the humidity of the approaching rain. Ancient people carefully observed the surrounding world, and the story will largely be based on natural phenomena. For example, bright red sunsets portend a winter severe cold, and in summer, conversely, the extreme heat. As a rule, folk omens associated with natural phenomena, have great accuracy, and many people trust them, not weather forecasters. The appearance will take, based on the natural phenomena associated with the accumulation of extensive experience observations, but the science often cannot explain these superstitions, despite their accuracy with the person's actions.

The story will take associated with the actions of man are very diverse and wide. Typically, these superstitions include an extensive system of ancient prohibitions and taboos. Than you can rationally explain, for example, the origin of the superstition that spilling salt brings misfortune? In ancient times salt was very expensive and was used instead of money, and, of course, spilling salt, people lost money, that was later generalized to "unhappiness". The emergence of the superstitions connected with human actions, most often associated with psychological causes, and science can only display General patterns of emergence of such superstitions. The history of superstitions
is a system by which you can trace a fascinating path of development of human consciousness and worldview.

Superstitions of England


A large number of omens and superstitions are related with animals. Our ancestors kept livestock, poultry, so they came up with various beliefs. Also, people have always believed that animals have well-developed flair to the events that are to occur. Animals often helped people by suggesting them what should happen in the near future. Some signs warned humans of misfortune, and others approved decisive actions.

Lucky to meet a black cat. Black Cats are featured on many good luck greetings cards and birthday cards in England.  «If a black cat crosses your path, you will have good luck». (Application 1)

One ancient British superstition holds that if a child rides on a bear’s back it will be protected from whooping-cough.(Application 2)

In some parts of the UK meeting two or three ravens together is considered really bad. One very English superstition concerns the tame ravens at the Tower of London. It is believed if they leave then the crown of England will be lost.(Application 3)

It is said to be bad luck if you see bats flying and hear their cries. In the middle ages it was believed that witches were closely connected with bats. (Application 4)

In some areas black rabbits are thought to host the souls of human beings. A common lucky charm is a rabbit’s foot, but not for the rabbit.(Application 5)

Children who grew up in the UK say so: «Ladybird, fly to the sky, give me happy time». There is a theory that the ladybird - the mediator between God and man, so when we say that an introduction through a ladybug we are trying to ask for the happiness of God. (Applicaion 6)

Cuckoos begin to sing in the middle of April. It is said that at this time you need to keep the silver coin in hand - then the whole year will be happy.

Natural phenomena

Folk omens about natural phenomena depict wisdom of our ancestors, who watched the nature and made a set of rules, which have been passed to their descendants for many generations. Folk omens about natural phenomena comprise all significant natural phenomena that have an impact on harvests. People's lives depended on the quantity and quality of the crop. So, it was important to grow as much as possible. Signs, by which people lived in ancient times, describe almost all natural phenomena: rain, storm, sunset, wind, snow, clouds, etc.

  • «Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in the morning, sailors take warning»

  • «Pale moon rains, red moon blows; white moon neither rains nor blows»

  • «The moon her face be red, of water she speaks»

  • «A wind from the south has rain in its mouth»

  • «If cirrus clouds form in weather with a falling barometer, it is almost sure to rain»

  • «If wooly fleeces spread the heavenly way, be sure no rain disturbs the summer day»

  • «If cumulus clouds are smaller at sunset than at noon, expect fair weather»

  • «The moon with a circle brings water in her back»

Person’s actions

The history of omens and superstitions connected with person’s actions is very diverse. Generally, these omens and superstitions include extensive systems of prohibitions and ancient taboos. How can we rationally explain, for example, the omen - “sprinkled salt is to quarrel”? Actually, in ancient times salt was very expensive and was used instead of money. That’s why if a person spills salt he will lose his money. Spilled salt leads to a quarrel.(Application 8)

In the UK, the whistle - personified the void, with the wind, so good luck blows from the house.

