Different Cultural Beliefs About Spitting

People’s Cultural Beliefs about ‘spitting’ that will surprise you are discussed in this article.


In many cultures, spitting shows irritation, disregard, or disagreement. But for some, it has deeper meaning ranging from respect to a powerful tool for warding off evil.


1. Jewish Beliefs

– The Jews have a superstition about spitting.

  1. Spit three times in reaction to something especially good or evil (Jewish virtual library). This is done by spitting or making “pooh, pooh, pooh”. The number 3 is considered mystical.
  2. The spitting upon discovering something shocking to prevent such a tragedy from occurring. It is also done as something marvelous to defend against evil.

Nobody truly knows the origin of this custom. Some scholars say it is from the Christian Bible associating it to miracles carried out through the saliva of Jesus.

Relevant references on Jewish beliefs and superstitions include – Eisenberg, Ronald L. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions. PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2004 and Wigoder, Geoffrey , Ed. The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia. NY: Facts on File, 1992.


Jewish spitting superstition 1

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2. Maasai Culture

The Maasai known for very interesting traditions that have made them very visible to the world. The Maasai is an ethnic group in Kenya and northern Tazania, Africa. If you want to picture them, remember the movie series – The Gods Must Be Crazy.

The spitting tradition of the Maasai

  1. As a blessing – The Maasai spit in their hands before shaking hands with each other as a sign of endorsement and respect.
  2. Respect for elders – The Maasai also spit on their hands before shaking hands with elders as a sign of utmost respect
  3. Pray protection and bless a newborn – They spit on newborn babies to ward off bad luck. To the Maasai, saying bad things about a newborn and spitting brings good fortune, protects the child from evil, and will help it live a long and happy life.
  4. A father’s blessing for a bride – During a wedding ceremony, the bride’s father wishes the married couple good luck and prays she be fertile by spitting on his daughter’s head and breasts before she leaves with her new husband.

(Reference: The Guardian News)

Maasai Spit into hand and shake

3. Ancient Roman Culture

    1. The Romans spat on the victim of an epileptic fit and ward off bad luck that follows meeting a person lame in the right leg.
    2. They also spat into the right shoe before putting it on, for good luck.
    3. The Romans treated ophthalmia by applying a saliva-based ointment every morning. They used fasting saliva to treat neck pains. This is done with the right hand to the right knee and the left hand to the left knee.
    4. The Romans also believed that spitting three times before taking any medicament sufficed to enhance its curative power. (Reference – The Body Fantastic by Frank Gonzalez-Crussi)

Ancient Romans Spitting Beliefs

What do you think about these beliefs? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Do you know of any interesting beliefs about spitting? Feel free to share with us.


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