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Guyanese Superstitions

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First Published: 6th of July, 2015 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: October 17, 2023 at 15:57 pm

A superstition is a belief in something supernatural that has no scientific basis or logical explanation, but which a large group of people somehow believe to be true. For example, we have all heard the superstition that if a black cat crosses your path it might bring bad luck, etc. This is an example of a superstition of European origin.

Similarly, the country of Guyana has its own set of superstitions. For example, you might hear Guyanese say that if someone sweeps your foot with a broom, you won’t get married, if someone jumps over your feet, you will stop growing, etc.

No one is sure how superstitions come about. Some superstitions are common among people of a particular religion or faith group, but it is important to distinguish superstition from religion. Like superstitions, many religious beliefs and practices may not have scientific basis, however, we cannot call or classify religious beliefs as superstitions. If we do so, it would be considered blasphemy or insulting and may carry consequences.

So how do you differentiate religious beliefs from superstitions? Religious beliefs are documented in holy books that are considered sacred and true by a large group of believers. A superstition is an unscientific belief in the supernatural which is not documented in any religious book or supported by any religious faith.

Scientific minds position that, by their general nature, are dangerous, self-limiting beliefs. And while the origins of some are traceable, most of them are as rootless as they are baseless. For example, in Guyana, there is a belief that if you sweep your house after 6 pm, then you would be sweeping away all your riches. Few people actually know how this superstition originated, but if someone actually believes this, it can cause them to become less productive since they might forego cleaning the house after sunset – even if it were very important to do so.

Since Guyana is a melting pot of cultures and civilizations, superstitions are rife in Guyana. Descendants of the Indians, Africans, Europeans, Portuguese, Chinese, and even the Indigenous Amerindians have all brought their various superstitious beliefs with them to the land of many waters. And while the younger generation is less affected by these superstitions, they might have been a plague to the people of Guyana for centuries.

I’m listing some of these Guyanese superstitions here for documentation and research purpose. But I would like to caution the reader that, in my opinion, most or all superstitions are just that – superstitions – and should not be taken seriously.

Are you being limited by any of these Guyanese superstitions? If so, it’s time to free yourself!

If someone sweeps your foot with a broom, you won’t get married. 

It is not clear why, but many Guyanese, especially those of East Indian descent, seem to believe that if someone’s foot (or feet) is swept with a cleaning broom, then that person would have a hard (if not impossible) time getting married. Sweeping someone’s foot with a broom is believed to bring bad luck in finding a mate and getting married. Therefore, you might hear someone say, “don’t sweep my feet,” as they scamper away from a broom. Or you might hear someone tell someone “move away from there before I sweep your feet.”

If someone jumps over the outstretched feet of a growing child, he or she will stop growing. 

Many Guyanese seem to believe that, if a growing child is sitting, for example, with the feet outstretched on the floor, and someone jumps over the feet while passing by, then that child will stop growing or grow very short.

If you sweep your house after six pm, you’ll be sweeping out your riches.

Some Guyanese hold the belief that if you sweep your house after 6 PM, then you will be sweeping out all your riches. So, people might desist from sweeping the house after 6 PM even if it were very important. This superstitious belief originated first amongst the Guyanese of East Indian descent.

If you throw salt away anywhere except in water, you will pick it up with your eyes after you die.

If you were eating something, say, mangoes or cherry, with salt, and then there is a little bit left over, you better not throw the salt randomly around the place! Make sure you throw it in water so it dissolves. Many Guyanese believe that if you throw salt on the ground or anywhere it doesn’t dissolve in water, then, when you die, you will pay the penalty by picking it up with your eyes. What baloney! (In my humble opinion of course:)

Bite All Ten Fingers After Pointing at a Cemetery

Some Guyanese say it is forbidden to point to a cemetery with your finger. If you do, all your fingers will rot and fall off before you die. There is a remedy however…you have to bite the tip of all ten fingers one by one. Doing this will save you from the curse.

Here is a video I found on Facebook that does a great job of telling more about Guyanese superstitions: Belief Kill and Belief Cure.

So what Guyanese superstition did you learn while growing up in Guyana, South America. What is your opinion about such superstitions? Tell us in the comments section below.

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