«If you walk under a ladder, you will have bad luck». The passage under the stairs, leaning against the wall, in the UK is considered to be unfavorable. This can be explained by the fact that the staircase, which stands on the ground and leans against the wall forms a triangle - integral and indivisible character, and even the personification of the Holy Trinity, and go in this triangle is to break the balance, harmony. And also the second version of the origin of the signs is the Bermuda Triangle (the area in the Atlantic Ocean, which allegedly occur mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft). And in this English "Bermuda Triangle" disappears happiness of Americans.(Application 9)

In Britain, there is a belief that the other side of the mirror counterpart of our lives, which is watching us. Breaking a mirror you will be exposed to his suffering, and hence themselves together. (Application 10)

«You should not step on shadow». In ancient times it was believed that the shadow is the soul of man, and the attack on the soul is not good.(Application 11)

In England it is not accepted to wish good luck to the other person, because in ancient beliefs evil spirits may wish to overhear it and tweak something wrong. Therefore, instead of good wishes to the spirits to cheat, they say the phrase quite the opposite: «Break a leg!» Originally this phrase originated in the actor's environment where artists, so, good luck to his colleagues who were about to go on stage, and then he went to the people and entrenched in the language

Knock on wood. You must knock on wood 3 times after mentioning good fortune or the evil spirits will ruin things for you.

The British version is "touch wood". The tradition traces back to an ancient belief that spirits lived in trees, especially Oaks, and that by knocking on or touching the wood, you were paying a small tribute to them and could call on them for protection against ill-fortune. Also, you were thanking them for their blessings and good luck.

Interestingly, if no wood is to be found or knocking is just not convenient, it is enough to say "knock on wood" or "touch wood". (Application 12)

Other signs of good luck

Forged inverted horseshoe - a symbol of happiness. There are several explanations as to why the British believe that a horseshoe brings good luck. The most famous legend of global holy Dunstan. He was a skilled blacksmith and famous for the ability to shoe horses well. One day he was the devil himself, and asked him to shoe, thrusting his leg with do not divide the hoof. But St. Dunstan learned evil. He tied it tightly to the wall and began treating him so rudely crossed, that the devil screamed and begged for mercy. However, Saint Dunstan did not release it as long as he did not promise never to go to a house where a horseshoe nailed.

Another story is connected with long-standing and widespread belief in witches, the machinations which people feared before the end of the Middle Ages. The British believed that their spells do not work on the street, but most believed that witches can cause damage in the house. People thought that witches are afraid of horses and therefore fly on broomsticks. From this it followed that the horseshoe on the door of the house to protect people living in it, one of its kind of scare witch. Just horseshoe was considered a symbol of good luck, because its shape resembles a crescent moon, in which people saw the sign of the coming of happiness. She prophesied fertility and wealth in the house. The British believed that the evil one can forge and hammered nails into their doors, believing that the ends need to hang up, not to let luck. (Application 13)

It is believed that is a triple clover leaves symbolize Faith, Hope and Love. But the fourth leaf - it is luck. So the clover any good, but with four blades still better than three. (Application 14)

The one who catches the falling autumn leaves a lot to be happy. More leaves - more money will be this year! (Application 15)

Some bad omens

Friday 13. «The two unlucky entities ultimately combined to make one super unlucky day. »

A popular explanation for the special treatment of Friday the 13th, common in books on alternative history and esoteric, is the story of the Knights Templar. It was Friday, October 13, 1307, in accordance with the mystery of the bull of Pope Clement V, the French king Philip IV ordered the arrest of members of the order, including all its supreme leadership. The subsequent process on charges of heresy and blasphemy of its members the Order was dissolved, and many of those arrested in France, the Templars were tortured and later executed. Including seven years later in Paris at the Ile de la Cité were burned alive by the last Grand Master of the Order, Jacques de Molay and Commander Normandy Geoffroy de Charney. According to legend, before the death of de Molay cursed watching the execution of the king and all the Capet dynasty.(Application 16)

Wedding superstitions and omens of England

Wedding - is the most important and memorable day in the life of every person. He is always eventful, turmoil, joy, excitement. The entire process consists of the wedding will take and traditions. They are countless, some consider them to be superstitious and do not believe in them, and the other way around.

