An overview of our Superstitious Mauritius

Since I come from a multicultural country, I couldn’t avoid about the numerous superstitions that I had to face from my elders, and which are still in actuality among the young generations. My husband, for example, despite being 43 years old, still believes in those superstitions instead of thinking with a new mind… And I had, as his wife, to bend under his beliefs in those superstitions and impose them at my turn on our young son. Here are some examples of superstitions that exist in our Mauritian society and which I had to learn and put in practice at my turn:

1) When you carry food out of your house at night, always add a handkerchief with some salt and chili in your food basket: Elders always ask us to do so, because according to them, good food smell attracts bad omens and spirits at night, which can make us disgusted with the food when you will eat it at home! As per old beliefs, to avoid it, you should add salt and chili in your food basket, since they repulse those bad omens at night. See that extract which says, I quote, “Never carry meat products during travel otherwise ghosts, evil spirits and dark demons would follow you. If you want to travel though make sure you carry along few neem leaves, red chilies and few pieces of charcoal to ward off evil spirits.” It means that the superstition already existed in India, but was slightly modified in Mauritius with salt and chili only instead of neem leaves and a few pieces of charcoal.

2) When you go out at night and that you reach back home by car, you should always reverse while entering in your pathway. This is because according to old beliefs, when you drive at night, you are followed by what we call in Mauritian Creole “bann movezer” (bad air). Also, if you reverse your car while entering your pathway, you don’t allow the “movezer” following you nor your car and you push them away. However, though that superstition origin comes from India, it’s not very recognized nowadays, like proved by the answer hereafter, I quote, “In India mostly everyone learns driving from family, relatives or friends. It is not considered auspicious to drive backward for the first time you drive. They are taught that way and early habits don’t die easily. Everyone is so used to follow the rules without questioning and some even try to trick others saying its good for transmission or engine life.

3) Never give chili to someone in the hands, otherwise it will provocate a fight between you and the person whom you gave the chilli to. It was a superstition taught to my husband by his dadi (paternal grandmother in Hindi) and which my husband still believes in! I never believed in it, but despite it, I prefer taking my precautions, especially since my religious beliefs changed from Christianity to Hinduism. But it seems that among Muslims, it also works. I remember I had a good Muslim friend in Madagascar who related us how, at so many times, she had lost so many of her good friends since she gifted them a jar of homemade candied peppers! I had the proof that this superstition really exists, like in that extract hereafter, I quote, “You should never hand a hot pepper directly to a friend—superstition has it that is will bring discord into the friendship. If you want to give your friend a jalapeño, put it on the table or counter and have them pick it up.

4) Same applies for cutting tools (for example scissors, knives, cutters, etc), especially in Muslim families. According to their tradition, this is also an example of way to provoke a fight between two people. But there are some overseas superstitions which are similar to that one, for example that you shouldn’t give any cutting tools as gifts to anyone, otherwise it will cut the relationship between you and the one whom you gifted cutting tools, such as that extract about the scissors superstitions.

5) Before you enter your house at night, and that you have an underage child with you, always take 7 little stones and pass them over your child 7 times anti-clockwise before throwing them away from your home pathway. This superstition is known also to remove the bad air from the child so that the child won’t be possessed by the evils of the night nor make any nightmares during his or her sleep. It has been inspired by another existing superstition in Zoroastrianism, but which is slightly different from the one in Mauritius. An extract justifies the origin of that superstition, I quote, The name espand or esfand is the modern contracted form of the older Avestan name spenta armaiti meaning equanimity (see Amesha Spentas) and the name of an archangel. While the number seven corresponds to the divine heptads of God and the six archangels, the seven circles of the smoking censer around the recipient’s head, also limits the amount of smoke inhaled by the recipient. In Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the ritual is particularly popular for removing the evil eye from children, newborns and the mothers, as for people returning from funerals. The person performing the espand on someone is called the espandi and espandis can be found selling their services on the street to passers who feel the need to have the effects of the eye evil removed. One can perform the espand on oneself.

6) Never gift a mirror to anyone, otherwise it will bring bad omen to your relationship with that person. I myself faced that situation twice, especially with someone whom I cherished as my younger brother, and who suddenly turned as an enemy by coincidence by dating a woman whom my husband was working with, and who had a very deep enmity relationship with her. However, I found another Chinese superstition regarding mirror gift, from which that Mauritian superstition was inspired from, and which rather says, I quote, that “Mirrors are a bad idea for gifts throughout much of Asia, as they are believed to attract malicious ghosts. On top of that, they are easily broken and breaking things is a bad omen.

