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Superstitions Around the World

This assignment ran from Oct 15 to Nov 5, 2018.

Your Shot is launching a mentorship program, and we have selected Shannon HuntRose Ungvari, and Sukanya De as the first three mentees. This assignment from Shannon is the first in a series to be curated by them. Click here to learn more.

From Rose: "Be honest: when was the last time you saw a penny on the ground and picked it up, thinking it would bring you good luck? I find myself doing this all the time. In fact, I found one the other day in the parking lot, and I still have the penny in the pocket of my shorts!

Where did I learn this superstition? I remember hearing about this when I was a young girl from my school friends. I also had a white rabbits foot and was always looking for that elusive four-leaf clover for good luck (I still do). I had a variety of black cats as a family pet growing up, and never once thought of them as bringers of bad luck. They were so darn cute; how could they be? Yet, many people believe it brings bad luck to cross paths with a black cat.

Some people may not think they are superstitious, but still knock on wood or avoid walking under a ladder to prevent bad luck. Many cultures believe that the number 13 is evil and brings bad luck, yet other cultures believe the number 13 brings good fortune.

Superstitions have been a part of our lives for the ages, passed on from generation to generation, just like traditions. I have always been fascinated with the world of superstitions, wondering where they originate from. How have they evolved over generations? Are they a belief in the supernatural? Do they stem from hope or faith, fate or magic? Are ghost stories superstitions?

For this Your Shot assignment, we are inviting you to share your experiences with superstitions through your images and stories. Have fun with this! Since we are a part of this robust, global community within National Geographic, this will be a great opportunity to learn something new or old from all corners of the globe. Because we also want to know the stories behind the superstitions you document, please use your captions to tell us why these beliefs are so important to you, your family, your culture, or your heritage. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!"

Rose Ungvari
Your Shot Photographer

Kristen McNicholas
National Geographic Your Shot Associate Photo Editor

Curated by:

Kristen McNicholas
Associate Photo Editor, Nat Geo Your Shot
Assignment Status
  • Open

    Everyone’s welcome to contribute their best shot to open assignments. Learn more.
  • Closed

    Completed assignments—with our favorite photos included—will be published online. Learn more.
  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Nov 21, 2018.
Thank you for your contributions!

My Best Photos of 2018 assignment

Posted dec 11, 2018

"My Best Photos of 2018" assignment has launched. Make sure you turn on your notifications, so you are alerted if we open to a fourth, and maybe even a fifth submission.

In the meantime, to get inspired, check out a gallery of the best images from this year — curated by the Your Shot team from thousands of photographers and over a million photographs.


Rose's Second Update

Posted oct 26, 2018

Wow, this first half of the assignment flew by fast and I have to say it has been such an incredible experience so far to go through your amazing submissions. I am excited with the variety of interpretations of superstitions I am seeing from all of you, our wonderful global community and how you are all helping and supporting each other on the discussion board with thoughtful feedback and conversations.

It’s been fascinating to see examples of 35 mm film and infrared photography, as well as, thinking outside of the box. I appreciate reading many of the extensive details and backgrounds behind your beliefs and superstitions in your captions and look forward to learning more.

Many Holidays have superstitions linked to them and with Halloween and Día de Muertos fast approaching, as well as, many Fall Harvest Festivals going on, this could be a perfect opportunity to have the camera ready and explore some elements of fascinating superstitions happening right around you in your own community. When thinking about your next submissions, you may encounter witches, scary dolls, a colorful uplifting cemetery or bobbing for apples, which is believed that the first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry.

Día de Muertos is celebrated in early November coinciding with All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day to celebrate deceased loved ones. Spirits are welcomed back into the living world with ofrendas of treats, drinks, candles, and paper banners. China has a similar celebration of the dead known as Teng Chieh, “The Lantern Festival”, where water and food are offered to the spirits and lanterns symbolize the lengthening days of spring and illuminate the path for souls to come back.

Please feel inspired by the Editor Favorites and Editor Notes we have left and continue to share your images and help one another on the discussion board with insightful feedback. Show us more of the superstitions you grew up with, that surround you, tell us your story, we want to learn more.

Rose Ungvari
Your Shot Photographer

Rose's First Update

Posted oct 15, 2018

It is an honor to be among the first three selected mentees of this exciting Your Shot Mentorship Program and this assignment is a dream come true for me. It is an enriching educational experience to be able to learn and work alongside an Editor, such as Kristen McNicholas, as we go through the many steps and stages of understanding and developing this intriguing assignment together.

During the thought process, we discussed how important it was to keep the assignment topic broad, for the community to feel like everyone is able to participate, while also maintaining care to be thoughtful about what we consider superstitions. We want to be sensitive and respectful to everyone’s diverse beliefs and religions. We want this assignment to be fun!

We shared examples of the various superstitions we found such as The Twelve Grapes of Luck which is both a tradition and superstition in Spain that consists of eating a grape with each bell strike at midnight on New Year’s Eve, that leads to a year of prosperity. Similarly, in Turkey, many families throw a pomegranate on the floor and crack it open on New Year’s Eve to have a plentiful New Year. We discussed how some holidays like Día de Muertos, celebrated in Mexico, isn’t necessarily a superstition but this holiday welcomes and honors loved ones through ofrendas who have passed on.

We always encourage you to make new photos, yet for this assignment we will welcome older images like film scans. It could be from an older 35 mm film or scan in an old photograph you have stored away in an attic or photo album of family memories. Get creative…conceptual or abstract, think out of the box!

Please keep in mind that if a superstition or tradition is not native to your culture, then do your due diligence and research to tell us where it came from, do take the time to educate us in your caption. Take advantage of the discussion board to share your images with the Your Shot community for valuable feedback and advice BEFORE submitting to this assignment. Have fun, we look forward to learning your fascinating superstitions!

Rose Ungvari
Your Shot Photographer

Kristen McNicholas

Kristen McNicholas

Associate Photo Editor, Nat Geo Your Shot
Kristen is an Associate Photo Editor with the Your Shot team. She interned at the White House Photo Office under the Obama Administration as well as Education Week. A proud RIT alumna, dessert enthusiast and Finger Lakes, NY native, Kristen is excited to guide your photographic journey!