A collection of (funny) superstitions from my friends
I’ve never been a superstitious person, but I have always been amused by superstitions and those who practice them. I recently put up a Facebook status to hear what some of my friends have to say about the superstitions they have adopted and practiced all their lives and why.
By Karen Chin @karenevachin
A surprising remedy for a sore neck
A few days ago, I pulled a muscle in my neck at work and ended up with a very painful, stiff neck. I couldn’t move without excruciating pain – dressing myself up or brushing my hair was pure torture – and I could hardly sleep a wink.
The next day, I drugged myself with ibuprofen and dragged myself to a surprise birthday party my family was throwing for my sister. As expected, my comical and robotic appearance became the focus of conversation for a while. My uncle then told me of an old folks’ remedy to cure stiff necks: dry your pillow outside in the sun, and then hit your sore neck with it.
We all had a good laugh about it, but I could rationalise that the heat in the pillow from the sun exposure and even pressure from a soft object like a pillow would help reduce the pain and relax the sore muscles.
My two cents on superstitions
Although superstitions may have no basis in scientific evidence or rational substance, they exist everywhere around the world, differing vastly from culture to culture.
Western folk traditions that we typically hear are “Touch wood!” and touch anything wooden nearby to prevent the ‘dark prophecy’ of something undesirable coming true, or how black cats are commonly known as bad luck magnets (cat racism!), and not stepping on a crack in the pavement.
Personally, I believe that superstitions stem from tales that elders tell the young to scare them into staying out of trouble. For example, when someone tells you not to walk under a ladder, it is obviously for safety’s sake. From there on, however, the tale is passed on until no one knows where it comes from and why.
Another theory I have about doing something out of superstitious belief is that it provides a placebo effect. Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. So doing something that someone says works – no matter how irrational it is – makes you feel safe and comforted in the idea that you have done everything you can in warding off dangers out of your control.
For example, for someone who believe in ghosts and fear them, they probably practice all the superstitious dos and donts in hotels, in the jungle and even at home, like not whistling or singing at night.
Amusing superstitions courtesy of my friends
Anyway, here are some superstitions that my friends sent me. Believe me, I had alot of comments to sieve through! My personal favourites:
“While growing up, we were told to do/not to do certain things, sometimes without much explanation. If someone offers you food, and you don’t want it, just touch it – so you won’t get into an accident during your journey home. If you’re travelling on a boat along the river, never say the word ‘crocodile or alligator’ – so they won’t disturb you.” Rebecca Marimuthu, 42, housewife, Germany
“No sweeping on first day of Chinese New Year – you wouldn’t want to “sweep away” your wealth. During Chinese weddings, male kids are recommended to pee into a potty for the wedding- to symbolize and to hope that the newly-weds will have boys for children to ensure more males in the household (so they can continue the family name) and children are to roll around in the bride and groom’s bed- to symbolize that the newly-weds will had a lot of children to come.” Philemon Kho, 19, student, Kuching
“Don’t open an umbrella indoors because it would make you short (if you’re growing up) or it would trap ‘unwanted’ things.” Michelle Low, 28, corporate communications, Kuala Lumpur
“My grandma used to disapprove of girls shaking their legs (restless legs syndrome haha) because it was not virtuous and would signify shaking away your fortune or something like that.” Irene Chan, 27, copywriter, Kuching
“I no longer write on my palms because it is believed that when you do that, your debts will pile up. I avoid it so that I can be debt-free. I keep a straw broom upside-down behind my main door or my bedroom door, to prevent evil dreams.” Joshua Peter, 31, Kuching
“One of my staff, a Bangladeshi, used to tell me not to put my hand on my chin when thinking of something because it symbolises being widowed; I stopped doing that since he told me.” Goh Kheng Leng, 30, sales and marketing executive, Kuching
“I feel uneasy if I sleep with my feet facing the doors. I still do it, but it just feels weird. It is said that it seems like you are a corpse when that happens.” Victoria Ang, 31, communications executive, Petaling Jaya
“When opening the main door from inside your house, especially in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning, step aside for the ‘bad air’ that comes into your house. You don’t want it to touch you.” Beatrice Nuing, 32, tourism officer, Kuala Lumpur
“Do not ask for money (especially from parents) from 6 till 10am, no matter how small the amount. It is believed that it will cause them to be unprofitable. I actually got scolded by somebody’s parents when I was asking for the Red Crescent donation at 9am. Also, give twenty cents to the person (especially if it is a close friend or partner) who gives you shoes as presents. This is to avoid serious confrontations. When the twenty cents is given, the issue is resolved quickly. It’s weird, but it happens.” Loh Tsen Tze, 31, Kuching
“I knock on the door before I enter a hotel room, place one side of my slippers facing upwards and the other facing downwards next to my bed (this is to avoid spirits from wearing them), pull the blanket out, mess up the pillows… and leave the wardrobe alone.” Ivor Marco, disc jockey, Kuala Lumpur
“Do not hang laundry outside the house at night. It is believed that your clothes will get possessed or the spirits will wear them.” Anonymous, 31, Kuching
“Do not cut your fingernails or comb your hair at night. Don’t imitate the sounds of some night birds (owls, maybe)… but we did all of that, because we weren’t superstitious.” Didacus Hon, 44, UTOPIA Bar co-owner, Kuching
What are the strangest superstitious traditions passed down to you? Comment and share with us!