So I’m sitting across from Marky (my cousin and housemate) while we are digging into a pan of porridge and while trying to cut through a piece of meat, some pepper splashes into her eyes. The second words out of my mouth after she cries out are “do you want me to get you some salt ?” (first word was sorry). This may seem unusual to some but not to many Nigerian kids like myself who grew up with the myth that salt somehow reduces the intensity and hurt from pepper if it enters or touches the eyes.
I do not consider myself superstitious in almost any way but there are things that are just so ingrained in you due to nurturing, parental influence and experiences that shaped your mind as a growing child.
Anyways after the pepper incident, she didn’t need the salt as it turned out, it made me start thinking of various myths that I grew up with. Things I subconsciously do or acknowledge even when the logical parts of my brain know these things have no effect on the results.
Here are five popular myths in Nigeria;
Salt and Pepper Balancing act
I’m really curious about who started this, I have some questions. Was it thought that because salt and pepper are the twins of spices and the former is milder so of course it should temper out the latter ? Or was the person reaching out for some water and mistakenly touched some salt and said ‘oh let me try this, it could work’. Is there an actual science behind it (I googled it, didn’t turn up with much) or is it more of a mental trick? Well who knows, I shouldn’t actually knock this too hard because I’m very guilty of using it. In fact it’s the first thing my mind goes to before water and that is bad, yes I know. So please, if pepper or anything spicy enters your eyes, please pretty please use some water to rinse it out.
Itchy Cha-Chingy Fingers
This is a really popular myth and I would love to know if it’s one that spreads farther than Nigeria. So it’s said that if your palms itch it means money is coming to you soon. Who doesn’t like some extra money especially when it’s free? I know people who have had this happen to them. I can’t remember if it’s worked for me but some people I know swear by this. It’s probably coincidence more often than nought, but the myth adds some needed spice to it. Itchy fingers or not, please do not quit your day job.
My 23yr old 5’4 self (it’s probably 5’3 but let me claim an extra inch without judgement please) is giving this myth a side eye while thinking of all the beans I shoved down hoping it would translate to height. I’m sure the history of this age old myth that apparently eating a lot of beans helps you grow tall can be easily traced. A mother somewhere started this tale to make her children eat more beans and when she saw that it worked and that the fear of not being tall was greater than the beans she went and told all her other mum friends and there you have it. This is not to say I don’t like beans cause I do but I definitely ate it with a lot more fervour cause of this. I can certainly knock this one off.
This one makes me laugh. Apparently the myth goes as so, if you walk over someone their children will look like you. There are some variations to this like if you walk over a pregnant woman the child would look like you when it’s born or if you walk over someone laying down/sleeping the person laying down is a corpse (guys it’s not that deep). I come from a large family so as a child I heard this a lot, there was always someone walking over someone else. I remember an incident when someone walked over a cousin of mine and she’s like you have to walk over back (apparently that crosses out the initial walk over) I don’t want my kids to look like you and the person does. Later on someone else walks over her and she doesn’t tell the person to walk back over to reverse it, and person A who had walked over her initially and had to do the reverse goes like, ‘hey person xyz didn’t have to do the reverse walk over’ and she goes ‘I don’t mind if my kid looks like person xyz’. The horror, hilarious I tell you. So if you believe this, don’t question if your kids don’t look like you or your spouse.
This myth is if you hit your left foot on a stone you’ll have a bad day, people usually see this as an omen of sorts. Hmmm I can’t say with this one. I’ve definitely had mornings when I’ve been in a hurry and hit some body parts somewhere (legs and stones have definitely been in the mix somewhere) and I can say two things for certain it hurts like a mother and it has occasionally ruined my mornings especially if something equally annoying and/or painful happens right after. But saying it ruins the day is a stretch, often times by noon one would expect to have snapped out of it. I would hope we are bigger people that don’t let stones, other inanimate objects and even people ruin good days.
Another one I remembered is the myth that when it’s raining and the sun is shining at the same time that means a lioness is giving birth. This I believed with all my heart as a child, it just let us have such wild imaginations as children. Science says it’s a sun shower and happens as a result of change in winds but who are we to hamper the imagination of children. I always thought the fact that these two natural components had to happen together while the lioness gave birth just proved to show how majestic they really are.
These are but a few of the many myths, some we believe and practice, others we don’t. Do you believe in myths, are there are any you practice? Are there any you’ve knocked off? Mums, if there are any reading this, what do you say or do to make your children eat things they don’t like? Do you still practice the beans myth with your kids or siblings? Do the children of the coming generation believe any of these things?
Please share some of the myths you believed growing up.