Friday, November 7, 2008

Apricots, Charms, and Women=Bad Ju-Ju

For all of you that are interested in my blog about superstition, please be patient with me for a minute. I want to touch on something near and dear to my heart. In case you did not know, Veterans Day is upon us. As we enter into the holiday season, I would like to take time out to remember those veterans who have served their country before me. Earlier today, I was talking to a window salesman. He asked me general questions about my occupation in the Marines, if I enjoyed being in the Corps, and if I planned to make a career of it. Later, he added that he was prior military, serving four years in the US Army and serving in Vietnam. It seemed a little odd that he thanked me several times for my service, but really, I owed him all the thanks. It doesn't matter if you did four years as a administration clerk in Camp Pendleton or forty years kicking down door in Fallujiah, marching in sub freezing condition in Korea, or calling in air strikes in Vietnam, a veteran is a veteran! I ask that if you know a service member, enlisted or officer, active or in the reserves, take the time to thank them for their self-less acts of patriotism. Please enjoy this clip and remember that our country is a remarkable place due to the sacrifice of brave men and women who put their lives on the line everyday for the freedoms we enjoy today!

Being that we are talking about the military, particular the United States Marines, I thought that it would be fitting to explore some of the superstitions we Jarheads engage in. By the way, Happy 233rd birthday Marines!

Again, I will refer to earlier post about how the word "superstition" is generally linked with other words such as, "omens, myths, beliefs, customs, traditions, and even religion." From the first day of Recruit Training, Marines have countless customs,courtesies, values, and ethics that are embedded into not only their mind, but their lifestyles. Marines are no different than civilians when it comes to believing in superstitions. Some, like most superstitions, are less common or prevalent throughout this small organization, and others are practiced even by the most junior Devil Dog.

Being that Marine are considered "Soldiers of the Sea", we have adapted many maritime superstitions. Sea travelers have been and still are some of the most superstitious people in history. One myth is that women possessed the power to anger the sea gods or had special abilities to cause storms by whistling, however, this superstition is a double edged sword. While some believed that having a woman on board was a sure fire way to have a storm destroy the ship and all of it's crew, others say that if the woman bares her naked body to the storm, all will be saved. Still, most navigators in ancient times tended not to even have women aboard. This probably explains why figureheads on ships were women with breast-a-blazin'! I found it highly ironic too that the names of most vessels are those of women!


Ancient mythology tells of how Greek figures such as Jason, the Argonauts, and Odyssesus encountered exotic winged women called Sirens. These lustful creatures would lure ship captains into the rocks of their island by singing beautiful songs. In the case of Odyssesus, he had his men tie him to the mast while the crew plugged their ears with bees wax. Jason escaped death by having Orpheus play his lyre louder than the Siren's voices.


Ok, back to reality. Before the times of equal opportunity and sexual harassment, ships were crewed by all males. Sailors would, and still do, pull into port looking for "Wine, Women, and Song". Ships are out to sea for long periods of time, and during the time of nature powered navigation, i.e. wind, sails, and good old fashion manpower, distractions would cause even the most disciplined of crews to neglect their assignment. Women brought that distraction to the table. It is a good thing that human intellect has developed, or otherwise ladies would still be used as human sacrifices!

Commonly confused for the "21 Gun Salute", graveside honors for fallen service members began as "cease fire" commands for the two fighting sides. Seven riflemen, as seen in the above picture, would fire three times to resume the fight after the battlefield was cleared of the dead. "This custom may well have originated in a perceived need to scare away evil spirits "escaping" from the dead. As in ancient times, it was believed that the hearts of the recently deceased were ajar at such times, allowing the devil to enter!" Today, it is considered one of the highest forms of tribute for dedicated service. The number seven and it's multiples are considered to be lucky number in naval superstitions. Maybe it is very fitting that all of Marines trousers (pants) have seven belt loops! "The 21-gun salute traces its roots to the Anglo-Saxon empire, when seven guns constituted a recognized naval salute, as most naval vessels had seven guns. Because gunpowder in those days could be more easily stored on land than at sea, guns on land could fire three rounds for every one that could be fired by a ship at sea. Later, as gunpowder and storage methods improved, salutes at sea also began using 21 guns. The United States at first used one round for each state, attaining the 21-gun salute by 1818. The nation reduced its salute to 21 guns in 1841, and formally adopted the 21-gun salute at the suggestion of the British in 1875."

