Superstitions My Grandmother Believed Posted by on Jul 3, 2019 in Culture


Before my grandmother converted to Catholicism, she was a devout Buddhist. She insisted that we follow many rules at home, such as never placing the head of spoons upside down, or making sure that we leave our umbrellas on the 현관 (hyun-kwan: porch) and never to bring them inside or open them in the house.


Image by Pixabay


I still don’t understand the reason why.

Many Korean were mostly derived from 토속신앙 (toh-sok-shin-aahng:folk religion). Korean 토속신앙 is close to Shamanism and it is deeply interrelated with 불교 (bool-kyeo: Buddhism) as far as I understand. I am not exaggerating if I say that there are a number of Koreans who still believe in those 미신 – from a simple jinx to a serious life rule. I want to share some 미신 you may not have heard of before.


  1. Never place your head towards the north side when you sleep.

Some people, especially my husband, can miraculously tell which direction is north or south without looking at a compass. In general, I am not very good at telling the directions and I blame that on the fact that I am 왼손잡이 (woein-son-jah-bee : lefthanded).

If I remember correctly, the reason behind this 미신 is because the heads of corpses are supposed to be facing north. I am not sure if this is even truth when they bury the dead in Korea, but my grandmother believed that a person who places their head to the north will die sooner than they should.

When I first moved out of my parent’s home and started to live alone in Australia, I was a bit conflicted about whether I should keep following my grandma’s house rules. Was 풍수지리 (poong-soo-jee-ree: the theory of divination based on topography) applicable in western counties? Once I stopped thinking about which way my head was pointing, I slept fine. After all, I had no idea which way was north!


Image by Pixabay


     2. Fidgeting while sitting brings bad luck.


This 미신 is not only from my grandmother. I have heard this from some of my schoolteachers who didn’t like students who couldn’t sit still during class. They would point your behavior out if you restlessly jiggle your legs up and down. They considered this behavior as 건방지다 (gun-bang-jee-dah: being cocky). Either this behavior made them 정신 사납다 (jeong-shin-sah-nahp-dah: it literally means that the spirit gets distracted, which translated as it makes them uneasy and agitated), or they truly believe that a person who shakes their legs while sitting will have bad luck.



  1. Never eat 미역국 (mee-yuk-gook: seaweed soup) or 계란 (gey-rhan: eggs) before you take tests in school.


You need to use your visual imaginary skills to understand, but this is a funny one, if you get it. Since my mother was influenced by my grandmother, she made sure that she didn’t make 미역국or even any side dishes made of 계란 for breakfast on the days I took tests in school. The reason behind it was that these particular food would make a person to fail on tests because they have a slippery texture, which would make the person 미끄러지다 (mee-kkue-ruh-jee-dah: slip on, fail at something) on tests.


Image by Pixabay


Not that I believe in 미신, but I probably wouldn’t perform these 미신 on purpose. Have you heard any of these 미신 before? Did you grow up with 미신 or believed in some jinx that may still stick in your head from your childhood?


There are things that I still wonder why my grandmother had us to do, but I believe that she wanted to make sure we were all taken care of.

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About the Author: FlyHighOyster

Hi everyone, I was born and raised in Seoul, S. Korea. I have lived in Seattle for a while and I am traveling the world with my husband since 2016. It is my honor to share Korean culture with you all. Don't be shy to share your thoughts and comments! :) Talk to you soon. HJ


  1. soyoko:

    I haven’t heard of these 미신, but in Mongolia, there is one regarding the placement of your backpack. You’re not supposed to put it on the ground because it is believed to bring bad luck to your studies.

    • FlyHighOyster:

      @soyoko Hi Soyoko,

      That’s interesting. I’m curious now. Are you supposed to hang a backpack all the time, then?