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According to sage folklore, avoiding bad luck when crossing paths with a black cat can be as simple as spitting three times behind your back. If you forgot or misplaced something, then the best course of action is to sit down and count to ten, and a lady should never leave her purse laying on the floor as it will inevitably cause her to lose money. Walking under the ladder could also bring grief and misery. It seems that the only way to avoid “tempting fate” and favor good luck is to knock on unpainted wood, pick a four-leaf clover or hang a horseshoe above the door.

Probably one of the most Polish superstitions has to do with broken mirror and seven years of misfortune. As the story has it, a Polish noble and a magus Pan Twardowski sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for special powers. One of Twardowski's most valuable artifacts was the magic mirror which reflected future events and summoned spirits. According to the legend Twardowski ended up stranded on the moon, and his mirror found a new home in the sacristy of The Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Węgrów. In 1812 Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France stopped in that church, looked in the mirror, and it showed him his future retreat from Russia and the collapse of the empire. In anger, Bonaparte struck and broke the mirror in three places. The damaged artifact still hangs on display in the basilica.

In Poland, spilling salt is considered a bad omen that can foretell a family quarrel. In the olden times, salt was considered a valuable and expensive article. Salt was used as a way of payment, hence the term salary, and as means of preserving food. The history of salt is best discovered in the stunning, UNESCO-listed Royal Salt Mines of Wieliczka and Bochnia.

In travels to Poland, one should be on the lookout for the chimney sweeper. Donning an unmistakable top hat and clad all in black, the chimney sweepers are said to bring good luck. Upon sighting the sweeper, one must immediately grasp one's jacket button for the charm to work.

Some of us share similar beliefs and superstitions, so that aspect of Polish culture will be surprisingly familiar. However, with that in mind, discovering the lesser-known and distinctive tales can be a grand adventure into exploring Poland, her story, people, and customs.

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Polish National Tourist Office
980 N. Michigan Ave, Ste. 1550
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 1 (551) 344-3057
e-mail: info.na@poland.travel