so writes Will Durant, “is a progressive discovery of our own
ignorance.” The more I think back on a number of folks beliefs
in Africa and elsewhere, the more I seem to agree with Durant. In my
growing up years, feeding eggs to kids was taboo, for in the minds of
the people, it was one sure way of bringing up such children to
do not know by what logic my folks arrived at such a hilarious
conclusion. I definitely know kids from homes where such belief held
sway possibly ended stunted in height and deprived in diverse other
ways, of essential nourishment.
remember sauntering out with a half-eaten boiled in my hands and
running into an old aunt. I was about five years old and up to that
time I had not seen anyone so stricken by horror the way my aunt was.
Her already gnarled face suddenly developed more wrinkles as her jaws
opened wide and seemed to drop on the ground.
she managed to find her voice, she invoked a long line of ancestors I
never knew we had and moaned that they had failed her by allowing her
to live and see when kids were groomed to become thieves. Swaying
with mawkish self-pity, she eventually asked, “Who gave you
that thing you are nibbling at like a wharf rat?”
by her choice of imagery and not knowing why she looked so drained of
blood, I casually answered it was my mom. Like sparks flying from
the forge of an ironworker, her eyes showered me with flints as she
made past me to confront my mother. Before long I heard the mouths of
both women unsheathe long knives and carving each other out savagely
I know why every goat and fowl that ever leaves our pen never gets
back home because your folks can never set their eyes on the property
of others without stealing it,” my aunt hissed at my mother.
“Not satisfied with breeding a community of thieves, you are
now training my brother’s sons and getting ready to recruit
them into your family business.”
Mother figured out what made her sister-in-law so mad, she too was
livid and fired her own broadside.
reminded my aunt that because her family ate eggs, that was why they
had a school’s principal and other professionals at a time my
folks were soaking in moonshine and sloth about like lemur.
“Perhaps,” she added with vicious emphasis, “that
explained why my aunts never managed to stick it out with their
husbands who were retarded enough to ever marry them in the first
was stumped, seeing both women fly into a rage just because Mother
had given me an egg. I wondered why they should fight over so simple
mother hen had failed to hatch all the eggs she sat on and Mother,
not wanting to waste anything, boiled the unhatched eggs. Most were
bad, but a few had both the yoke and the white came out looking
frozen and hard when boiled.
two women would possibly have come to blows if other villagers did
not step in to arrest the flow of verbal abuse running from their
mouths like rushing flood water from a broken dam.
little dog helped diffuse the situation when it leaped up and
snatched the rubbery egg from my fingers. Everyone fell to the dirt,
laughing in agreement that eggs were actually meant for thieving dogs
and cobras. From the animal’s behavior I knew why folks assumed
eating eggs predisposed kids to stealing.
I mused over the incident some years later, I concluded that the only
good our meager folk ways served was to prepare us for the hardships
we might experience later. Later on I realized my concerned aunt
reacted based on information she had and that she would have acted
differently if she had the sort of education I got in my later years.
that awareness, I appreciated President Harold B. Lee’s remarks
that, “You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on a
higher ground than he is.”
that was just one of several folk customs that bewildered me. In my
childhood it was forbidden to wash up after dinner. We only did
dishes at the river in the morning. The belief was that at night the
spirit of unborn children visited homes in search for families that
could support them when they came to life. One way of deciding that
ability was the evidence of leftover food the spirit children saw at
homes they visited when everyone was asleep.
tradition worked fine for me, for it left me free to participate in
storytelling sessions and other traditional ways of recreation under
the moonlight. Folks believed in large families, for they assumed one
was as rich as the number of relatives one had.
many never made it past childhood because of the high incidence of
infant mortality, many parents tried to raise as many children as
they could in the hope that after death had taken its toll, it would
leave some kids behind for them.
if food debris could lure in more siblings that was just fine with
me, for as a saying goes, the more the merrier.
some traditions simply left me breathless. For example, because we
had papaya in great abundance, we nicknamed that great fruit,
hog-feed, and many turned their back on its richness. Folks went to
great extent drinking herbs for laxatives when the fruit trees just
behind their homes could have done a better job cleansing their
development pushing in and turning villages into towns, many came to
know that the fruits that fell to the ground rotting to the delight
of boars, could earn them money and also help them maintain good
health. Once folks got that knowledge, pigs lost out on papaya.
get the happy feeling that with time too, folks will wean themselves
off other limiting beliefs such as faith in witchcraft and the
thinking that there are no natural causes for death that people die
not because of poor hygiene and diseases but as a result of secret
combinations. I guess as more schools and hospitals become accessible
to the people, the mindset will turn around.
me the lesson learned from all this is what Joseph Smith taught
several generations back: “Knowledge does away with darkness,
suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is.”
seer and a prophet, Joseph was no stranger to false folk beliefs.
While he gallantly fought to the last drop of his blood views that
were profoundly at odds with the truth, yet he was equally steadfast
in the possibilities that the light of knowledge brings to believing
Imo Ben Eshiet was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Raised in his village, Uruk Enung, and at
several cities in his country including Nsukka, Enugu, Umuahia, Eket and Calabar, Eshiet is a
detribalized Nigerian. Although he was extensively exposed to Western education right from
childhood in his country where he obtained a PhD in English and Literary Studies from the
University of Calabar, he is well nurtured in African history, politics, culture and traditions.
Imo is currently a teacher in the high priests group in the Summit Ward of the Greensboro North