SOME GHANAIAN SUPERSTITIONS

That Africans are superstitious is a well-known fact. But since I do not live in all the countries in Africa, I will enumerate a few of the superstitious beliefs in Ghana, my homeland. These superstitions, though most times crude and detrimental to our well-being, also protect certain things we have. I will be glad if we can take the opportunity of enlightenment, education wise, to explain to our elders why some of these are preposterous. I do know our elders and the fact that persuading them is mostly a ‘cos 90’ job, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. These superstitious beliefs are always in battle with the various religious bodies as religious leaders try to demystify these beliefs, every time they find themselves among people with such intents, with their Holy Books.

  •  If you sing in the bathroom, your mother or father will die. (My thoughts on this, maybe, just maybe they did not want us to swallow the soapy water.
  • If a child cries in the night, the child or one of his or her parents will die. (I think this was meant to stop the children who can speak and understand from crying, but those who do not understand, their parents hit something as though they are beating the child to prevent whatever bad luck from taking effect.)
  •  Unless you are the mother, father or a close relative, a new born cannot be seen until the seventh day. (I think they did this for protection against black magic)
  •  If you breastfeed your child in public, witches, wizards or herbalist with black medicine will infect the child with many unpleasant sicknesses. (Although I know it is a bit preposterous, you wouldn’t want to breastfeed your child in public in Ghana, trust me, a doubting Thomas, when I say your child may attract horrible diseases that way.)
  • If you pound nothing in a mortar, you are pounding your mother’s breast. (Maybe this was meant to protect the mortar and the pestle, because pounding nothing breaks both.)
  • If a pregnant woman eats eggs, she will give birth to a snake.  (This is funny because we all know that eggs are nutritious to the mother and the baby.)
  • When you whisper at night, you are calling dwarfs or snakes. (The snakes part have been proven by scientists but the dwafy part, I am guessing boys and girls whispered at night to call their lovers, and were being subdued with this superstition.)
  •  You do not play the draft game or ‘oware’ in the night because you will be playing with dwarfs. (Maybe this was meant to deter children who loved playing at the expense of sleep from doing so.)
  •  When you are eating, you do not sing or you will choke to death. (I guess this is somehow true as people choke when talking while eating.)
  •  You do not mention the names of snakes in the night or they will appear and make you their feast. (I have no idea of how this came about.)
  •  When a child reaches the age of two without sitting, crawling or talking, that child is a spirit child who must be sent back to his or her spirit masters. (This I think is crude because civilization has taught us those are disabilities, which most times can be cured.)
  •  You do not go to farm on a certain day of the week, mostly Tuesdays, or you will meet the river goddess which means instant death. (I think this was meant to protect the river bodies as people walked through most of them to their farms at the same time fetching to drink when there happens to be a shortage of water.
  •  When a female is too aggressive, it is a sign of witchcraft. (This is crude because most of these females are just hard working individuals. And the fact that they still use these crude measures to clip their wings by sending them to witch camps, is preposterous.)
  •  When a woman is pregnant, she cannot be married until she delivers, or else the husband will be marrying both the wife and the child if the baby happens to be a girl. This girl will grow up and never get married. (I think this was supposed to prevent pre- marital affairs but most people do not bother about this anymore.)
  •  A man does not wash the underwear of a woman or he will become stupid. (I have no idea about how this came about, maybe it was meant to ensure the superiority of men).
  •  You do not greet an elderly before visiting the toilet. It is believed that you will be easing yourself on the head of the elder or you may ease yourself chatting away. (I have no idea as to how this came about. But I sure do remember my late grandmother made sure we never breached it).
  • When you see a white person in your dream, you have seen a witch.
  • If a pregnant woman baths in the night, she will miscarry (Courtesy, Zaapayim)
    When twins are born, their mother must turn into a beggar in order to feed them or they will die. (Courtesy, Zaapayim)