A little conservative, but old and a good England full of various omens and superstitions. Especially strong in her wedding traditions that have passed a thorny road from the ceremonies of the seventeenth century to contemporary events. Surprisingly, until now they have almost nothing has changed!

If the wedding day the bride sees a spider on her wedding dress - it's a big success in the joint life partners.

    Wednesday is considered to be the best day in England for his marriage in all respects Monday will bring a wealth of the bride and groom, and Tuesday - health. Saturday is considered the most unfortunate "wedding" day of the week.

«If you marry in Lent, you will live to repent» - English say that marrying during Lent - not good that the couple will always quarrel regret the marriage, and there will be happiness for their families. This is due to the biblical tradition, because marrying during Lent - a great sin.

If a girl catches the bride’s bouquet after a wedding, she will be next to mеrry. (Application 17)

Also in England there is a sign that a wedding at the bride and groom need to throw the rice grains. Although this superstition is not as common, it has also emerged a long time ago. The wedding ceremony, as well as many other important events in your life, full of character. This means that we perform certain rituals as symbols that would like to wish to avoid direct expression.

Using rice - one of those characters who for centuries found in the marriage ceremony. The ancient tribes, for example, the process of sharing Eating rice meant that from that moment he and she became husband and wife, that is, the joint food symbolizes life together and figure indicates the local food.(Application 18)

Since Scotland is part of great Britain , we will talk a little about the superstitions and there. She makes her own wedding dress, and on the morning of the wedding day she has to do the last stitch is her most important mission, which will ensure a long and happy family life.

Only white, silver and blue wedding dress will bring the bride good luck in marriage. Scottish groom wears a kilt, jacket and bag, trimmed with fur.
The bride on the wedding day should be something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Also the bride to put a sixpence under the left heel.

New. The symbol of the beginning of a new life and new hopes. To wear something new is easy. This is almost every element of the wedding dress.

Borrowed. To borrow a thing can only be the woman who has been living in a happy marriage. So happiness and will go to the young family. To borrow can, for example, jewellery, but in any case no stockings, gloves or underwear.

Old. Worn thing symbolizes a strong relationship with the family of the bride. The role of "old" things can fulfill the shoes that you blasphemed a couple of days before the wedding. This will allow, and at the wedding they feel more comfortable.

Blue. Blue or blue is the color of loyalty. If this color in your image is not provided, then the role of the blue things can successfully fulfill the garter. But the blue dress promises her husband's infidelity.


We searched English websites and saw that the British are very superstitious respect to flying aircraft. Taking a good luck charm, reciting prayers or mantras and touching the outside of the plan upon boarding are apparently just some of the weird and wonderful superstitions of British holidaymakers, according a new travel poll.

Others include refusing to sit in certain seat numbers; holding hands to ensure a safe take off/landing and not flying on certain dates, Friday the 13th being the biggest no go.

Top 10 list of flight superstitions.

1. Touching outside of plane before getting on to ensure a safe flight – 17%
2.  Taking a good luck charm/mascot onto the flight – 15%3
3. Refusing to sit in certain seat numbers – 14%
4. Reciting prayers or mantras – 11%
5. Only flying at certain times – 8%
6. Only flying with certain airlines – 8%
7. Holding hands to ensure safe take off/landing – 6%
8. Sticking to a certain routine (e.g. ordering same drink) – 5%
9. Only flying from a certain airport – 3%
10.Not flying on certain dates (e.g. Friday 13th) – 2%

Superstitions of Russia

Is it possible to rationalize folk omens and superstition? In order to explain any phenomenon, it is necessary to turn to its roots. The man was not able to rationalize the world, occurring natural phenomena and tried to find the answer in mysticism.

Why people don’t celebrate forty years?