7) Still talking about the mirror, it’s worldwide known that a broken mirror can bring 7 years of bad luck, and it also applies to Mauritians as well. That answer says it all regarding the history of the broken mirror superstition: Many cultures, including the Greek, Chinese, African and Indian believed that a mirror had the ability to confiscate part of the user’s soul. A broken mirror would indicate a broken soul. If someone does break a mirror, it’s best to take care that no one gets cut by the shards of broken glass.

8) I remember that an uncle of my husband’s, while helping us settling our furniture in the living room of our new house, strongly advised us to never put the mirror facing the front door house, otherwise it will push away all the good omens which will enter the house. I checked that information and saw that my husband’s uncle was right, since it was a principle explained in Feng Shui saying, I quote, “Some believe that having a mirror directly across from your front door is a Feng Shui no, no. That it pushes the energy right back out the door. And with it, pushes out your money, health, wealth and new opportunities.”

9) However, contrary to the mirror superstition, some beliefs stipulate that breaking a glass removes bad omens, such as that answer mentioning, I quote, that “if you accidentally broke the glass, it means there were some negative energy entered your house or if you are in other place negative energy flows around you and the glass became your shield to any undesirable event bad would happen. its the glass that save you from any incoming danger. its also a message of someone close to you who encountered some danger. its not a bad luck.“.

But yet it’s still a confusing superstition, since its variations can symbolize not only good luck but also bad luck, such as the first answer mentioning that, I quote, Many Jews believe that shattering plates or glasses is a sign of good luck. 

But that is just a superstition. I guess not unless ur a Jew is not good luck but maybe it still is. Or it guess it sort of Depends on the kind of glass and the circumstances. Generally, the superstitions are as follows: 

Bad Luck: 
breaking a mirror (7 years of bad luck, unless certain rituals are followed – the rituals vary) 
breaking green or red glass 
breaking a glass WHILE proposing a toast 
breaking a glass bottle 

Good Luck: 
breaking uncolored or clear glass that is NOT in a mirror 
accidentally breaking a glass filled with wine (although some bad luck is involved, I suppose, since you now have to clean up the wine and worry about stains!) 
throwing a glass into a fireplace to break it AFTER making a toast 
But i heard that superstition comes from the old days they believed the reason breaking glass was considered a bad omen was because it used to be so expensive that people had trouble affording the replacement of it. 

10) I remember that, when my sister-in-law and I were pregnant, we were given a sacred protection from our father-in-law containing some ashes, which we had to hang to our bra to avoid bad omens during pregnancy. The tradition was inspired from Hindu families in India. However, the difference is that, at the example of the characters Priya and Madhu from Bollywood movie “Chori Chori Chupke Chupke” interpreted by Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta respectively, pregnant women are tied some sacred flowers at their right arm as a protection against bad omens during pregnancy. I didn’t retrieve any proofs regarding that tradition apart that movie, but an extract about superstitions from Singapore justifies the origin about the bad omen existence during pregnancy saying, I quote, that “According to folktales, if a woman dies during childbirth or while she is still pregnant, she will turn into a pontianak and prey on unwary men and pregnant women. You know that she is on your radar when you start to catch a whiff of her sweet floral scent, or when babies start to cry.

11) Still regarding pregnancy superstitions, I think that you have all heard about the phenomenon of the baby blues that a lot of women face after baby delivery. But it also represents a shape of superstition especially within Hindu families, where they stipulate that the new mother shouldn’t be in touch with anyone nor go out anywhere for a couple of days after baby delivery (40 days in general or more depending on the different regional Hindu beliefs) since she is considered insane during that period. Also, during that period it’s forbidden to light the prayer lamp and the prayer sandals, but instead some specific prayers and giftings are performed in replacement. This superstition finds its origins from India, as per described in that extract saying, I quote, that Then there is all the things that people believe a new mother should do or better not do. The first 45 days after the birth of the child are a time in which the mother is not allowed to enter the kitchen. She will actually stay in one room and eat and sleep there. Just like in the time of menstruation, this time after childbirth is a time in which she is ‘impure’.

