Friday the 13th: Here are 9 interesting West African superstitions you should know

Today is Friday, the 13th. It is the most dreadful day of the year, a day that strikes fear in people’s hearts whenever it comes around.

Cats are witches in disguise

The fear of Friday the 13th, also known as ‘paraskevidekatriaphobia’, is believed to have started with the story of Jesus’ last supper which had 13 people including Judas Iscariot (the 13th man at the table) who ended up betraying him with a kiss to the chief priests and Pharisees.

The day's reputation got worse when a famous Italian composer named Gioachino Rossini, who regarded Fridays as an unlucky day, ended up dying on Friday, the 13th of November, 1868.

He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away,” a Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of the composer read.

Over the years, the day has continued to maintain a bad rep with Pope John Paul getting shot on Friday the 13th and rapper Tupac Shakur dying on the same fateful day. The classic 1980 ‘Friday The 13th’ film has helped to make this the universal day of bad luck.

In honour of this "unlucky" day, currently trending on Nigerian Twitter with over 29k tweets, Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa explores nine interesting West African superstitions you should know:

  • Cats are witches in disguise

For many people in Nigeria, cats are the embodiment of witches and other evil entities. The belief that witches either turn into cats or possess these animals in order to spy on people. 

This belief is also attributed to owls, bats, snakes, scorpions, basically any animal that moves or flies at night.

  • Whistling at night is dangerous

Whistling at night is believed to attract evil spirits and snakes.

  • Albinos are the cure for everything

As a result of this belief, held in certain parts of West Africa, individuals with Albinism are being killed. Their body parts also get sold for rituals. 

  • Bad luck awaits when you hit your left foot on a stone or object

It is said that hitting ones left foot while walking is a sign of trouble. Most people usually turn around and head home.

  • Safety pins protect babies from being possessed

It is said that wearing a safety pin under your clothes would hurt anything that tries to possess an unborn baby.  

  • Letting anyone get in between you and someone else is bad

It's considered bad luck when someone tries to walk between you and the person you are walking with. 

  • An itchy palm is a sign of good luck 

The belief is that you should expect some unexpected money to fall in your lap as soon as the palm of your hand itches.

  • Sneezing

This means someone is calling your name somewhere.

  • Seeing a fish in your dream equals getting pregnant

The belief is that dreaming of fish means you are will have a baby.


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