Sea Superstitions

Aristotle once said: “There are three sorts of people: those who are dead, those who live, and those who are at sea”. Since the dawn of time, the sea has always fascinated men. Sailors both admire it and fear it and over the years, they have developed plenty of myths and superstitions about it.


A woman will sow discord on a ship. It is believed that taking a woman on board before embarking for a journey is a bad omen. This belief might stem from the fact that having women cohabiting with male sailors would cause tensions and frustrations. Female passengers were very seldom tolerated on board, only as passengers. And even so, they were often accused of bringing bad luck and were held responsible for any problem that occurred such as a plague outbreak. Of course this belief is now mostly regarded as picturesque, but you can still find fishing boat captains who will refuse to have women in their crew today.

croyances mer femme

Champagne Christening

Some say the Titanic sank because it had not been christened with champagne. This belief is still widely respected today for large vessels. This ritual is taken very seriously and generally several bottles of champagne are bought just in case. It is hard to trace back this superstition but it is admitted that in ancient Greece, sailors would pour wine before embarking on a journey and implore the gods for their protection.

navire baptisé champagne

Amulets and Charms

Many seafarers hang amulets and lucky charms at the stern of the boat. They believe these will protect them from bad luck and disease.


Do not let their cuteness trick you. These little fluffy creatures were believed to bring doom when taken aboard a vessel. In the past, the ropes that were used to tie down cargo were made of hemp. Rabbits gnawed on these ropes which caused heavy cargo to shift from one side of the hold to the other and vessels to capsize. Sailors even avoid uttering the word “rabbit” when at sea..

lapin superstition mer


It is said that seagulls carry the souls of those who died at sea and whose bodies were never found. It is thus bad omen to touch a seagull.

mouette superstition mer


Seamen also believe whistling while out on the water can cause terrible storms. Interestingly enough, this belief does not apply to singing, which means you can sing completely out of tune without having to fear the wrath of the gods.


As opposed to other animals, cats are welcome on board because they are seen as protectors. They chase rats out and can foresee storms: when a cat paws its face, it means a storm is right around the corner.

chat bateau superstition


Just like amulets and charms, tattoos were also seen as lucky and were quite common among seafarers.

tatouage marin ancien superstition

These are only a few examples of many marine superstitions. Whether you believe in them or not is totally up to you. Just try to think twice next time before you whistle on a boat…

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