9 Superstitions in Mongolia (They Don’t Tell You)

Superstitions protected us from ghosts, vampires and other supernatural forces–in the Middle Ages. Now, they’re more like national quirks. When it comes to superstitions, Mongolians have some of the most unique ones in the world. So, without further ado, these are the unwritten rules that live in the mind of every Mongolian.

1. Shake hands if you’ve stepped on someone’s foot. 

Or Else What?

You and that person will become sworn enemies.

What?! Why?

This is so predominant that it’s something that foreigners realize as soon as they interact with Mongolians. Because you’ve invaded their social space — and that is no good. Sure, Europeans say Pardon, and the Americans say Fuck Off, but for Mongolians, this is so awkward that we try to make up for it by shaking hands and declaring not to kill each other out of self-consciousness. This can be because of the fact that social space for Mongolians is larger than others. Why? Well, have you noticed how we have only 3 million people in a country the size of Western Europe? Even though, with urbanization, city slickers are less bothered by this, Mongolians in the countryside have a social bubble the size of a stadium. By the way, this is the most surefire way to identify a Mongolian: if you inconspicuously touch their foot with yours, they will automatically reach out their hand for a shake.

2. Don’t stand on a threshold.

Or Else What?

You’ll die.

What?! Why?

Just kidding! There aren’t any serious complications for this. You just don’t do it. The threshold is a very symbolic and sacred place in a ger, and having someone step on it is a big no-no. It’s a rule that mostly applies for toddlers – they always linger around the threshold, and for the inhabitants of ger, the traditional dwelling (think a tent with a window on the top), it’s an obstruction of their only view outside. (and what good would a window on the top be aside from light dissemination? I mean a window’s also for looking at the surroundings, right?) Also, to have a hard threshold is an idiom that means a tough, hard nosed family.

3. Don’t sleep with your feet directed to deity figures. 

Or Else What?

The host/ess will kill you. Probably by poisoning your food.

What?! Why?

Again, they won’t really kill you. At this point, it’s becoming obvious that feet are the most disrespectful part of your body and in order to avoid offending Mongolians, you have to step through puzzle tiles like Indiana Jones. Let’s say that after a heavy dinner and a mellow conversation, you feel like taking a rest, so you put your hands at the back of your head, and–whoa whoa stop! Just don’t do it. Because by pointing your smelly feet, you are showing disgrace to our most revered part of the household. So next time you are staying at a local’s place for the night, make sure to mirror the hosts’ way of sleeping.

4. Get a haircut only on certain “good” days

Or Else What?

You die (seriously).

What?! Why?

No matter how ridiculous it sounds, it‘s still practiced, much to the dismay of bankrupted barbers. The crazy explanation goes that your soul lives in different parts of your body each month (say, your  pinkie finger on Monday) and on some days the soul is in the hair. This explains the pictures of Mongolian disco dancers from the 1970s. There is an antidote for having had a haircut on the wrong day–you read this mantra, “Om, dontpunishmeIdidntknowitwasMondayohshitohshit”. 

5. Don’t clip your nails after sunset. 

Or Else What?

You bleed–energy!

Really?!

Also ties with the idea that your energy or soul resides in different parts of your body. After sunset your energy is chilling out at your fingertips, so go scratch someone’s back or something. Just don’t clip your nails.

The rational explanation for this is that an average Mongolian Dorj’s family lived in a ger, and there was no electricity in the early times. Since it would be too hard to trim your nails using scissors and knives (no nail clippers!), the parents invented this rule for the sake of their children’s fingers (or lack thereof).

6. If you see a shooting star, say “That’s not mine!” 

Or Else What?

You die.

WTF?

Yes, this time I’m serious. While the western culture interprets a shooting star as a make-a-wish opportunity, Mongolians take it as an omen of a death. This is because they say that each star is a person, and its shooting would mean its owners imminent death. Thus, it is only logical to be scared shitless and say “That’s not mine!”

Oh, and meteor showers are terrorist attacks! HOLY SHIT!!!

