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Need Your Help

(40 Posts)
lucid Tue 31-Jul-12 17:06:03 Scottish friends are out in Africa instructing teachers and they need some help that I'm hoping you can supply. This is what my friend emailed to me:-
^'Now think broadly please:
Yesterday they added a bullet point to the start of the syllabus content that they would incorporate scientific explanantions into their cultural practices and beliefs. Discussion of examples: when starting with lightning one begins with their beliefs of it and one is the commonly-held thought that a person can will to harness the lightning bolt and kill another. Do we have a similar story? They say it is done by witches/powerful men.

Also in a lightning storm one should cover all the mirrors in the room, so lightning was not reflected round room, adding to fear and potential hazard. We also cover mirrors but why do we do so, lightning or another folk-idea.'^

Over to you.....and thank you .....

ninathenana Tue 31-Jul-12 17:33:52

my mum always said you should unplug the TV ariel from the set to stop the lightning traveling down the cable and blowing up the set !

Is that relevant confused

lucid Tue 31-Jul-12 18:20:19

thanks nina ....I could only think of that one. I know my Gran used to say to cover up the mirrors but I can't remember whether that was because of lightning or when someone died!

JessM Tue 31-Jul-12 18:24:48

Not quite sure what they are after here lucid . You friends email is not very clear. Could you get some clarification.
Not at all sure what the objective is. To debunk superstitions? To somehow blend superstition and science??????

Anagram Tue 31-Jul-12 18:36:55

It sounds to me as though they want to be able to give a scientific explanation but highlight the 'grain of truth' that a myth or superstition might hold. I'm sure the covering of mirrors was something to do with preventing the lightning, or a lightning bolt, ricocheting around the room!

lucid Tue 31-Jul-12 18:37:18

They are trying to find out if we have any customs/superstitions relating to thunderstorms/lightning that may or may not tie in with the African customs. They're trying to finds some common ground as a starting point. My friend is instructing teachers in conducting science (mainly Physics) lessons.

Ella46 Tue 31-Jul-12 18:43:28

I vaguely remember being told to open the window to let the lightening get out!

johanna Tue 31-Jul-12 18:46:44

Never mind lightning, at my age I cover the mirror ALL the time!!!!!!

jeni Tue 31-Jul-12 19:28:15

lucid my grandparents covered mirrors in both thunderstorms and death!

Anagram Tue 31-Jul-12 19:30:28

Yes, what was it about death? Did they think the deceased person would appear in the mirror? shock

lucid Tue 31-Jul-12 20:32:45

Thanks for all your

JessM Tue 31-Jul-12 20:38:11

Maybe those guys can harness lightening bolts.
I guess the telly thing goes back to the time TV aerials started sprouting on roofs. Similar principle to lightening conductors we might have thought. Not sure that satellite dishes would be the same. And what difference switching the TV off would have made - well absolutely none (I just checked with v clever at physics DH and we agree). Interesting in that it was a modern superstition - hardly an ancient tradition!!
Mirrors reflect light, not electrical things. Very different. One is light radiation and the other is a flow of electrons.

My DH's irish grandmother refused to have mains water installed indoors because it might make the house damp.

Reversing the subject of weird beliefs they have about people with supernatural powers ... lots of people consult fortune tellers and read their horoscopes. People pay money too for reiki "healers" and religious "healers" to wave their hands around. People all over the world like believing in magic. They like believing there are things that they don't understand.

FlicketyB Wed 01-Aug-12 05:56:56

When the telephone in our house in France stopped working the telephone company in France actually recommended that we unplug the phone during thunderstorms. I presume they had good technical reasons forthis. In which case there may well be good scientific reasons behind many of these superstitions about unplugging.

Thinking as I write we do have anti-surge plugs on our computers and that is probably the technical reason for unplugging the phones. To protect the line/instrument from damage by power surges. As mirrors reflect light and many people are afraid of lightening and turn away from it there would reasonable be a fear of accidentally seeing lighteneing in a mirror

HappyNanna Wed 01-Aug-12 07:09:42

If the table was laid for a meal, my Grandmother used to cover the cutlery up.
Also we had to switch the TV off.

JessM Wed 01-Aug-12 07:44:11

Nice analysis of the mirror fear flicketyb
Suspect the telephone company was taking the p. . As in, stop complaining and go away we can't be bothered with this complaint. I have worked in a utility and I heard similar stories about spinning customers a yarn. Did it fix the phone problem?
But people come up with all kinds of beliefs without any scientific basis.
My grandmother believed: If you spill salt, it's bad luck and you can avoid the bad luck by throwing some salt over your shoulder. Presumably it was bad luck to spill something valuable, and the pinch over the shoulder was to placate the devil or something.

AlieOxon Wed 01-Aug-12 07:56:22

It had to be the LEFT shoulder! I still do it....

JessM Wed 01-Aug-12 08:10:29

definitely for the Devil then alie

Annobel Wed 01-Aug-12 08:12:38

When I was a young teenager, I was scared of lightning and used to take my hair grips out when there was a storm! Then, when driving through the Pennines during a spectacular storm, I suddenly saw the beauty of it and was never afraid again. I loved a good tropical storm too.

JessM Wed 01-Aug-12 08:17:25

And of course once you had removed the hair grips you were not struck by lightening were you.

jeni Wed 01-Aug-12 08:20:49

Obviously not! She's still here!

Elegran Wed 01-Aug-12 09:13:05

A guardian angel was sitting on your right shoulder keeping you safe, and the devil on your left (sinister) side watching for an opportunity to cause trouble. Salt was one of the essentials, so spilling it was a serious disaster and gave the devil a chance to interfere. Throwing salt in his eyes confused him. Same principle as saying "bless you" when anyone sneezed, to counteract demonic mischief.

And yes, it was thought that spirits could appear in the mirror (not just the newly departed one) in the interval before the funeral. I suppose it was also a bit like wearing sackcloth and ashes and tearing your hair and garments - it showed a disregard for personal appearances.

Bez Wed 01-Aug-12 09:33:18

You may well scoff about taking out phone lines and TV plugs during thunderstorms in France BUT let me tell you it is true in some areas. We have had two televisions (one brand new) which have 'blown' and we have been replaced by the insurance company. We had taken the TVs to be fixed and when we went back the man gave us the paperwork for the insurance claim and told us parts had blown because of the storm. The insurance company paid in full with no further questions. We had a telephone cease working too and my French friend never uses the phone in a storm.

AlieOxon Wed 01-Aug-12 10:38:31

In Oxford years ago my ansaphone was destroyed by lightning - and my computer was turned ON...(!). Weird.

Can't remember what else it did to the computer, but a nice IT man from the Guardian told me how to sort it - the effect was not unknown....

I do now turn things off here if I hear near thunder.

Elegran Wed 01-Aug-12 10:42:53

The computer probably has a surge breaker that stops the lightning strike getting through to it.

lucid Wed 01-Aug-12 10:58:31

Thank you for all your input...I've emailed my friend and am awaiting his reply, may take a while as they are in quite a remote area. grin