Ghana is 62 years old, and many stories have been told about its political, economic and cultural progress or otherwise over the period. But there is one interesting aspect of the Ghanaian culture that if forgotten will render the country’s history incomplete, and that’s myths.
According to Merriam dictionary, myths are ideas or stories that are believed by many people but are not true or stories that were told in ancient culture to explain a practice, belief, or natural occurrence.
Myths played a very crucial role in the upbringing of children and maintaining an orderly society during ancient times, but over time, they began to lose relevance as evolution has blown the cover of most of them.
They were fabricated stories that were used to deter people, especially the youth from going wayward, and a lot of successes were attained with that. For fear of suffering some unpleasant consequences as a result of doing certain things or failing to do them, people complied with those myths.
While some of them were common to all ethnic groups across the country, others were ethnic specific.
1. For instance, there was an interesting myth that you would never get satisfied when you placed your left hand on the floor while eating with the right one. Kids were made to believe was that, with one hand on the floor, the food was going into the ground, instead of your stomach.
In fact, this particular story was just to ensure that we keep our hands clean, especially when during the past, parents would put fish or meat in the left hand of their kids, while they eat with the right. Aside that, it was to ensure that children sat upright while eating.
2. Another one that put so much fear in the children was the claim that sweeping at night meant sweeping your fortunes away. Clearly, sweeping at night could result in sweeping certain valuable things away, since you cannot see properly unlike during the day.
However, if this was told children without adding an element of fear, they might take it for granted, for which reason this myth was fabricated, and it did so well in deterring people from sweeping at night, a myth that is believed by most people till date.
3. People were also warned to not whistle at night because they might be inviting dwarfs and snakes into the house. Knowing very well that dwarfs and snakes are things children fear a lot, parents used them to scare the youngsters from whistling at night, disturbing other people who needed peace of mind to rest after a stressful day.
In fact, if any of the numerous myths has achieved its objective, it is the one against whistling at night. That is why irrespective of where you find yourself in Ghana today, you will hardly hear anyone conveniently whistling at night. They can sing alright, but that particular piercing sound, you would not hear.
4. As if those mentioned above were not enough, kids were also told not to wash our hands beneath those of another person who’s equally washing his/hers. The reason assigned to this story was that doing so means you are taking the other person’s fortunes, and leaving him poor.
It is at this point that you would realise that myths are not necessarily bad. Parents may not have had high formal educational qualifications, but they were cautious of sanitation and hygiene.
You know how curious children can get and want to try things they are warned against, right? Instead of telling us that it is unhygienic to do so, they thought it wise to scare us with dreadful consequences.
Washing your hands with dirty water dripping from the hands of someone washing his/hers does not make sense hygienically. If their hands were neat, they wouldn’t wash them in the first place.
5. Last but not least, Ghanaians were told that singing while bathing will result in the death of your relatives, mostly mother or father.
Of the 24 hours at your disposal to sing, why can you not sacrifice just some few minutes to finish bathing, and then continue singing out of the bathroom? With the use of soap to wash down dirt from your body all the way from the head to the toes, opening your mouth to sing could lead to the soap’s lather and other dirt ending up in your mouth, and that has its consequences.
It is undoubtedly for this reason parents fabricated this story to put fear in their children, as they will never want to lose their parents through any action of theirs.
There are many other myths, but those are just a few of them that have imparted the lives of Ghanaians in various ways.