12) Since I was in university, I was always taught by a niece of mine that I should never enter a prayer room when I have menstruation. And during that year, I was still Christian, and in Christianity, I was never forbidden to enter a church to pray. Then, I got married and converted into Hinduism, and one of the principles I was always taught was to never enter a prayer room or prayer place, nor light any lamp or sandals, nor touch any of the stuffs which had to be offered during the Hindu prayers, since a Hindu woman who is having menstruation is considered as insane. I kept on believing in that ritual until a Muslim friend of mine from India shared with me an article regarding a Hindu deity who is unknown in Mauritius but worshipped in India: The Bleeding Goddess. Here are some incredible explanations which are given regarding that festival, I quote: “This celebration of menstruation is known as Ambubachi Festival which is yearly celebration performed by Hindus in Guwahati, Assam. This festival is celebrated every year in the monsoon season, which falls in middle of June in the Assamese month Ahaar. This is celebrated because of menstruation cycle of Mother Goddess Kamakhya. It is supposed that Mother Shakti (Goddess Kamakhya) goes through her annual menstrual cycle and during these days the spiritual powers are in full swing.

There is no deity but the Goddess is revered in the form of yoni. In yoni, a normal spring flow. The vagina of the Goddess is revered in this temple. This temple was formed when God Vishnu destroy the corpse of Sati  by Sudarshana. The temple was made where her Yoni (vagina of a woman) fell.

13) Since we got married, my husband and I have been victim of a lot of evil eyes, bad omens and envious people who created so much mess to destroy our couple and to pretend to be happy for us whereas deep inside, they were very jealous of us. One of the rituals then that I was taught by an ex-neighbor of ours during the time we were renting my husband’s uncle’s house in Mauritius, was to always put on my underwears inside out to avoid the bad omens affecting us again. But the researches I did about that superstition were different from what I have learnt and been experiencing within the Mauritian context. In one of the paragraphs of that article, I paid attention especially to that extract mentioning, I quote, that “One of the most well known superstitions in connection with underwear is when someone wears their underwear inside out! This has long been considered lucky. There was also the belief that if one was experiencing an unlucky day, the only way to turn it around was to wear underwear inside out!”

14) As we were talking about underwears, why not mentioning about clothes? I remember that I was always scolded by my mother-in-law when I was leaving clothes drying outside during the night! When I asked her about the reason, all she replied was that “it was not good”. Full stop! Then I had to look for the reason on my own and found an explanation regarding at least baby clothes, which comes from an old Greek superstition, mentioning, I quote, that you should “never wash a baby’s clothes at night time (because) Bad spirits or the devil will come if you wash baby clothes or hang them out to dry at night time. Make sure you wash baby clothes during the day and hang them in the sun.

15) Still talking about clothes at night, since we married, and especially since I converted into Hinduism, I remember that each time my husband and I used to go out at night, we were advised to put some yellow mustard in our clothes pockets to repulse the bad omens and evil eyes. By the same way, we were also advised to spread mustard seeds everywhere in the garden to remove them as well, after they have been grilled on oven in a frying pan. However, That extract justifies the contrary from a Hindu superstition, mentioning that, I quote, “Spilling Mustard seeds on the floor bring bad luck/causes fights.

16) In Hindu families, it seems that cutting nails indoors repulses all the good omens and brings negative vibrations in a house. That was a superstition every family member among my in-laws, including my husband, were taught about my my husband’s grandparents since generations, and they are still practising it. I had difficulties to copy and paste the extract of that article explaining it, but the explanation is mentioned at point 10 in the article and entitled “Cutting nails at night and/or in home“.

17) In Hindu rituals, it’s not good to sweep the floor after because it’s the time when Goddess Luxmi enters the house to bring her blessings, and as sweeping after that time repulses all her blessings away. In Hindu houses, a house is supposed to be clean before 06 in the afternoon to receive Maa Luxmi’s blessings. That is why during the festival of light Deepawali, Hindu housewives proceed the same as it’s a more special day for arrival of prosperity, in addition of welcoming Lord Rama as a hero on his homeland after having killed King Demon Ravana and saved his wife Sita from the island of Lanka where she was kept prisoner. Here is the extract of the article regarding sweeping after 6 which explains it better, I quote, “Sweeping the floor in the evening hours is said to be a taboo in Indian culture. They say it also brings bad luck in home, which is quite a peculiar way of making someone fearful of something, as a person gets what he thinks. If he thinks he is going to get something bad, he performs accordingly, and ends up in achieving that bad thing. The probable reason for our ancestors preventing us to sweep the floor at night time is if some valuable product gets swept away in the darkness of the night.

There are many many superstitions in Mauritius which result of ancient worldwide ones that have been anchored within our multicultural and pluri religious society. It’s up to us to believe in them or not, depending on the experiences we have been having made among them. But the list is really long! Despite all, not everyone believes in it, at the example of that expatriate.


Author: ekasringa.umavaghat

I am a Unicorn. I am Unique. I am Uma.

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