PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has three things in abundance – food, culture and history.
Along with different cultures and religions comes a good dose of superstition, some wacky and some just made up on the spot to scare naughty children into submission.
Pretty much anyone who grew up in Malaysia would have had parents or grandparents handing down these haunting morsels of threats in one way or another.
FMT spoke to a few Malaysians and gathered some of the most common that people still believe in to this day although they will likely not admit to it.
1. Washing hands and feet immediately on returning home
Almost every Malaysian parent is very strict about this rule because they believe wandering spirits might follow one home from wherever one had visited.
Washing one’s hands and feet using a tap or hose outside the house would ensure those very spirits lose one’s scent and stay outside the confines of one’s home instead of following one in and wreaking havoc inside.
Truth be told, it was probably just a clever tactic to make sure everyone rid their feet and hands of germs, sand and bacteria before entering the home.
2. Never letting a broom touch the feet
Many millennials would remember this – parents getting visibly upset when they find out their children have been playing with the broom in school.
According to the older generation, having the bristles of a broom brush over one’s feet is supposed to incur bad luck because brooms are used to sweep away dirt and dust.
Some cultures believe that if a broom’s bristles accidently sweep over one’s feet, one will end up single for life. Or a parent would suddenly die. Pretty serious consequences for a harmless broom, don’t you think?
3. Sleeping with a metal object under the pillow
University experiences tend to be unforgettable, especially when a paranormal episode is thrown into the mix.
Many young people experiencing living by themselves for the first time while studying in universities away from home would have been advised to place a metal object under their pillow every night before turning in.
These objects could be in the form of a small knife or a pair of scissors.
According to the superstition, this helps ward off evil spirits bent on creating a nuisance of themselves while one tries to get a peaceful night’s sleep.
Only drawback would be inadvertently cutting one’s fingers off or stabbing oneself in the face while in mid-sleep because of those sharp and dangerous objects lurking beneath one’s pillow.
4. Going home before the sky turns dark
Almost every Malaysian child would have had this rule drummed into their brains – to return home before the sky turns dark or before Maghrib prayers.
If they dared stay out, their parents would level some pretty convincing arguments as to why it was an infinitely stupid thing to do.
Common admonitions would include the terrifying possibility that one could have been whisked away by evil spirits, never to be found again.
It is quite obvious this superstition was simply created by sneaky parents to ensure young kids returned home in time to shower, pray, study and have dinner.
5. Never sleeping with the feet facing the door
Yup, having one’s bed placed right opposite one’s bedroom door and sleeping with one’s feet facing it is a big no-no in Malaysia.
Known as the coffin or dead man’s position, this is symbolic of how the dead are carried from the house feet first. Creepy much?
6. Never letting food on the plate dry out
After having finished one’s meal, one is often expected to wash one’s plate immediately and never let leftover bits of food dry out on it. Either that or pour some water onto the plate to prevent the food bits from drying out.
The reason? To combat the superstition that if one’s food dries out on the plate, one’s food supply in life or wealth will dry out too leaving one hungry and destitute.
To be honest, it does sound more like a tactic from “Good Housekeeping” to help with the chore of dishwashing. It’s pretty obvious that trying to scrape off bits of dried food from a plate can be exasperating and time-consuming.
7. Biting a new pair of shoes
Ever bought a new pair of shoes that cuts into the skin behind your ankles making each step you take torture?
Instead of resorting to wearing a band aid at the spot until the shoes are properly broken in, those who are superstitious will ask you: “Did you bite the shoe first?”
There is no proven science that this trick works, but it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot, especially that brand new pair of gorgeous heels that has never seen the light of day because they pinch.
8. Never stepping on books or sheets of paper
Indian parents are very particular about this. If their child accidentally steps on a book lying on the floor or carpet, they would be told to immediatley place their hand on the said book, then touch their foreheads as a way of offering a sincere apology.
And that’s not all. The errant child would then be subjected to a 10-minute lecture on how books are symbolic of knowledge and that stepping on one, even accidentally, is a cardinal sin.
In fact, what better number to end this list of superstitions than the number eight? After all, it is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture.
Which of these superstitions does your family still practise in the home today?