  • When you sweep at night, you will have a misfortune or be visited by poverty. (Courtesy, Zaapayim)
  • When you are sweeping and you see an elder passing, you have to say sorry or you may be cursed, as this may render you a sweeper for as long as the curse is stands or you will be poor forever.
  • If a pregnant woman watches horror movies, she will give birth to an ugly child.
  • When you give birth to a boy as a first child and you wake up in the morning and the first person who you see happens to be a boy, that is a sign of good luck and vice versa. (Mr. Imoro).
  • If you eat and your hand touches the ground, it is a sign of bad luck. (Courtesy, Zaapayim)
  • If a pregnant woman dies, those who bury her must have all her assets.
  • If you pick money from the ground, you will lose more than what you took. (Mr. Imoro)

Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia © 2014.

38 thoughts on “SOME GHANAIAN SUPERSTITIONS

  1. This was so much fun. I must confess that this blog is my first exposure to anything from Ghana, and you are the first Ghanaian writer that I am reading. I think that is the biggest joy of blogging, exposure to so many cultures and people across the world. On superstitions, India obviously doesn’t lag behind anyone, though since we are such a big and multi-cultural country, the superstitions vary across regions and races. But lots of stupid ones, for example- No cutting hair or nails on Tuesdays or it will bring bad luck; No eating meat or egg on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays since these are the days of certain Hindu Gods; No eating of fish/meat/eggs for an entire month during monsoons in some cultures; no washing of clothes during a certain fasting period to appease the Gods annually….I could go on forever 🙂

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  2. Hello dear fine writer and poet friend! My Irish grandma told me superstitions I follow to this day … at least I think twice before I walk under a ladder, or open an umbrella in the house. Of course never place a book upon a Bible. And on the first day of the month say “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” if you want good luck that month. I hope you are well. Smiles…

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  3. – I would venture to guess that not seeing the newborn is to make life easier on the new mother …it is not easy taking care of a newborn!
    – I am shocked to learn about this breastfeeding superstition, as have found it to be more common to see in Ghana than in Canada …but if this is true, it goes along with people saying you should not eat while walking, only if sitting – in a tro, at a chop bar, anywhere that you are not on the go; better for our digestion than the way obrunis like to eat on the go!
    – I was told eggs are dangerous for the woman and baby, but was not told how. The woman I debated this with motivated me to look it up and that is when I learned that if not well cooked, there are risks for the baby (no sunny-side-up for pregnant women!), but eggs are a great source of various nutrients for pregnant women if well cooked!
    – Most (not all) Ghanaian men I know in committed relationships will wash their wives panties if they are helping her with the wash; the thing is the women generally do the wash even in these families.
    – I am sceptical about the twins mother becoming a beggar example, as I know many twins in Ghana and their mothers all had jobs after their births.
    http://obibinibruni.org/

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    1. I used to live in Ghana 1972-1978 (Kumasi and Akim Oda) then 1994-1996 (Takoradi), as son of a German Engineer working in the timeber business and later as an employee of one such firm. Anyway, loved Ghana and am always telling people about Juju and some things I saw and/or experienced. The funniest “superstition” for me remains drivers beeping the car horn before crossing a river. This warns the spirits living under the bridge that your a-comin! Not only taxi drivers and mammy-lorries would do this, even the “posh” Bank Manager of Barclays would reach for the klaxon. I loved it, and I did it too when I drove around, even as a Kwesi Broni!

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      1. Thank you for the addition. Not only that, when a car carries a corpse, some libations must be poured and some traditions performed before crossing a river or entering into some towns. Still happens in some towns. Even somewhere in Wa, they believe and worship some python I am told. Sometimes, the big snake can come and lie on the road. It is not killed, neither is it sacked. The traditionalists perform some customary rites for it to leave. Believed a catastrophe may befall the village if it or any of its kind is harmed.