Forty years is the only date that is not customary to note, especially for men. This superstition arose from the connection of the number "40" with death. Back in Kievan Rus was made "check the dead" on the incorruptibility, and the deadline by which was determined the incorruptibility of the body, was erected in 40 days. Still, the number 40 is directly connected with the funeral traditions. It coincides with memorial day after the death, and in all religions is considered fatal.
Do not carry an empty bucket

If you see someone with any empty container—bucket or a cart—it is considered a bad omen. Russians believe that if you meet a woman carrying an empty bucket, for example, in the countryside, or a street cleaner with an empty cart in the town, you won’t have a good day. That’s why street cleaners try to put any piece of equipment—brooms, rakes or something similar—in their empty carts.

Don’t put money into someone’s hands

Russians have a lot of “money” omens. For example, a taxi driver or shop assistant might decline when you try to hand them your money, and ask you to put it on the vehicle’s dashboard or in a special tray next to the till. This does not mean at all that they cannot stomach touching your hands. It is believed that the money can transmit energy from its owner, including negative energy. Once the passenger has left the vehicle and the customer moves away from the till, the link with their energy is broken and someone else can pick up the money without fear.

Don’t take anything out of the house at night

If you live under the same roof as Russians, you would be advised not to try to take out the trash at night. It is believed that this can bring ruin on the house. To avoid having an unpleasant smell spreading through the house, put the rubbish into a more substantial bag and tie it, so that it is more or less sealed.

Don’t put empty bottles, keys or change on the table

Russians believe that you must not put empty bottles, keys or change on the table. These are all bad omens of financial loss and tears. Also, this omen works not only in the kitchen at home, but also in public places. If one of the guests at a dinner party in a restaurant grabs a bottle that has just been emptied and puts it under the table or starts looking around for a waiter, it in deference to this omen.

Never give knives, clocks or scarves as a present

These things are not considered the best present for a Russian. Scarves, for example, are an omen of tears, knives an omen of enemies, and clocks an omen of parting. Even if you are prepared to give a Russian girl a luxurious Hermès scarf as a present, she would prefer to buy it herself, if only to save herself the tears. If you do nevertheless give somebody one of these things, do not be surprised if they give you a small coin in return. This is to create the illusion of buying the item. You must definitely take this coin, even if it surprises you that they are trying to pay you for an expensive gift with small change.

The threshold of a house is a place of evil
You must not stand on the threshold of a house or apartment, and you must not talk across it or hand anything across it. The ancient Slavs believed the threshold was a place where demons dwelled. If, say, you have to sign for a package with a courier, you must either cross the threshold of the house or at least put one foot across it.
Look at yourself in a mirror if you have had to go back

For Russians, going back to the house is a bad omen, a portent of bad luck. So if a Russian discovers after leaving the house that he has forgotten something, he will first decide whether it is something he really needs, and if it is, he will go back, but will make a point of looking himself in the eye in a mirror. This is another trick of the trade to deceive an evil omen.

Don’t sit on a table
Many Russians are disturbed when they see scenes in American films where the hero sits on a table or puts his feet on a table. And it is not just because it is unhygienic—sitting on a table is variously seen as an omen of death or poverty.

Never give unmarried girls a corner seat
In ancient Rus, it was usually the old maids, poor relatives and dependants who took the humblest places at the table—the corner seats. From this developed the idea that if a girl sits at the corner of the table she will not marry for seven years. It is true that if modern girls nevertheless like a corner seat and someone mentions this omen, they will cleverly reply, “My husband will have a corner,” in other words, they will have a home, but regardless, most Russians try not to put girls in corner seats and avoid them themselves.

Sit before a journey

When a guest in someone’s home or a member of the family is getting ready for a long journey, everyone in the house has to sit down before they set off. This scene recalls the children’s game “musical chairs.” There is usually nowhere to sit in the hall, especially with all the luggage, but unlike the game, everyone has to sit down, and quickly, as soon as someone says, “Let’s take a seat before the journey.” This is a Russian omen for a safe journey. Everyone in the house has to sit somewhere for a minute. This omen, incidentally, is very useful, because it helps people to calm down after the chaos and remember whether they have forgotten to pack anything.

