8 of East Africa's Most Intriguing Superstitions

Greta Samuel
Greta Samuel | © Culture Trip
Leah Feiger

East Africa is ripe with superstitions. Some of them are funny, some of them are nerve-racking, and all of them provide great insight into the local culture, customs, and history. Read on to discover some of East Africa’s most fascinating superstitions.

Bearded goats

In Rwanda, goats are plentiful. They are found not only on farms all over the country, but also on the menus of most local restaurants. However, women are encouraged not to eat goat meat, due to the belief that it could cause them to grow a beard.

Witches and geese

At an apartment complex in the Kenyan village of Kakamega, locals believe the resident geese only quack at witches. As a result, they are the only security required at the compound, and every time the geese quack, people are quite sure that there are some witches about.

Virginal sodas

Only virgins drinks Fanta orange in Rwanda, as it’s assumed to be the most chaste of all the Fanta flavors. If you are unmarried and order a different Fanta flavor at a bar or restaurant, you’re guaranteed to get a few judgmental looks.

Greta Samuel

Egg-eating fish

On Pemba island, just off the coast of mainland Tanzania, a small shrine on the island sits among lush mangroves. Tanzanians visit the pond next to the shrine to make wishes and offerings by throwing an egg into the water. If the egg is eaten by the fish in the pond, it is said that your wish will be granted.

Even more eggs

After returning from hospital in Uganda, ex-patients are encouraged to step on an egg in order to get rid of the illness once and for all. Ex-convicts sometimes take part in this ritual, too.

Ringing in the New Year

In Uganda, actions taken on New Year’s Day are said to set the tone for the rest of the year. Superstition states that Ugandans shouldn’t lend or receive money on January 1, or do too much work, lest they stay in debt for the year and never get to take a proper vacation.

Ominous owls

Seeing an owl in Kenya is considered to be a bad omen. It could indicate an upcoming funeral, trouble with work, or more or less anything unfortunate. It is also thought that shooing the owl away after seeing it or throwing salt in the fire will help to counteract the upcoming misery.

Greta Samuel

Itchy palms

In Kenya, if your right palm is itchy, people believe you will soon receive a windfall of money. You can’t scratch your right hand, however, as it will “scratch the money away.” Instead, you should scratch your left hand so that you don’t lose the money.

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