Did You Know Pirates Were Superstitious?

Did You Know Pirates Were Superstitious?
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Pirates are an interesting lot in many ways. They’re criminals. They’re rogues. They’re mercenaries. They’re killers. They’re businessmen. They’re entrepreneurs. They’re smugglers.

They are also very, very superstitious.

Pirating was a democracy and it was this democratic way of running their ships that attracted a lot of sailors. Sailing for England’s Royal Navy was not all it was cracked up to be—especially for those on the lower rung of the ladder. If a pirate didn’t like the way things were run, a vote was taken and the captain could be voted off the island, so to speak.

In other words, there were rules to follow on this democratic sailing vessel and a lot of those rules came about because of superstitions that were passed on from sailor to sailor, ship to ship and generation to generation.

Courtesy of CA Stock

Here are a few pirate superstitions:

-It was bad luck to have a woman on your ship because it was said that she distracted the sailor. However, if there happened to be a woman on the ship and if she happened to get pregnant and if she happened to give birth to a boy, the boy was called a “son of a gun”.

-Do not whistle on a ship. Whistling was believed to bring on gales. Hence the term, “whistling up a storm”

-Red heads were considered bad luck if you encountered one before boarding the ship. However, if you spoke to the red head first, then the bad luck was averted.

-Bananas on a ship were bad luck (yes, bananas).

-It is bad luck to rename a ship. If you have to rename a ship there are specific steps that needed to be taken and a renaming ceremony has to take place.

-Black cats. Ironically enough black cats were considered good luck to pirates. A cat with an extra toe (known as a polydactyl cat) was considered very good luck.

-In fact there were a lot of superstitions regarding animals. A shark following the ship foreshadowed death. A turtle was good luck but if a pirate killed one and didn’t eat it then it was bad luck. Killing an albatross is bad luck as well as killing a dolphin.

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