An overlap of religion and superstition
Our dog, normally an endearingly goofy canine, bit a child on the bum the other day while being taken for his daily constitutional. The mother of the child, an even tempered lady, did not waste her breath on recriminations. Instead she borrowed some red chillie powder from our cook. Apparently, if you pack a dog bite with red chillies (ouch! ouch! and aargh!) taken from the dog’s owner’s kitchen, the wound heals fast and well.
We’re naturally grateful to have escaped the mother’s ire, but that poor kid, surely the antidote was worse than the bite?
It is said that ignorance and superstition bear a close mathematical relation to each other. Therefore, superstition is naturally rife in Pakistan where you find advertisements such as these:
“Within few minutes, we’ll make your life cool and calm, Insha-Allah.
Bad-mannered husband/wife, hurdles in love marriages
Demon’s effects (jinnat ka saaya), improper love affairs
Family disputes, bounded business
Sexual diseases, effects of evil spirit (Aasaib)
Psyche problems, adversity
Study problems, visa problems
Property disputes, other problems (sic)”
What a delightful mix of nasty predicaments, and you know its Pakistan when visa problems are right up there with STDs, demons and infertility. I wonder what antidotes they prescribe to such problems. Would wearing an amulet with a few scribbled lines take care of ‘wife hurdles in love marriage?’, whatever that means?
Other than that the advertisement is a prime example of the overlap between religion and superstition, and heck no, I’m not going to say the two are one and the same. Other than the fact that I value my life, I definitely don’t think they are. But in this country, where if you have warts and would like to get rid of them you are advised to take a broom and sweep around a shrine, they are hard to separate, especially when the devil is likely to dive into your cup of tea if you leave it uncovered at night.
There are the ubiquitous black cat phobias, and taboos against sleeping under jinn infested trees; the portentous tics (a different portent for each eye) and the firm belief in the ability of scissors to give rise to quarrels. There is a pre-marriage ceremony where the bride’s clothes are cut and stitched by female family and friends without the aid of scissors: they sit around tearing the fabric along the dotted line having first rent it apart with their teeth.
There is the belief that lunar eclipses cause birth defects (such as cleft lips) and disasters, even though the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was at pains to teach otherwise. This only goes to prove the same point further, that superstition often overrides religion, and in their ignorance can have a greater hold over people’s lives.
And so pregnant women must not attend funerals or pay visits of condolence because a proximity to disaster is likely to influence the destiny of the unborn child. A widow on the other hand, or a divorcee, is not invited to participate in wedding rituals. This is said to be part of the Hindu belief system, but because it certainly does not constitute any part of Islam can only be categorised as superstition here.
If you have a backache you are advised to locate an adult once a breach born baby and get him or her to kick you in the back. Presuming you fail to find such a person, a tight hug from a professional janitor will cure you just as well.
If you need to pick mushrooms remember they grow where snakes urinate, while the best way to tell edible mushrooms from poisonous ones is never to pick those a snake has licked. And if that snake happens to be a two-headed one make sure you kill it because two-headed snakes bring bad luck. However, beware that once you kill that snake you are likely to be pursued for life by its mate.
Foot and mouth disease may be cured if you lure a monkey within kicking distance of the sick animal and coax it to ride on the bovine’s back. Snatch a cat’s placenta away from it before it can devour it, and bury it in your lawn to keep evil spirits at bay, and unless you wish to develop vitiligo avoid milk after a meal of fish.
And here’s another tip for farmers (who have already been informed of ways to cure their cattle): write the names of ten individuals who profit from interest (of the banking variety,) and bury the names around your field. This will, if you please, prevent an infestation of white ants.