nautical paintings

Maritime Folklore: What's Real and What's Not

Every profession in the world has its treasure trove of legends, myths and superstitions. A chimney sweeper present at a wedding will bring the young couple good luck. But crossing paths with a priest as you go about your business will bring you bad luck.


However, few professions have a richer folklore than that of sailors. Centuries of exploration, trade, piracy and whaling have created a seemingly endless list of unwritten rules. While some of them seem hilarious, they used to be taken very seriously centuries – and even decades – ago. But how true are they? Let us take a look at some of them:

 1. The Name of a Ship Ending in “A” Brings Bad Luck

This myth originates in the dark years of the Great War, when both Britannia and Lusitania went down under ceaseless fire from German torpedoes. However, the USS Saratoga was extremely successful and lucky during the intense maritime battles of World War II.

 2. Renaming a Ship Is a Bad Omen

For seafaring folk, getting the name of the ship right from the start is very important. Changing the name of the ship is seen as very bad luck. A classic example in this respect is Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Arctic explorer Endurance, which used to bear the name of Aurora. The 1914 expedition ended in disaster, when the ship got trapped in ice and then crushed.

 3. No Women On Board

An old superstition said that women aboard a ship bring bad luck. This myth was certainly fueled by fears that sailors would be distracted from their work by the presence of the fair sex. Also, jealousy could tear apart the unity of the crew. At the present, both men and women serve with professionalism and dignity aboard both civil and military ships.

For beautiful nautical paintings, visit the Maritime History In Art.