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      2. Thanks for your kind comments/anecdotes. I love all these things about Ghana and I hope they never go away. I remember trying to explain to my Ghanaian friends that just about every country has its own quirky superstitions, it wasnt exclusive to Ghana or anything to be embarrassed about. Here in Ireland where I live we have stone circles called fairy forts. No construction company will remove one, and roads are literally built around them. Nobody has a number 13 on their car…..there are so many. (dont walk under a ladder, 1 solitary magpie (bird) in the garden is bad luck…I could continue. On Libation: Before we commenced work in a forest, we would meet the local chief for libation, a blessing without which none of the local lads would even dream of starting work without. There were also designated days (depending on area) on which work in the forest was “taboo” or forbidden, as this was the day the spirits were not to be disturbed. We used this day to maintain our machines at the edge of the forest. I could go on and on….even stories where I have seen juju working with my own eyes. And I consider myself quite sane.

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      3. Lol. You are sane. Ever heard of owls being bad animals? Portraying bad luck and witchcraft? Even their sounds are considered bad luck and the beginning of terrible things to come. Superstitions are really something. Heard of your number 13 though. Was baffled but felt great knowing it is everywhere.

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      4. Ok, were on a roll. More superstitions from Ireland and Germany.
        Itchy nose or itchy ear ? Someone is talking about you.
        Hiccups? Someone is thinking about you.
        When driving accross railway tracks, lift your feet! (yes, even if youre driving!) Otherwise..bad luck!! This one is in rural parts of Ireland
        Throw salt over your left shoulder for luck.
        If you break a mirror, its 7 years of bad luck.
        More here:
        http://www.superstitionsof.com/irish-superstitions-and-beliefs.htm

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      5. Well, as a free human I can recall the stories any way I see fit. Naturally as a person who loves Ghana I ensure to leave a good impression. People who believe in Stereotypes I wouldnt be talking to, I try to omit shallow minded people from my circle of friends. I am of German parentage, and I am quite sure you don’t think I am sitting here at my PC in my Lederhosen eating sausages and sauerkraut as I am watching old stock footage of Hitlers rallies in 1936, all whilst drinking my 5th Stein of Pilsener Beer. 😉 As a result of my positive promotion of Ghana, scores of friends have flown there to visit, and they too loved it. It is the little things about people that make them facinating and unique. My favourite thing is that they all come back saying Ghanaians are warm and friendly and love to have a good laugh at all times, even in moments of adversity and downright hardship.

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  4. Life as we understand it
    Is falling by the wayside
    It’s only survival we be by those who still
    Can keep their head between their shoulders
    Prayers and blessings Cecilia
    Above all Peace
    As always Sheldon

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  5. Bright eyes dig up a question from generations ago:
    You want to know why the wind blew us
    Together, how our sons will grow, when we will
    Meet again, where will we be as one again?
    Training gives you the desire to examine cause and
    Effect. Experiences about as wide apart as possible
    Come at us, yet we harmonize, learn each other’s secrets,
    Give what we know the other will love, provide
    Sanctuary in a world spinning out of control for so
    Many. This I offer to distinguish myself from regular
    Men, be they handsome or young: a complete heart
    With continued support, undying gratitude, massage
    Therapy, attempts at cooking, quite a way with words.
    I expect you to smile when we chat, remain a solid
    Force, a muse for my art, the reason I will always
    Yearn for more, forever the target of happy life,
    Memories (plans?) and a fresh heart, made whole
    By the time we spent sincerely swirled, sufficiently
    Molded to continually receive jolts of good news,
    Connected forever by this love, complex, alive, strong.

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  6. Thank you Mr. Gyamfi for your comment. With modernity, I have no other choice but to concur. We have lived by these and many more like forever but they are losing their essence really though those in the rural areas refuse to let them go. But there are some which actually do protect. Like being a taboo to cross a river at certain times or cut some trees are supposed to protect water bodies etc. It is a dicey issue.

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  7. Hmmm, essay well written. I think, from the list you have provided, that these superstitions were solely meant to protect and to to intimidate for no good reason!

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