Salt was once considered a very precious commodity; as important as money has grown to be. Because it was so valued within ancient societies and was very expensive to buy and also very difficult to extract, it has had quite a lot of symbolism and superstition attached to it over the course of human history. Salt was used as a preservative and, in this sense, began to symbolize life and the avoidance of decay. It became a sign of hospitality, trust and friendship because of its high price. Soldiers in Rome were often paid in salt and, in this way, it was also a form of currency. This latter use of salt is the source of the expression that a person was "not worth his salt."
To spill salt then was an extraordinary waste and the superstition that claimed bad luck would visit anyone who spilt salt was invented specifically to deter this behavior.
- If salt was spilt in a particular person's direction, bad luck was coming to that person.
- Spilt salt should not be cleaned up but should instead by tossed over the left shoulder, into the face of the Devil.
- Enough tears must be cried to dissolve the spilt salt in order to reverse the bad luck that was coming your way.
Other superstitions for salt:
- Wearing a small bag of salt around your neck protected you from the Evil Eye.
- A pinch of salt was left in a baby's crib until it was christened.
- Salt was an unlucky word for sailors and should never be mentioned at sea.
- Salt was thrown on the threshold of a new house for good luck.