Nigerians and superstitions


As I was taking care of the task of clipping my fingernails, one of the nails didn’t land in the small garbage can I was clipping them into. I watched the nail fly off then tried to find it but could not. That’s ok though because it helped me think of something I wanted to talk about: superstitions!

My mom might be alone in this but if she’s a typical Nigerian mom (and she is in many ways), then I’d say that Nigerian women are somewhat superstitious. In my family, we grew up knowing there were a few things that she believed in that we never quite took seriously. Whenever she mentions or comments on any of the following, I tell her they’re old wives’ tales, but she isn’t convinced:

  • If someone steps on the clipped fingernail of another person, they will have a fight with that person.
  • If you serve or pass anything to anyone with your left hand it’s a sign of disrespect. The reason I was given is that that’s the hand you should be using to um, how can I put this delicately, wipe after using the facilities. That’s one thing I actually have internalized and I find when I am serving a Nigerian older than me anything and for some reason I have to use my left hand, I will apologize automatically. I don’t even think about it, it just comes out.
  • When I was last in Nigeria 14 years ago and we were at the market, I, jovial and very silly person that I am, started laughing over something. I am not a restrained laugher: when I’m really humoured my laughing can be quite noticeable: loud and high-pitched even. My mom gave me a stern look and told me to stop laughing immediately, lest someone see me and do juju on me.

And on the topic of juju we could talk for hours. It’s not something I know much about, and I’m not even sure if I believe in it, but I’m sure even the skeptics have heard stories that have made you decide to be careful, just in case it’s true…or maybe it’s just me.

So, do you have family members who are superstitious? Are you superstitious? Do you know any superstitions that you’d say are uniquely Nigerian in nature?


13 Responses to “Nigerians and superstitions”

  1. lol. ur mum and my mum sound awfully similar.

    Momsie has managed to pass on her paranoia onto me (in some ways). e.g. am at a girlfriend’s house, if i happen to see my strand of hair shed out, i tactfully grab and place in my purse not her trash can. God forbid, the girl does jazz on me! lol.

  2. most cultures hae superstitions of their own – even caucasian ones!

    as for the laughing outside, i think what ur mom meant was that someone can see u and think u are laughing at them and then…

    the other things u mention are just stories to ensure that pple ‘behave” like the nail clipping thing might just be because they want people to be clean.

  3. We are born-again christians sha so we try to limit the superstition but every now and then it creeps back in. I remember wearing my shirt inside out one time and my mom said it was good luck because i did it unintentionally.
    Another one i know of if your eye twitches i forget which eye but if one of them twitches then something good is about to happen to you.
    As for juju, I believe o! I’ve heard things, some from my parents even.
    I remember my former roommate that came from naija in 2006 she always wore a bead on her waist, one day i asked her why and she said a Baba had given it to her to prevent her from getting pregnant as long as she never took it off.
    I’ve never heard of the nail clip one that is interesting, its similar to the one i know of that if you pass across a person all your children will look like that person.

  4. Hmmm…my grandmother is superstitious, but my dad stomps on any superstitious act or behaviour spoken in our house…Jesus rules!

  5. 5 30+

    The list is endless. Use umbrella in the house means rain on wedding day just one e.g.

  6. 6 sting

    I don’t think u can be nigerian and not be superstitious. The degree of superstitiousness just varies. You can’t whistle at night cos it calls the spirits. Don’t food from strangers cos they will give u witchcraft. My mom’s hand was hurting one time, and she said she must have picked up “spiritual” poison. All sorts of stories i could tell u.

    I don’t think i can say i’m really superstitious, but i bet if you look hard enough it’s there lurking beneath the surface.

    I do believe in evil spirits though, and not cos it’s in the bible.

  7. Superstition means Nigeria….no story!
    I dont think there’s anything in that Nigeria that doesnt have superstition tied to its name.

    They say dont sweep the floor and leave it for someone else to pack up…that person will end up collecting your spouse/fiance…whatever!

    Dont turn the tip of a knife on yourself during the day, if you do, you’ll wake up during the night and stab yourself.

    Dont kiss a baby on its lips…the baby becomes a drooling adult…! Thats horse poop to me!

    Don’t pick up money you find on the floor. You turn to stone! I think this became popular around the time people started getting missing and were being used for money rituals!

    Many more…I can only remember the weirdest ones!

  8. lol…all naija mums are the same love….very funny…you forgot the one that you cant have someone cross over you if you are lying or sitting…or someone sweeps close to your feet…or when you talk about something bad that could happen you immediately counter it wit…GOD FORBID!!!…lmao…I actually do that one without thinking…

  9. 9 Minky

    I am so guilty of that left hand thing! Its just a natural tendency even though I am right handed and yes I have been told off! Heard quite a few & I just laugh when I am reminded of them. I do not believe in superstitions at all mehn!

  10. I have heard if you whistle at night a snake will come out!

    i dont think the use of left hand can be labeled as superstition..its just soomething they think is direspectful…and yes o that left hand even at work i find it hard giving my boss document with my left hand!!

    My mom is not superstitious tho!my dad can be at times….one day a big tree fell down in our house just the day after one househelp we had for 5 yrs left and my dad said its becos d househelp left the tree fell down..i was like ahn!ahn! DADDY!!!

    meanwhile did u see my email abt the free promo we want for blogville idol 08?hook us up na!

  11. A lot of superstitions fly around Nigeria airwaves.

    I personally hate superstitions, I can’t stand them.

    I know there is one about crossing over someones legs, if u do, u have to walk across in the opposite direction.

  12. Just remembered one…

    I am still afraid to look straight at the moon as I was told there is someone pounding pepper there and if you look too hard they will pour it in yur eyes…

  13. Swallow the seed of oranges and they will grow inside you.

    Someone you dont know touches you, check your penis(men) and confirm its still there. This was hilarious but I did it a few times :) *Shaking my head* You just never know.

    The left hand thingy, I think is a general Naija thing. It is simply not done.

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