Good omens

Mind you, not all Russian omens are precursors of misfortune. There are also lots of good omens. For example, if a spider or a “message from a pigeon” appears on your clothes, or if, for example, you accidentally step in some dog dirt, don’t be in a rush to curse your fate. These are omens of great financial success.

Another amusing omen of wealth comes not from ancient times, but from just a couple of centuries ago. If you find yourself in a car with Russians one day and you’re going to drive under a bridge that a freight train is crossing, don’t be surprised when your companions start to shake out their purses and put money and credit cards on their heads with cries of, “Freight train, give us money, give us money!” According to Russians who believe in omens, this “spell” often works, bringing unexpected profit to those who believe in it.

There are many more Russian omens and superstitions. If it seems to you that they cause a lot of everyday inconvenience and it’s difficult to remember them all, we can assure you that Russians actually think the same! They too find all these frightening old wives’ tales a torment. But the power of superstitions is that they are passed on from generation to generation. Moreover, often just the realization that they have broken some commandment can change a person’s mood, and their inspiration and success.

Whistling Indoors

Whistling indoors in Russia is considered bad luck and will lead to financial problems — or so superstition has it.

Similarities between Russian and English superstitions

Despite the fact that Russian culture is very diverse to English culture and the countries have passed different historical paths, many omens and superstitions match.

First of all, they are omens and superstitions about lucky and unlucky numbers, mirrors, the weather, ceremonies devoted to common celebrations and some omens connected with animals.

Number 13

There is no 13th floor or 13th room number (the 14th follows after the 12th) in

many hotels and houses. And many people will not invite 13 guests to their party.

So, let us think why “13” is so often mentioned in Russian, English and even world superstitions as an unlucky number.

Actually, there is no single explanation, but there are many opinions on this subject.

Here are 13 reasons why number 13 is unfortunate.

  • Scholars consider the number 13 to become unpopular when humans began to count. They used 10 fingers and 2 feet as units of measurements, that’s why people could count only till 12 and number 13 scared them.

  • Devil’s dozen is equal to 13.

  • There were 13 people at the Last Supper of Jesus Christ. Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th person sitting at the table.

  • According to ancient Scandinavian mythology, there were 12 gods sitting at the table, when the 13th uninvited god Loki came to the feast. Loki killed one of the gods, and this led to the death of the other gods, a number of natural disasters and the destruction of the whole world.

  • Many Christians believe that Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday the 13th.

  • The execution of Christ was first mentioned in the 13th chapter of the Gospel.

  • On Friday, October 13, 1307, all the Templars (French knights of the monastic Order of the Temple) were arrested.

  • It is believed that the coven is a group of 13 witches.

  • There is an old superstition that a man with 13 letters in his name has the fate of the devil.

  • The end of the Mayan calendar (the 13th cycle) was considered as the date of end of the world 2012.

  • It was traditionally thought that 13 steps led to the gallows.

Friday is the unluckiest day for Christian countries like the UK and Russia. This is because Christ was crucified on Friday, 13th.

Superstitious people consider the 13th of Friday to be an absolutely unlucky day.


Mirror is one of the most mysterious objects in our houses. Long since it has been considered doors to the world of spirits and actions which are similar to magic. The most widespread one says: «If you break a mirror, you will have 7 years of unhappy life». This superstition is explained by several reasons.

  • For centuries glass of any form was handmade, expensive and precious.

Coating the back of a glass with silver to create a reflection increased the cost. A poor family had to save for years to own one mirror.

  • The Romans believed that human’s health changes every 7 years. As mirrorsreflect person’s health, they thought that a broken mirror means health disorders for 7years.

  • It is also thought that if someone breaks a mirror, evil spirits from the

Looking Glass will pursue and try to avenge him.

It is noted that one way to avoid bad luck associated with breaking a mirror is to take the broken pieces and bury them underground and under the moonlight.


There is no greater symbol of good luck than finding a horseshoe with the open hoof space facing toward the fortunate discoverer. No ill omens seem to be connected with this particular superstition. Even if a person merely dreams of finding a horseshoe, good luck will come to him or her. There are many assumptions about the appearance of a lucky horseshoe. The most well-known one is represented below.

