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Hitch your wagon to a star



YEMENI Superstitions - Part I

Mohammad Noaman Al-Hakimi



Little has been written on social superstitions spread among our Yemeni society. Many of those beliefs have been inherited through generations and are still alive among us. Here we describe the main Yemeni superstitions.

The Ram (Al-Hamal)
Al-Hamal is a superstitious animal which is also called the graveyard’s monster. It is believed that it disinters buried bodies in the first week of burial. Al-Hamal is interested in only those whose horoscope is the ram. During the first week of burial in which the ram is believed to appear, relatives of the dead keep on the watch.

Beliefs in this superstitious creature is spread in Tihama and its surroundings. Al-Bodda is a witch that can change her appearance into many different shapes. Recently, it has been said that a great number of them were burnt when people’s awareness about the spread of immorality increased. It is more interesting to know that young people who are not able to afford marrying expensive, beautiful brides go to Boddas requesting them to change themselves into their beloveds and make love to them on sand.

It is a lion-like beast with a smooth body. Its speed is compared to that of a bullet. That is why nobody has so far been able to capture or kill it. Al-Hawban Tahesh in Taiz has been most famous through Yemeni history and on which many stories have been told and written.

Quest for Treasures
In many villages, especially the remote ones, people believe in the existence of buried treasures. Stories of such treasures are told by old people. People leave homes for mountains in quest of treasures believed to had been left by their grandfathers in stores dug in the earth. Some people succeed to find such stores but all they find is invaluable items or coal.


The failure to find treasures is always attributed to the fact that they did not slaughter sheep before searching the store.

Jinns’ Courts
Throwing hot substances and other material in bathrooms and deserted places is believed to be harmful. Doers may be paralyzed or run mad if they hit the invisible creatures. If a jinn is hit a court session is bound to be held soon inside the doer’s mind until they decide to forgive. During the period of holding those sessions the host is mad.

Sayad is a devil in the shape of a woman that often exists in inhabited areas. She is amazingly beautiful but with donkey legs! As soon as one discovers the reality about her legs she vanishes.
Al-Odroot is a devil that is believed to inhabit houses. It is a noisy creature that tends to move housewares tools or hide them for some time but return them to their places when house members have lost hope of finding them. They sometimes make strange sounds as well.

Do You Want to Send a Letter to Your Dead Relatives?
Some people claim that their souls visit the dead in their graves when they are asleep. In their tours, souls gather information and messages to be delivered to those alive. When those people wake up, the first thing they do is deliver the messages of the dead to the intended targets.

The Al-wali is a faithful muslim man who made good deeds and virtuous all his life. People seeking recovery, penance, etc. visit their graves to be blessed. When one has a problem he vows to slaughter a sheep or a cow for the Al-Wali, resulting in solving his problem. But if he doesn’t meet his vows, the Al-Wali’s spirit comes to him at night threatening. In their pursuit of recovery, blessing, etc. visitors may eat soil covering the graves, lit candles, etc.

It is a soar Arabian herb with a disgusting smell. It is used to rub the skin of patients of epilepsy because it is believed to drive the bad spirits outside the sick body.

Charms (Al-Hirz)
Charms are small pieces of papers bearing meaningless words and signs with some verses from the Holy Quran. Those pieces are tied on patients and hands of children.

Eggs Are Sometimes Cheap to Break
Before the bridegroom steps out of her father’s house, eggs are broken in front of her to protect her from devils and evil spirits. The same is done when a baby is taken outside the house for the first time.



Burning the Aloe
When women give birth to babies they burn the aloe in their rooms from sunset until they sleep. This goes on for almost a month so that the new born babies would grow up safely away from the evil influence of devils.

Changing Names
If astrologers tell parents that the name they have chosen for their baby does not agree with its horoscopes they change it. Sometimes it is the astrologer who chooses the new name.
Anointing Children’s Tongues with Oil
Some parents anoint their children’s tongues with oil or honey when they are 2 years or older in order to be eloquent.

Many people pretend to be palmists. They claim that they can foretell the future of people through the lines on palms.

The Tar (Qatran)
This black substance is used to anoint people’s foreheads so as to be protected from evil. Before the Yemeni revolution in North Yemen, when the Imam wanted to test the mentality of his people he would claim that his jinns had run away and that people who did not cover their foreheads with tar would be harmed by jinns.

Swimming for Recovery
A swimming pool located inside the Ahmad ben Alwan Mosque is said to cure a lot of diseases.

Sell Your Fever and Malaria to Ants!
It is said that there were people who believed that they could sell their fever and malaria to ants. When these people caught fever or malaria, they used to go to ant nests. There they tie themselves with a thread and say: “We sell you the fever, ants.”

Cauterizing (Al-Wasm)
Some patients are cauterized in different parts of their bodies to be healed spiritually and physically.


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