Even during today’s world of science and facts, Nepali society is still inclined towards a few beliefs without substantial evidence of realism. The beliefs, or superstitions, are unwritten and unproven rules that humans have made and follow. The older generation is heavily inclined in believing and following them, either citing fear of the power of the almighty or the unknown.
Neither the lack of origins nor the lack of information has stopped people from blindly following these beliefs. Some of the commonly believed superstitions indicate the good or the bad omens and it ranges from things, animals, behaviours to time of the day.
So, here are some common superstitions that every Nepali has grown up with:
1. Animal-based superstitions
- A cat crossing your way: If a cat, black in particular, crosses your way, it is a belief that you should not cross that [hypothetical] line on the road until something else passes that way. It is believed to bring you bad luck. But, if you are in a rush, it is considered okay to throw a stone and walk past the line.
- Sound of dog’s howling: It is said if a dog cries in front of your house, someone will die from the family. So, everyone can be seen stopping it.
2. Superstitions about things
- Looking at upside-down shoes or sandals: If you are going out or have something important to do, and on the way out, you see any upside-down sandals or shoes, this is believed to ruin your work. It is another form of bad luck. One should always turn them back before leaving.
- Seeing empty jar or utensils: If you see an empty jar before going to an office or leaving the house for anything, it is believed you will have a bad day ahead and it will ruin your work. Similarly, the belief is that seeing broken utensils or earthen pots also ruins the work.
- Cutting nails at night: If you cut nails at night, something bad will happen. Your elders scold you whenever you cut your nails at night. Some believe misplacing the cut nails means one will misplace the wealth too or ruin their work.
- Spitting in a clump of hair before throwing: It is believed one should always spit in a clump of hair before throwing it away because many believe it refrains you from the harm from a witch. Besides that, if a bird makes a nest with that hair, it is believed the person will get ill.
- Leaping over a broom: It is believed leaping over a broom creates bad luck and also, you will be a victim of sin.
- Sitting on a pillow: It is said that if you sit on the pillow, you will have a headache.
- Stepping on or over a book: Books are worshipped as a form of Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. When one steps on or over a book, it is believed that they will lose knowledge. So whenever one steps on a book, they are expected to bow their heads in front of the respective book, seeking forgiveness.
- Gifting a mirror: One should not give a newly married couple a mirror. Gifting a mirror to a married couple is believed to ruin their married life.
- Bathing by wearing clothes: If one washes their hair while wearing clothes (of course, expect the undergarments), it is believed you will have bad luck. This is because only a person whose parents have died can wash their hair by wearing a dress, which is one of the customs during final rites.
3. Superstitions around travel
- Sneezing while travelling: If you sneeze before travelling for a business deal or any other important work, sneezing before leaving for work symbolises bad luck as well.
- Asking someone ‘where are you going?’: It is believed if someone asks you, “Where are you going?” just before leaving the house, this is believed to bring problems in your work.
- Travelling on Tuesdays: If a person travels or comes back home on Tuesdays, it is believed there will be a fight between the partners or with any other family members. So, most of the Nepalis avoid their travel on Tuesdays.
- Mothers and daughters separating on Saturdays: It is believed if mother and daughter separate on Saturdays, both of them will fall sick. Individual travelling on Saturdays are also believed to be a bad luck.
4. Superstitions about food
- Eating curd and sugar: If you have one spoon of curd mixed with sugar before leaving the house, there is a belief you will have success in whatever work you attempt.
- Eating dinner by sitting on the bed: Most Nepalis believe that if you eat your dinner by sitting on a bed, you will see bad dreams.
- Cooking odd number of dishes: It is believed if you are making something, you should not turn off the stove without making an even number of dishes. Here, cooking an odd number of foods also symbolises bad luck.
- Hanging chillies and lemon: Inside the business or shops, one can see people hanging some chillies and lemon on the doorstep. Hanging chillies and lemon is believed to protect the owner and business from bad spirits.
5. Time-based superstitions
- Starting a business during a malamas: If one starts a business in a month of malamas, an extra lunar month in the calendar that comes every three years, it is believed it will not go longer and also one cannot get success.
- Newlyweds staying together in the first malamas: If a newly married couple stays together or has sex during the month of malamas, it is believed to affect or shorten the life of the husband. It is also said that if they conceive during this month, an unhealthy child will be born. This is why there is a ritual that new brides spend their first malamas at their parents’ home, away from their husbands.
- Whistling inside home/office: If you whistle inside the home, you are sure to have been scolded by your mom. It is believed when you whistle, the wealth from your home/office will go out. Another belief surrounding it is the whistling invites snakes to the home.
- Shaving or cutting hair on birthdays: One should not shave or cut their hair on birthdays as people believe this will lead to shortening of one’s life span or s/he might get ill.
- Giving birth on a new moon: It is believed that if a woman gives birth on the new moon (aunshi), people believe the child will not have good luck in life.