Last Updated on August 23, 2021 by Brandon Hall
My Ears Are Burning
Are your ears burning? Is one of your ears suddenly hot and taking the forefront of your mind? Whether you are searching for answers to an ongoing situation or simply wanting to look into the superstitious side of this saying, there is more history to this belief than you may initially think.
The phrase that references your burning ear or ears may be something you’ve heard before, as it isn’t an uncommon saying. Another variation of this old wives’ tale includes your ears itching instead of burning. The two phrases can often be used interchangeably, but what exactly does it mean when someone’s ears are burning or itching?
While it is considered an old wives’ tale to some, it was once commonly believed in some cultures that your body could detect unseen energies, specifically when those energies are aimed at the individual. Additionally, it was believed that the side of your feeling also played a role, telling you what kind of energy is being sent to you. This superstition can be traced all the back to the 2nd century and perhaps even further.
Origination of Ear Burning Superstitions
Ancient Rome is considered to be the point of origin for this saying that is still around today. When you stop to consider Ancient Rome’s peak was in the first half of the second century, and we are currently in the twenty-first century, it really puts into perspective how far this phrase has traveled in history, cemented into our languages.
Ancient Romans believed when their ear burned, it was their body alerting them to a current (or at times future) event. It was dependent entirely on which ear was burning to know whether the talking being had is of good nature or evil intentions.
How It Is Used Today
The superstitious belief of your ears burning representing a current event has progressed into the modern-day and continues to be utilized in everyday situations. In fact, it has been a part of our linguistics for so long that it seems very doubtful the phrase will fall out of popularity or fade away anytime soon.
You may hear this phrase used in a familial setting, such as a family reunion or holiday. You could walk up to a relative and company as they are having a conversation and be greeted with, “Were your ears burning?” You would be asked this question because you were just the topic of the conversation being had, or you had been.
You may also have it said to you if you discuss a third party with someone and the third party learns of this. “So that’s why my ear was burning,” could be a response that you get, a jest towards having a suspicion someone had been talking about you.
My Left Ear Is Burning! What Does It Mean?
When you experience a burning sensation with its focal point being your left ear, the traditional belief is someone is speaking negatively about you, or they could even be planning to harm you. Sensations that occur on the left side of the body are considered to be evil in traditional superstition.
The association of things on the left being bad sprouts from the discrimination against the left hand, for it is typically the weaker and less dominant hand. People who were left-handed once upon a time in history were heavily discriminated against and even punished for using the hand that was naturally dominant to them. For centuries, people were forced to use their right hands to conform to the expectations of the society around them.
You can find depictions of the left side of a person being the space that houses the evils that roam wild. An example of this is the artwork that you can find of Adam and Eve, as Eve is typically presented on Adam’s left side or the side of evil.
Along with discrimination depicted in art, the forced conformity even extended into the languages spoke. Consider the word “sinister,” for example. While it is a word that is synonymous with “evil,” it originally was the Latin word for “left.” In fact, the word “left” is actually derived from the Old English word “lyft,” which meant “weak.”
Why Is My Right Ear Burning?
When your right ear is burning or itching, the traditional belief states someone is positively speaking about you. Again, the view of right side superiority sprouts from the difference in strength between the two human hands.
90% of the world has a dominant right hand even today, with the global population being over 7 billion people. This, when the math is done, means that over 6 billion people in our world are right-handed while the remaining 10% either are left-handed or naturally ambidextrous. However, due to the “standard” of the right hand being stronger and more dominant, those who wrote with their left hand were often given punishments.
You can again see the preference and discrimination in favor of right-handedness in our language. Can you remember the number of times you have told your friend or family member that they were “right” as a way of telling them that they are correct? The division of the two sides is slowly bridging, as left-handedness is no longer viewed as a monstrosity.
Why Are Both My Ears Burning?
If both of your ears are burning, though the traditional tale doesn’t seem to cover this situation, it is safe to assume that you are the main topic of someone’s (or multiple people’s!) conversations. A common scenario for the feeling of both your ears burning for no known reason is when a close family member is talking about you to a friend or acquaintance of theirs.
Don’t worry yourself too much about whatever negative stuff someone may be saying, as there is obviously also positive energy being sent towards you as well. Focus on the positive energy as much as you can to avoid letting the negativity in; the more you overthink, the more anxious you’ll feel.
It isn’t always our body’s radar that makes our ears burn. You may have situations where your ears are being affected by a force such as the cold on a winter’s day. If you go out in the cold for too long without ear protection, you can expect your ears to get red and start burning. This may also happen if you get embarrassed, which is a perfectly normal human reaction.
Important Detail to Consider
People rely on their bodies more than they may realize. While the stuff on the inside is what keeps the body functioning, the body itself is the entity that holds your energy, your spirit, your very element. The power that you possess interacts with the energies in the rest of the world around you.
Sometimes, parts of your body react to the energies that are received in an attempt to alert you to what is happening. It should be remembered that every person is an individual, and it can’t be expected that every person will experience the same thing.
With this information in mind, you should consider that left-handedness was previously discouraged in mass across the globe. Most of the superstitious beliefs we have today are based on these discriminatory thoughts. The superstitions that we know are based solely on those with a dominant right hand. Those who are left-handed may want to consider reversing each ear’s meaning since their left side may be the more dominant side, as the left side may actually be the one alerting you of positive things being said.
In fact, it is scientifically proven that the human body favors one side over the other in a phenomenon called laterality. Laterality is the science showing that humans may have a preferred side, such as writing with their right hand and kicking with their right leg. However, there are also cases of cross-dominance or mixed-laterality that can be found as well, meaning you have dominant aspects on each side of your body, such as kicking with your right leg and writing with your left hand. This happens a lot with naturally ambidextrous individuals or those who were forced to write with their right hand when they were naturally left-handed. Cases of mixed-laterality, preferred laterality does coincide with which side of your body receives the “good” and “evil” alerts, may also account for situations in which both your ears burn.
Whether you believe there is truth in every old wives tale or superstition or not, the beliefs that have carried over for millennia cannot be ignored. If you were on the hunt for the traditional story of why your ears burn and what each side means, then you have learned that left is evil and right is kind.
While there are certainly more details that you could consider if you are certain there is more than a little truth in this superstition. Every person is different and interacts with the universe in a different way, making some things more true for some than others. The world is magical and should never be confined. New things are being discovered every day that are changing the history of the world as we know it, making the possibility of uncovering evidence to these tales very possible. Keep your ears perked out there. You never know what you may be trying to tell yourself.
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