Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 3rd 2017 Contents A18 commentary
guardian.co.tt Tuesday, January 3, 2017
SUPERSTITIONS AND HEALTH BELIEFS
In most societies, there are
many health superstitions
which are intertwined with the
cultural beliefs of the society.
The origin of any superstition
is unknown. We do know they
are built on the premise of con-
trolling the outcome of events.
The human mind is built to try to
make sense of the world, no mat-
ter what, so we can feel we are in
control. That may mean believing
something that does not make
common or scientific sense.
Superstitions are spread
through word of mouth; we teach
them to our friends and our
grandchildren. These traditions
are often ancient and untracea-
ble, focusing on powerful oth-
erworldly forces that are related
to incidental or simple actions
any person can do. What one
person considers a superstition
(derogatorily), another sees as
a legitimate belief, religious or
Growth is a characteristic of
children so it is not unusual for
there to be many superstitions
about children growing up. In
parts of Nigeria, walking over a
child while they're lying down
will keep them from growing,
unless you walk back over them
again. Lot of back and forth go-
ing on there. In Brazil, if a child
dreams that they are falling down
a well, people say it's a sign that
they are growing, well, well!
Night time is a busy time for
superstitions. The Yoruba in
south Nigeria say that sleeping
under the moonlight attracts a
cold or flu. That one has passed
into Caribbean society folklore.
In Mexico it's said that pregnant
woman should not leave the
house when there's a full moon.
Something bad might happen.
Eating in the dark is also heav-
ily forbidden in Nigeria. Such
an act attracts a dinning session
with ghosts which could also lead
to your death or that of a family
member or some grave ailments.
Pregnant women are advised not
to step out after 6pm, because it
is believed that there are evil eyes
roaming around at night who can
attack the baby in the womb.
Genito urinary areas also seem
to attract attention. In Ghana if
a man washes the underwear of
a woman, he will become stupid
but if a female infant pees on you
your next child will be female in
Nigeria. In Brazil if a child plays
with fire at night, they will wet
The breast is another favour-
ite. It is said in Ghana that if you
breastfeed your child in public,
witches, wizards or herbalists
with black medicine will infect
the child with many unpleasant
sicknesses. We have herbalists
who do that for cash. Another
is that if you pound nothing in a
mortar, you are pounding your
mother's breast. Well, that should
not be a problem here any more.
Talking about pounding, in
Italy people practice tocca fer-
ro and touch iron if they think
something bad is going to occur.
Italian men, knowing what must
be protected at all costs, may tap
their testicles, known as tocca
palle. This is similar to knocking
on wood. This is instantly under-
standable to Trini men.
We in T&T are not backward
in believing health superstition
nonsense. We seem to be more
practical though. More precise in
our beliefs. So a common belief,
assisted by many GPs, is that if
you have a virus, take an anti-
biotic. Over the years, I've lost
count of the number of times I
have heard people tell me that
they are on antibiotics for "the
virus." Of course, the "virus"
equals the "flu" equals "Dengue"
equals "Chik V" equals "Zika"
and this is the only country in
the world where you can go into a
friendly lab over a rumshop and
get tested for any one of these and
usually it's positive. Apart from
the useless antibiotic, the treat-
ment or all of these is another
useless medicine, something for
the cough, the blacker and worst
tasting, the better.
Another favourite is "Vitamins
boost the immune system!" That
is ingrained in folklore and if you
mention shark oil, from deep sea
shark, well, you in ting! I don't
know if there is such a thing as
"deep sea shark" but saying it
sounds so impressive, as if you
really now what you talking
Chickenpox is most contagious
when the spots begin to dry up!
That one is fairly new. It has
been around since the mid 80's
and although I have written and
spoken about it for the last 20
years, it is now firmly ingrained
in the DNA of GPs and teachers
which accounts for the ongoing
chickenpox epidemics. For the
umpteenth time, chickenpox is
contagious three days before the
rash appears and for a week after.
Once the spots begin to dry up, it
is not contagious.
Finally those old canards, what
to do for bleeding and burns. If
you get cut, paste it down with
coffee grains. If you get burn,
put toothpaste. Please, please,
enough of social media gobar. Put
pressure on a cut. That's all. It
will stop bleeding after five to ten
minutes. If you get burn, place
the burned area in water for 20
minutes. That's all.
Then look for a competent doc-
tor. But not one who will charge
you $6000 for four stitches or
$2000 for a change of dressing.
Thing is you see, we don't be-
lieve in those primitive supersti-
tions from the old countries, we
modern, we don't have "super-
stitions," we have "health beliefs"
aided and abetted by some of our
Friends and Family ring in the new year during the Awardy family's annual New Year's Eve house party in Palmiste on Sunday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
Links Archive January 2nd 2017 January 4th 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page