Eritrea is similar to many religious countries with respect to having its own set of beliefs based on practice more than science. Superstition is the easiest way to describe it. The following superstitions could be the object of ridicule, as some of the negative fairies explain misfortunes.
Henna & Tiki
Don’t leave your home before placing your henna hands over a small fire unless you want to catch a cold. My abayey stopped me in my tracks one afternoon as I headed for the door and warned me about leaving without the heat-to-hand contact. She didn’t actually say whether this method has deterred colds. After grabbing a menkerker (the tong used to place and poke charcoal in the brazier), she threw a piece of tissue into the burgeoning fire and told me to place my hands over the heat. I hovered over the fire until abeyey dismissed me.
Hold Yo’ Saliva
My mother noticed me hunch over to spit in the toilet of her sister’s home in Ketema. Komu ayti’geberi, she said. Don’t do that Ariam, or you’ll grow a swollen infection on the side of your neck. Someone holding their saliva could result from eating spicy foods and send you to the emergency room. But I didn’t ask why because I trusted my mother, and dispensed my saliva in the basket that collects all my morning germs. When my mother caught me almost spitting in the bathroom months later, she reiterated that toilets are off-limits, and added to the claim that disposal garbage bags or any waste is forbidden too.
Maicholot [Water] Heals All
Water in Eritrea is the richest element of life, which didn’t surprise me to hear it’s believed to heal people of their misfortunes and ward off their illnesses. If someone suspects themselves or a member of the family| community to have an illness, they’ll engage in the purifying cleanse of Maicholot. Mothers, elders and children with any physical or mental handicap attend various stations throughout the country to practice this healing that subjects them to washing their body in cold, frigid water while praying. Maicholot is an Eritrean remedy and long-time alternative in lieu of medical help. Practitioners are able to stay overnight, where the Maicholot happened, or returning home afterwards. Calling Maicholot a superstition is a stretch because people actually believe it in, however, without research disclosing its effectiveness it’s on the list.
Boon & Bad Spirits
There is another reason Eritreans love coffee, and making it on their own. The scent etched in the air during traditional coffee ceremonies – a past time fixed upon the host depending on the occasion and mood – repels bad spirits and potential evils in the home. As my Christian mother says, God makes bereket for the home (during the coffee gatherings), and with it comes love, health and money.
Can you think of any other superstitions in Eritrea? Write it in the comments.