7. Kill spiders on sight – with your thumb!

spide thumb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Why Should I Do That?

You will find money off the streets.

LOL! That’s so cray-cray!

You never know what Lady Luck unfolds, my friend. Plus killing them with your thumb makes you less squeamish, which is the last thing you can be in Mongolia. Contrary to a logical belief that the only reason behind killing a spider with your thumb is to become Spiderman, Mongolians kill them this way for money. From 3-year-old toddlers to 70-year-old seniors, killing a spider is a good way to make money (in the future).

8. If you see a dead animal, spit 3 times and say “I didn’t kill you. Don’t curse me!”

Or Else What?

The dead animal will curse you to death.

You’ve gotta be shitting me!

I’m serious! I’m dead serious! It’s really scary to witness an animal murder (I suppose) but it’s even scarier to stumble upon a dead animal. Its eyes are not blinking. And there’s a fly sitting on one eye. Eek! What if the animal is still conscious? Then it’s glaring at you with its vindictive grudge! So you see, my friend! It’s only logical to wet your pants and follow the rule. And you thought the movie “Grudge” was bullshit!

9. If you drop your keys, stomp on them three times.

Or Else What?

A burglar will break into your house.

LOL! Really?

Yes. I don’t really have an explanation for this. But I can just say that Mongolian keys have been in existence since a long long time ago. It might be because Mongolians think their keys are trying to escape them. This means the stomping is a spanking.

P.S: Is there anything I haven’t mentioned? Do you know any crazier ones from other countries? Leave a comment!

mm About Natso Baatarkhuu
Natso Baatarkhuu lives in Mongolia and writes in English. His works have appeared in Cracked.com and The UB Post, and he started this website. He dreams of publishing novels and selling screenplays someday.

mm

Natso Baatarkhuu

Natso Baatarkhuu lives in Mongolia and writes in English. His works have appeared in Cracked.com and The UB Post, and he started this website. He dreams of publishing novels and selling screenplays someday.

38 thoughts on “9 Superstitions in Mongolia (They Don’t Tell You)

  • June 23, 2015 at 4:58 pm
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    haha, i liked the way you explained. these are true but hilarious in these days.

    Reply
    • mm
      June 23, 2015 at 5:09 pm
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      Thank you, Ochko. We’re grateful for any support, please share our content and spread the word. 🙂

      Reply
    • July 23, 2015 at 7:34 pm
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      Ok about spider and keys articles are not true. All Mongolians don’t like spider so they are ugly any Mongolian never kill them via finger. We don’t respect spider for money. Most Mongolians don’t like spider because we know that spider worm eat their mother spider’s body. In Buddhism mother is a god any way.

      Next I don’t know if drop the key stomp on them LOL. That is only joke not superstition. The article title is also wrong in my opinion you have to title Mongolian 9 traditional belief.

      Reply
  • June 28, 2015 at 5:14 pm
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    Some of these are inaccurate. At least your reasons for why. I live in the countryside on a small soum in a get myself. And happen to know these superstitions and a ton more that are strictly followed and for very interesting and cultural reasons. Its a beautiful culture with its own special intricacies just like other countries.

    Reply
    • mm
      June 29, 2015 at 1:32 am
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      Hi Meg! There are divergences in rationales behind the superstitions. If you know them, by all means, let us know. It’s always interesting and we could write another sequel.

      Reply
      • July 23, 2015 at 7:58 pm
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        Mongolians believe that the house or ger’s door can protect family from any enemies and other bad things. I have read an Ancient European article about vampire if the householder doesn’t tell the words “Well come to my house please” to strangers they can’t step on the threshold and they can’t make damage for these family. So Mongolians believe that the threshold can protect. Also i have seen a movie “Vampire’s dairy” if you don’t understand this habit you should watch this movie. This is not Mongolian movie. after that you may understand that “don’t stomp on the threshold”

        Reply
  • June 29, 2015 at 6:10 pm
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    You forgot how whenever something or someone come in between 2 ppl you have to hit each other or smthing like that lol. I do it all the time.