It is believed that the good luck powers of the horseshoe originate with the story of a blacksmith named Dunstan. The Devil came to Dunstan and requested to fit him with new horseshoes. Dunstan recognized the devil and nailed a horseshoe onto his hoof. This caused the Devil a great pain. While he was in agony, Dunstan chained him and only released him after the devil promised never to enter a place that had a horseshoe hung over the door.

In the modern world, it is not quite easy to find a discarded horseshoe as it was in the days before the automobile became the principal means of transportation, so perhaps the horseshoe is even luckier in the twenty-first century than it was in the past.

Lady bird

Every country has omens connected with different animals, fish, birds and

insects. Ladybird has always attracted the eye of a man due to its bright red color associated with fire. Our ancestors, the ancient Slavs, supposed that the ladybug is a messenger of the goddess of the sun, who illuminates the earth, gives harvest and a new life. In England ladybirds’ red color is the color of the robes of the Virgin Mary. In Catholic culture a ladybug is a sacred insect. That is why it mustn’t be killed, because a great trouble can happen to a man.

People have been respecting ladybug for centuries and it gives a lot of fun to children who often recite a small poem. When a ladybird sits on a hand or clothing, it should be said in Russian: «Божья коровка, улети на небо, принеси мне хлеба, черного и белого, только не горелого». Not all people believe in it but many of them, especially children, know this saying. And British children say like this: «Ladybird, fly to the sky, give me happy time». It is not known for certain the origin of the omen but there is a version that a ladybird is an intermediary between the God and people.

As we can see, there are only good omens and harmless superstition about this amusing insect.

The differences between British and Russian omens and superstitions

But, as we know, there are many differences between British and Russian superstitions. Perhaps, one of the most important differences is the interpretation of omens.

Black cat

This superstition came about because of its association with witches in the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages, black cats were seen as evil demons and companions to them. People believed that witches had the power to turn themselves into black cats, so if one crossed your path, chances were good that a witch had her eye on you. Moreover, a black cat would block your connection to God and the entrance to the heavens. Many black cats were destroyed and anyone who kept them was also killed at that time.

Black cats are still considered to be bad luck throughout most of Europe (including Russia), India and the US. But not all countries think of black cats as a bad luck. In Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Australia and New Zealand black cats are good signs. In England, a black cat crossing your path is a great fortune. British sailors used to believe that black cats would bring them good luck and they were looking for them to have as ship cats. Possible, that is why so many famous people in Great Britain choose a black cat as a home pet.

Black raven

Another omen connected with different animals and birds is an omen about ravens. The group of ravens is one of the most famous sights at the Tower of London. They have lived in the Tower from its very beginning, over 900 years ago, and as the old English legend says, only so long as they are here will the Tower of London stand. If the ravens leave the Tower, the Crown and England will fall. The birds have never left the Tower. In the 17th century King Charles II ordered that six ravens should always live in the Tower of London and since then they have been under royal protection. The ravens are black. Each raven has got its name and keepers carefully look after them. If one of the birds dies, another younger raven takes its place. The keepers cut birds’ wings a bit because they are afraid that they can fly away. Londoners believe this legend and treat with great respect to these birds.

Since ancient times many omens and superstitions about ravens exist in Russia. It is traditionally thought that ravens are ominous birds. You can often find the signs, according to which, ravens portend misfortune or death. Probably, there are no beliefs where crows play a positive role. The reason is that they eat carrion. It is also based on the superstition that crows and ravens are birds of the devil. Moreover, witches like to turn into jackdaws and crows. Thus, it is considered that a croaking over the house predicts a disease of someone living in the house. Even in one’s sleep ravens or crows mean death, hunger, and in the "best case" – trouble.

