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15 Sarawakian superstitions you may have heard growing up

No matter where you are from, superstitions can be found everywhere and will be believed by at least one person next to you.

Every culture is bound to have a few superstitions and Sarawak has no shortage of it.

Some of these superstitions can be found throughout the rest of Malaysia but here are 15 Sarawakian superstitions you would have heard if you grew up in Sarawak:

1.Jungle superstitions

Don’t call out your friend’s name in the jungle. Credits: Pixabay.[/caption]

Do not call out your friends’ names with wild abandon in the jungle or else ‘something else’ like a mischievous or malicious jungle spirit might answer you and lead you off the wrong path.

Some hikers have told stories of following behind somebody they believed to be one of their hiking buddies, only to discover later that they had been misled by a jungle spirit mimicking their friend’s appearance to lead them astray.

If you need to use the loo in the jungle, ask permission or apologise to the spirits in the area first because the spot you pick to do your business might be somebody’s home.

2.Give your new sandals a bite
Make sure you give your new sandals a bite before wearing them. Credits: Pixabay.

If you just bought a pair of new sandals, give it a bite. Yes, a bite with your teeth.
It is believed that by doing so, you would lessen your chances of getting blisters on your feet.

3.Never ever point at the rainbow with your finger

Did you just spot a pretty rainbow? Do not point at it with your index finger or you might lose it. In other folk tales, your finger might turn to stone.

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4.Do not let the end of the broom touch your feet

Do not let the end of the broom ever touch your feet. Credits: Pixabay

Sweeping over another person’s feet with a broom is said to bring bad luck. No worries, if the broom touches your own feet you can undo the bad luck by spitting on the broom.

5.Do not clip your fingernails at night

Clipping your fingernails or toenails at night are apparently an open invitation to ghosts to come into your house. It’s likely that this superstition came about as a safety precaution when our ancestors only had gas lamps or firelight to light their way in the dark.

6.Women should not sit on the house steps or staircase

Are you still single or unmarried? That’s probably because you sat on the house steps. Young and unmarried women are advised not to sit on the house steps for fear of living out the rest of their lives as a single woman (which is not entirely a bad idea).

7.Do not sit in the doorway either

A young and unmarried woman should not sit at the door. Credits: Pixabay.

Probably concocted by mothers tired of stepping over their children to get into the house, this is another one of many marriage-related superstitions. To young single women out there, sitting in the doorway will decrease the chances of men knocking on your door asking for your hand in marriage.

8.Do not sing while cooking

The kitchen is not for you to practice your singing. Burst out into song while you are cooking and you risk having an ugly or an old spouse in the future. (Unless you already have an unattractive spouse; go ahead and sing your heart out.)

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9.Do not step over people when they are lying down

How to kill a person without lifting a finger? Lift your feet instead by stepping over them while they are lying down on the floor.

Similarly, if you ever acquire a medicinal or magical charm, never step over it for fear of said charm losing its powers.

10.Don’t change places while eating

If you are aiming to have many spouses like Elizabeth Taylor, by all means do not believe in this superstition.
Changing places while eating means you will have a lot of spouses in the future.

11.Do not write people’s name in red

Writing a person’s name in red ink is like signing them a death note as some people believe that doing so is cursing them to death.

12.Take a shower after coming back from a funeral

For those who have attended funerals at rural longhouses, you might have seen people jumping into the river after coming back from the cemetery.

Taking a shower after coming back from a funeral is a lot more common than you think in Sarawak. Credits: Pixabay.

Even if you are in town with no river in sight, taking a shower after coming back from a funeral is common practice for some families. For others, it is advised to wash your feet and your head before entering the house to wash off the negative aura of death.

Some believe this is also to prevent malicious spirits from following us from the grave site.

13.Touch wood
Apparently this is a global superstition. If you make a joke and it sounds like it has a chance of coming true, knock on any wood in sight and say “Touch wood!” to prevent the joke from becoming a reality.

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14.Touch the plate of food you are offered if you are not eating

Let say that you are about to leave home and your mum just prepared dinner. You really need to leave so what do you do? Touch the plate of that dish with your fingers to avoid “kempunan”, which in Malay means the disappointment of not getting something. For the Iban, it is advised to eat a pinch of the rice offered before you leave the house to prevent an accident from happening to you.

15.“Are you going to fish?”

This is one of the superstitions still believed by people in the longhouses. If you see somebody carrying all the right tools to fish such as fishing nets, rods and all, do not ask the obvious question “Are you going to fish?”
You are throwing that person’s luck away and they will not catch any fish from their trip.

Similarly do not be overconfident about your fishing luck by saying something optimistic like “It looks like we’re going to catch a lot of fish today!” unless you’re ready to come back empty handed.

Do you know other superstitions? Let us know in the comment box

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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