    Reply
  • June 30, 2015 at 2:16 am
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    We don’t kill spider with thumb, that is dirty :(. Instead we prefer step on it. And we kill them not for money, we kill them because they are most sinful animal in the world (They eat their mother after birth).

    Reply
    • mm
      July 1, 2015 at 10:58 am
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      Thanks Buyaa. If you’re not killing them with your thumb, you’re never gonna find money off the streets. Plus, someone told me before that it makes you less squeamish.

      Reply
  • June 30, 2015 at 9:38 am
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    Hi, I’m not Mongolian but have lived in your beautiful country for nearly 8 years. I also did quite a bit of Mongolian study at Indian University Bloomington so I can add a few to this list though some might be historic.

    1. Don’t cry in bed.
    2. Don’t whistle in bed.
    3. Don’t walk outside the yurt with grease on your lips or an evil woman will chew your lips off.
    4. There are certain parts of the animal that a woman should never eat.
    5. Spirits live in the pelvic bones. By crushing the pelvic bone, especially by having a horse step on it the spirit can be released.

    I used to know a lot more but forget now.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • July 1, 2015 at 10:46 am
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      Hi Oliver, I think crying n Whistling in bed is a best trick moms ever come up with. Cuz most of em sleep together with their children untill they grow up (used to,may b still idk) and cryin, singing kids wont let em sleep.

      Reply
    • mm
      July 1, 2015 at 10:56 am
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      Thanks Oliver. Yeah, the pelvic bone part is especially interesting. I’ll make sure to include these in our next part.

      Reply
  • June 30, 2015 at 10:08 am
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    We, or at least my family, believe that if we start any work or anything on Tuesday, it won’t work well. Also if we take out the trash after sunset, there will be argument in the family.

    Reply
    • mm
      July 1, 2015 at 10:55 am
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      Interesting one. Thanks for the comment. We might include this in our next article.

      Reply
  • June 30, 2015 at 10:18 am
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    Stepping on someones foot and shaking hand is not only become enemies, it means apologizes and hospitality too. Most of Mongolian superstitions are taught to love people, animals and nature. Such as “If you dig the ground, your mother will get sick” “If you throw a shadow upon the birds egg, mother bird will leave the eggs” etc.

    Reply
    • mm
      July 1, 2015 at 10:55 am
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      Baatar, thanks for the new suggestions. I’ll make sure to include it in the next part.

      Reply
  • June 30, 2015 at 1:35 pm
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    There are plenty of other superstitions but my favorite is this: when you are stirring hot milk on the stove in the middle of your ger you must stand between the stove and the door or else the milk might go out the door. Two of my friends berated me because I failed to do this and swore it was true. I also want to suggest that you should not just makeup reasons for these superstitions or belittle them. Many of them are based on reasons that might no longer be tenable or realistic but at one point were important and useful. If you can understand why they came about you can gain a better understanding of the culture.

    Reply
    • June 30, 2015 at 9:03 pm
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      Hi there
      It was hilarious. Specially the all out terrorist attack. By the way stepping on the threshold intentionally meant I’m going to kill the host. King of Manchu used it as a pretext to kill son of the Manlai Baatar Damdinsuren who later became one of the leaders of National Revolution of 1911. Damdinsuren later died in Chinese prison because of torture, but he died Standing on his feet. lol

      Reply
      • mm
        June 30, 2015 at 11:58 pm
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        Wow, I didn’t know that. Thanks for the heads up! 🙂

        Reply
      • mm
        July 1, 2015 at 10:52 am
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        You, sir, have made my day. Thanks for this awesome bit. I’ve never heard of it before.

        Reply
    • mm
      July 1, 2015 at 10:54 am
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      Brother, please take this with a hint of humor. I love the superstitions, but we just wanted to entertain people, is all.

      Reply
  • June 30, 2015 at 1:44 pm
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    Mongolians are really really i mean REALLY stupid dumb litte cunts WOWWWW i cant even believe how they living and breathing fucking animals They’re definition of IDIOTS

    Reply
    • July 1, 2015 at 9:55 am
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      You have no right to jugde other cultures, because you never set a foot outside of your den and you are mindblind, your language tells how shallow, uneducated, hillbilly you are.