Nowadays there is one interesting expression associated with ravens - "white crow". So is called a person, who does not fit in with the rest of a group and is often considered to be a troublemaker or an embarrassment. These words do not sound approvingly, but cold and alienated…

Left hand itches

There is a superstition in England that if your left hand itches, you will lose money. In Russia, it is believed that when the left hand itches, it, on the contrary, promises great wealth. Most likely, money will come unexpectedly - debt will be returned or you may receive an award. Moreover, the more intensively your hand scratches, the more money will come. The palm must be scratched from the periphery to the center, as if collecting the money in one pile. Such actions will give confidence that money will linger for a long time and will not disappear in a few moments.

Superstitions of students associated with the exam

I`m a student, so students` superstitions were of great interest for me. students want to feel safe and to protect themselves from negative feelings. That`s why we deal with student’s exam-related superstitions.

 The most common student's superstitions are related to personal hygiene. You must not wash yourself (especially the hair) the day before the exam or the same day as the exam is taken. Taking a shower before the exam is really considered to be a bad thing to do – no luck during exam is guaranteed.

 A student that is going to take an exam must not wear any new clothing as it scares away good grades.

 A student that is going to take an exam must not cut fingernails the day before the exam or the same day when the exam is held.

 There is also a common belief that if you are sleeping on a book, the knowledge will somehow be transferred into your mind. That is why many students sleep on tutorials, books and examination questions the night before they take the exam.

 Many students know which hand is the lucky one for them. So when the time comes at the exam to pick up a sheet with an examination question, they pick it only with the lucky hand.

 There are even some special places which are supposed to be lucky for students. In Moscow there is a bronze dog which is supposed to bring luck in examinations. That is why students come and rub the dog's nose for good luck before the exam. In Saint Petersburg student of the military school climb the monument of the Bronze Horseman and have to rub the private parts of the horse for good luck before the exam.

Of course no rituals can help a student that does not study. But these little cultural traditions make a student's life more colorful and enjoyable for the students.

Student’s exam-related superstitions fell into two broad categories: the use of magical objects and the practice of special rituals.

Use of magical objects

1. The most popular student superstitions involved clothing

2. Several students reported that they used special pens

3. Some students used more common talismans, such as rabbit’s feet, dice, and coins, as well as teddy bears and other cuddly toys.

The practice of special rituals

1. Of the individual-centered superstitious or magical acts aimed at bringing good luck, the overwhelming favorite was prayer.

2. Students reported knocking on the exam room door three times before entering,

3. Stepping over the threshold of the exam room with their right foot,

4. Circling the exam building—regardless of the weather conditions.

5. Another popular practice was listening to a "lucky song" or tape.

The results of statistics and sociological survey

While doing the research I conducted a survey concerning the role of superstitions in our life. We interviewed 10 teachers and 10 students of our school. The result of it shows that adults as well as students are still very superstitious but our belief mostly depends on a certain situation. (Application 19)

Speaking about teenagers, we usually deal with student’s exam-related superstitions. I studied a lot of Internet resources. British psychologists discovered that student’s exam-related superstitions fell into two broad categories: the use of magical objects and the practice of special rituals. The objects are lucky clothes, special pens and different talismans (rabbit’s feet, coins, teddy bears and toys). The Rituals are a prayer, knocking on the exam room door three times, stepping over the threshold of the exam room with their right foot and others. (Application 20)

My classmates don`t wash themselves before the exam, sleep on a book and put on nothing new for the exam. We surveyed all 28 people from the class. (Application 21)

Top of the most popular superstitions in England.

1. If you walk under a ladder you will have bad luck.   

2. To break a mirror will bring seven years bad luck.   

3. To open an umbrella in the house will bring bad luck.   

4. Putting new shoes on the table brings bad luck.   

5. Friday the thirteenth is an unlucky day.  

6. If a black cat crosses your path you will have bad luck.   

7. If you blow out all the candles on your birthday cake in one go you will get whatever you wish for.

8. Walking over three drains brings bad luck. 

9. A lock from a baby’s first haircut should be kept for good luck

10. A rabbit’s foot brings good luck.  

11. Avoid stepping of cracks to avoid bad luck   .  

12. Washing a car will bring rain.     

13. Wearing a certain pair of pants will bring good luck.

Top of the most popular superstitions of Russia.

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