Greeks are known to be philosophers and innovators. However, there is another side to the Greeks: the side where traditional beliefs, many of which are rooted in ancient times, overtake all sense of reason. Here are some of the funniest and weirdest Greek beliefs and traditions.
1. Sneezing prevents you from getting pregnant
This isn’t just some old wives’ tale, you see. Soranus, an ancient Greek physician, actually believed that women sneezing would act as a form of contraception, thus preventing pregnancy. After making love, he instructed women to squat, sneeze, and rinse.
2. Ancient Greece’s “Plan B”
If the sneezing method didn’t do the trick, Soranus advised women to try “Plan B” the next time around: rubbing cedar resin or honey over their genitals. For obvious reasons (like the fact that it was a mess, and, of course, that it didn’t work), Greek women no longer usually follow such advice!
3. Magical sweat was a cure-all
Ancient Greeks admired their athletes and saw them as celebrities of a sort. Not only were they revered, they were also thought to have magical sweat.
How it worked: The athletes all performed naked and were rubbed with olive oil, and the sweat which they expelled during competitions was considered to have magical healing powers. Slaves would scrape the sweaty skin of athletes after competitions. This sweat/oil mixture was called ‘gloios’. The gloios was in turn bottled and sold as an all-healing ointment for aches and pains.
4. There is evil in the air
There is one ancient Greek superstition is completely interwoven into modern Greek society. Generations upon generations have passed down the belief of the evil eye, or “mati.”
There is evidence of the evil eye having influence in Greek society as far back as the 6th century BC, when it commonly appeared on drinking vessels.
It is believed that someone can cast the evil eye onto another person out of envy (either good or bad) and jealousy.
You are said to be “matiasmenos” (hexed with the evil eye) if you are dizzy or if you have a headache and yawn a lot. The good news is that you can have the “spell” broken by someone who knows how to perform a special ritual involving oil, water and prayers.
5. Spitting for good luck
There are definitely some out of the ordinary superstitions in which Greeks take part. Along with the ancient tradition and belief in the evil eye, another ancient practice still observed in Greece today is none other than spitting.
In fact, spitting had a medical and superstitious place in ancient society, as ancient Greeks believed that problems with one’s eyesight could be cured by rubbing the eyes with the spit of someone who had been fasting.
Nowadays, Greeks still practice the ancient belief that spitting on someone is a way of diminishing any form of evil energy or presence. It’s actually more of a sound effect than an expulsion of saliva, “FTOO, FTOO, FTOO,” so be thankful for that.
Greeks apply the spitting superstition at weddings as well. If someone compliments the bride’s dress they must spit out “ftoo” three times to ward off any negative forces that might be at work. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear a chorus of “ftoo, ftoo, ftoo!” as the beautiful bride glides down the aisle.
6. The party island of Mykonos is a breeding ground for vampires
Before the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century, there were creatures endemic in Greek folklore who were considered to be dangerous. These “walking dead” creatures were called vrykolakes.
As the legend goes, vrykolakes would leave their graves at night and knock on the doors of their presumptive victims, saying their names aloud. If there was no answer after the first knock, no harm came to the innocent. However, if one was unfortunate enough to answer, they would die after a few days and would then be transformed into a vrykolakes himself.
Understandably, this is why until this day in many Greek villages there is a superstition that you should never answer the door on the first knock!