      Reply
    • mm
      July 1, 2015 at 10:52 am
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      Glad to see we have someone trolling in the deep. You do know that I can see your IP address though, right?

      Reply
  • June 30, 2015 at 10:10 pm
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    Haha this was a pretty cool article! I wish I could see more of like them about my country.

    Here are some of the other ones I know:

    1. When someone is traveling far away/long distances, you spray milk with a spoon in the south west direction (i could be wrong about the direction) to bid them farewell and safe travels. I think milk because it is considered a sacred and pure liquid.

    2. Also when someone is traveling far distances, you must take off your book-bag, hand-bag, luggages, etc. off of your back before you step out of the house. I’m not entirely sure why this is but it’s considered bad omen.

    3. When an eyelash falls off your eyelids, you get a chance to make a wish! But you have to compete for this one 🙂 You have to press your thumbs with someone next to you with the eyelash in between the two thumbs, and who ever get’s the eyelash stuck to their finger gets the wish. I do this with my girlfriend all the time and I always win haha.

    Reply
    • mm
      July 1, 2015 at 10:51 am
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      Thanks, Bilguun-Taishir. There’ll be a new part and obviously your contribution is greatly appreciated. Please share our site and spread the word.

      Reply
  • July 1, 2015 at 8:04 am
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    so many people died in Mongolia
    why ? Because standing on a threshold makes people die . haha
    No offence but it’s hilarious. And i respect that .I don’t know why Mongolia is my favorite english word
    just saying…

    Reply
  • July 1, 2015 at 9:49 am
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    First, the last three are not true, obviously someone told you that to make a fun of you, and you believed in them. Second, we have more of them, not just 6 you mentioned above. And it contrasts with american culture like when you give money or your name card or whatever you americans hold it between your middle and index finger to give it, but Mongolians take it as an offence as of “hand me down” because they respect others and give things with two hands or the right hand with palm up, they never give things by throwing to others as if giving to beggars, and they always take it respectfully too, they always make their beds in the morning so that whole day was productive and orderly, they are told not to throw food away because your food will be limited in future, you respect headwear over shoes because your head holds your brain and soul not your feet, you never visit empty-handed someone with children or breasfeeding mother because your making children happy makes you happy, you never drop blood or milk or garbage into river, lake or any natural water source because these entities have their own spirits… so on. If you treat the nature and fellow humans with respect you will be treated likewise, that is the base of old Mongolian social norm, which is lost now in settled compounds called cities and look what happened to the Earth and ecosystem!

    Reply
    • mm
      July 1, 2015 at 10:49 am
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      Brother, you never heard of “Tui tui, bi chamaig alaagui shuu. Alsan hunee haraagaarai?” before? You clearly didn’t hang around the right places, like ditches with carcasses and behind a row of garages. All kidding aside, interesting perspective. Thanks and please share our website.

      Reply
  • July 1, 2015 at 2:34 pm
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    Hello, they all are so accurate and i just remembered some of them reading this. One superstition that i remember is you do not throw away your garbage on the day someone went on a long travel

    Reply
  • July 1, 2015 at 4:34 pm
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    Very nice one. Can i get your contacts please?

    Reply
  • July 3, 2015 at 11:40 pm
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    U forgot one important superstition. If black cat runs on front of you while u re driving u stop and turn around and take an alternative route. It is an omen for accident. I am engineering grad in USA, still practice it haha. Just for the sake of not involved in accident

    Reply
  • May 8, 2017 at 3:05 pm
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    Fuck you and fuck your dream(He dreams of publishing novels and selling screenplays someday.) YOU WILL DIE LIKE A DOG BITCH. You have no right to jugde other cultures, because you never set a foot outside of your den and you are mindblind, your language tells how shallow, uneducated, hillbilly you are.

    Reply
  • May 8, 2017 at 5:05 pm
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    And that 7. Kill spiders on sight – with your thumb! That’s the china’s belief.

    Reply

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