The Spiritual Significance Behind Why Spilling Salt Is Considered Bad Luck

Photo: Getting Images/ MirageC

While there are things such as a ladybug landing on you, saying “rabbit, rabbit” on the first of the month, or seeing angel numbers everywhere that people believe bring good luck. There are also things people are positive can attract bad luck. Case in point: spilling salt. 

If you’re the superstitious type that knocks on wood and picks up lucky pennies (or, even if you’re just a little stitious), the notion of walking around with bad luck attached to you isn’t ideal, of course. Thankfully, there is a remedy for getting rid of it. Below, Jenelle KimDACM, LAc, a doctor of Chinese medicine and author of Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation, shares the super-easy bad misfortune cure and the history behind why spilling salt is considered bad luck. 

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Why spilling salt is considered bad luck

“In ancient times, salt was considered a prized and very valuable commodity,” Dr. Kim says. So, she adds, if you spilled salt in those times, even accidentally, it was seen as a big waste and a sign of carelessness, which indicated that bad things were coming. Salt was so valuable that it was often used as currency in the Roman empire. Also, fun fact: The English word salary derives from ‘sal,’ the Latin word for salt

Over time, this superstition spread to many different cultures, and each attached its meanings to it. “For example, in some cultures...spilling salt toward someone was almost seen as a curse,” Dr. Kim says. “It would imply that you were inviting negative energies.”

Some religions also use salt as a purifier and evil repellent in their spiritual practices. In Catholicism, it is believed that evil spirits can’t tolerate salt, so it’s used to ward off those negative spirits, Dr. Kim says. Similarly, in Buddhism, she adds, there is a tradition of throwing salt over your shoulder after a funeral to ward off spirits from coming around you and entering your house. 

Dr. Kim also notes spilling salt was seen as a sign of betrayal and points to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper mural painting as an example, which depicts Judas as having spilled salt. 

How to “cure” the bad luck from spilling salt

The most popular cure is to throw a pinch of salt over your left shoulder. “It is believed that by doing this, it will [nullify] you of your bad luck,” Dr. Kim says. Traditionally, this is done immediately after you spilled salt. 

Why the left shoulder, specifically? “This comes from the belief that the devil sits at the left shoulder,” Dr. Kim says. While throwing salt over your left shoulder is all that’s required to rid yourself of misfortune, she adds that setting an intention to remove any negativity as you do this certainly can’t hurt. 

Another way you can use salt as part of your spiritual practice is to purify and filter bad vibes. “It works to absorb any negative energy or toxins,” Dr. Kim says. For instance, some people also use salt in the viral TikTok cinnamon for abundance ritual, which involves blowing ground cinnamon into your front doorway to welcome in prosperity. In this case, the cinnamon attracts abundance, while the salt protects those blessings coming your way. 

And, of course, there are many other wellness ways to reap the benefits of salt in your daily routine beyond just cooking and removing bad luck—think sea salt scalp scrubs, Epsom salt baths, or taking a dip in a saltwater pool

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