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Strange and Bizarre: 10 Interesting Sabahan Superstitions

Published on 13 April 2018|
2 min read

Every Sabahan knows that you should never point your index finger at a rainbow.

by Stanley P, Carrybeans

If you haven’t realised, many Sabahans still respect local superstitions however strange or interesting they are. Don’t blame us, though–these superstitions are deeply rooted in our culture and violating any of them just seems wrong.

Well, as long as nobody is endangered, there’s no harm practising them right? I mean, I wouldn’t want to take a risk of having boils on my backside all for sitting on a pillow! Here are 10 interesting superstitions practised in Sabah; see if you know all of them!

1. Don’t point at a rainbow with your index finger

Every kid knows this; if you point your finger towards a rainbow, you finger will become crippled. Of course, there is no scientific merit behind this but you wouldn’t see me pointing at a rainbow any time soon. It’s been ingrained since childhood.

2. A sunshower means spirits are roaming around

A sun shower is quite a rare phenomenon and when it does happen, many Sabahans believe ghosts and spirits are roaming around. In case you aren’t sure, a sun shower is when it’s raining but the sun is still shining brightly.

So, we will usually avoid going out during a sun shower. The same goes for sunsets when its light turns everything into an extreme hue of yellow and orange–moms will often tell their kids to stop playing and go inside the house.

3. If you’re not eating it, tapun instead

It’s difficult to translate tapun into a specific English word. It’s essentially an act of tasting a little (or at least touching it) if you’re not going to eat a certain food.

Sabahans believe that accidents can happen if you’re kempunan (or craving for the food). So to avoid that, you should tapun the food before leaving the house or doing any work.

4. Sit on a pillow and you will get boils on your buttocks

While there is  no scientific correlation between pillows and boils, it hasn’t stopped me from avoiding sitting on pillows. But sofa and pillows are made from the same thing, right? Why is it alright to sit on a sofa, I wonder.

5. Avoid opening umbrellas indoors

Unless you want snakes to slither into your house, don’t ever open an umbrella when you are indoors. Some people also say that the act will also invite unwanted “guests” (read: ghosts) into the premises. So, keep your umbrella closed unless you’re out in the open.

6. Make fun of animals and a disaster may come your way

I still remember rumours circulating after  Tropical Storm Greg hit Sabah back in 1996. Apparently, people were having a party and forced a dog and a cat to drink alcohol. It’s believed this act invoked the wrath of a higher power that brought forth the storm. While this can be passed up as a rumour, it’s still important to treat animals with respect.

7. Be mindful of your actions in the jungle

Credit: Images Thai

Many locals  believe the jungle is a gateway to supernatural realms. So, you should always be respectful of the jungle and its inhabitants. This means you should never poop or pee willy-nilly (heh), shout, curse, destroy any part of the jungle, or perform other actions that may offend the supernatural beings. This belief extends to Mount Kinabalu (yes, please keep your clothes when you’re on top of the mountain!) as locals see it as a very spiritual place.

8. You cannot clip your nails at night

I’ve clipped my nails many times at night before but I still feel a bit uneasy doing it. There are various beliefs but depending who you ask, you might invite a spirit into your home if you clip your nails at night. Or worse, you might even find yourself dead! This superstition is not only limited to Sabah because similar superstitions are observed in other parts of the world such as Japan and China.

9. Hold your tongue at night

It’s a well-known belief that ghosts roam the earth at night. So, if you see a light across a distance or suddenly smell something weird, it’s best to just keep quiet and leave the place, lest you want to bring home a paranormal entity.

10. Sugar in exchange of puppies

When I gave away one of my puppies away to a neighbour, the family gave me a packet of sugar in exchange. I was confused and flabbergasted. My mother’s theory is that they gave the sugar so things will “cool” down and there’ll be no accidents. Basically, it is a type of sogit (Kadazandusun word meaning fine or penalty) for ‘taking’ the puppy.

Interested in more things about Sabah? Here are more facts about the Land Below the Wind for your reading pleasure!

Featured Image Credit: Skitterphoto

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