Perhaps the biggest superstition of Marines comes from tracked vehicle [Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV) and Tanks] units. "There are several stories which explain this superstition for each service, but one popular Marine Corps version details that maintenance units claim every Sherman tank that broke down in World War II had canned-ration apricots nearby. Tales are told to this day of tanks breaking down once this piece of fruit found its way on board."

Other superstitions include tapping a full rifle magazine on one's helmet for good luck, caring rank insignia for the next promotable rank in ones cover (military hat), ill luck to the person who lites 3 cigarettes on one match, bad luck to the unit who's flag touches the ground, Charms candy bringing rain during field exercises, and the destruction of Jump Wings if touched by anyone beside the owner.

I could go on and on breaking down these superstitions, but if you want to know more about them, just leave me a comment. Again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LEATHERNECKS!!

7 comments:

nahmed said...

Hey Fed,
I really liked your blog and agree with most of things that you have said about being superstitious. I also agree that women are more believe when it comes to this topic. Just an example about myself, I used to be a person when I woke up in morning my first thing was to look for paper and then get on internet for different sites to read my horoscope and then think about all the things were said on that day. I would make sure how I was doing things everyday and whether they match with my horoscope. But after sometime I got tired of this stuff and didn’t really follow along. I still very morning glance through paper to read and every now and then things happen the way they were described in daily horoscope.
I also want to tell you that I am not in military but it is very close to my heart just because back home my grandfather and my uncle severed different branches of military and now my fiancé is serving in United States navy for more than six years. So I can relate myself to this respectful day as well.
Take care and Happy 233rd Birthday to all the Marines out there!

theishclassic said...

Ok...been trying all night. How did you put that video in your blog? Oh, and happy Birthday!

Julie P. said...

Wow! What a great list of Marine superstitions. Very impressive. Your research and knowledge of the Corps is really strong here.

Just a small note: at the top of the entry you call veterans "vetrian," twice...don't forget to run that spell-checker. Otherwise, excellent post.

RYNO said...

wow, that was alot of info. I totaly agree with you when it comes to veterans. I stop and shake any veterans hand I see thats wearing a WWII, vietnam, or korean war hat. I believe that they had it way worse than I did in Iraq and thank them for the freedom that I now have the privlidge of protecting today.

I had no idea that there were so many superstitions in the armed forces. I knew about the flag and tapping your mag on your kpot.

But what I really enjoyed was how you broke down the 21 gun salute. I knew that it was the greatist honor that any service member can recieve but did not know that there was so much to it.

I really enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to reading your other entries.

Kat said...

Another really interesting blog. Superstitions never get old. I already knew about the women being believed to be bad luck for oldtime sailors but the rest was all new news. You have great information. What about haunted areas in the present day? Would people's fear of going near them be relevant to your topic? Just curious because a bunch of my friends and I decided to go to a "haunted house" and it was only scary because we thought it would be. Funny how expectations can actually make things be that way. Anyways as far as Veteran's Day and the Marine Corps birthday thank you for your service. Every person serving the country is admirable and should be proud of their contribution.

Bloodsweatnofear said...

You present many very interesting "facts". Although superstition is something that you can have fun with, how much of it do you really think is true?

Fed said...

In response to you Kat, have you ever heard of the Placebo Effect? It is where someone believes something will work, therefore it does. I am not an expert on that, but look it up. That may be the reason why some people do or do not do somethings (ie beleiving haunted houses are really haunted).

In response to you bloodsweat, I am a fairly superstitious person. Being that I have been doing this post for a while now, I have noticed a few more superstitions and tried to adhear to them. I do not get too wrapped up, but at the same time, I do respect them.