Revisiting Malay superstitions as an adult

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Superstitions are a major part of many cultures around the world but are they really real?

When I was younger, I would hear my mother or my grandmother (or anyone older, really) utter a bunch of absurd claims to get me to do or not do something. Most of them were so convincing to 6-year-old me that I would actually listen to my parents because I thought they were true. It wasn’t until I went to primary school that I learned these claims were called superstitions and some of them have very rational meanings behind them.

Don’t play after Maghrib (dusk) or risk being captured by an evil spirit – This one I’m sure many parents have used against their children to persuade them to come back home after spending hours playing outside. When I was a kid, I genuinely thought I would get kidnapped by some ghost and never see my family again so I would sprint back inside the moment the sun began to set. Really though, parents just want to prevent their kids from playing in the dark where even worse things than being kidnapped by a Dracula could happen to a child. Talk about keeping them safe by spooking them, right?

If you had a dream that you were bitten by a snake, that means someone is coming to propose to you – I don’t really think there’s any rational meaning behind this superstition nor do I know the correlation between something so terrifying as being bitten by a potentially venomous creature and marriage. Either way, I’ve had these dreams before and Harry Styles is yet to get down on one knee and pull out a ring in front of me so…

Don’t sit on the pillow or you’ll get boils on your butt – I’ve had this one used against me before and again, I believed them (bear in mind, I was a kid ok). I actually thought I was going to get boils when I sat on my mum’s new pillows, but it turned out she just didn’t want me to ruin the fillings. 

You’ll end up with multiple husbands if you keep on changing your seats at the dining table – Imagine how annoying it would be to have dinner with someone where one moment they’re sitting next to you then the next they’re in front of you and the next they’re at the other end of the dining table. I’m sure parents say this to get their kids to sit down while they’re eating to avoid getting food all over the place.

Pregnant women are often advised not to bad mouth other people while in pregnancy to avoid their child from adopting the very thing they talked negatively of – Pregnant or not, men or women, we shouldn’t be bad-mouthing others anyway. 

There are a lot more of these that I’ve heard. Some make no sense but are always fun to throw around with friends and family – ie: if you say something and a lizard starts making that clicking noise, that means they’re agreeing with you. What’s a superstition you have in your culture?

Tagged in What messes with your head, superstitions