As Singaporeans, we’re acutely aware that there’s another supernatural realm that exists alongside. Hence all our superstitions like not giving clocks as presents or wearing red to a funeral. But there are some things that we’re all universally pantang about, regardless of race, language, or religion. Break one of these taboos and you’ll find yourself dealing with the wrath of humans and non-humans alike!
So check out these six things that we’re all pantang about. They’re the Singapore equivalent of getting hexed, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t care about these taboos…
1. Getting tapped on the shoulder
To whom does that hand belong? Credit: The Little Things
Nobody, and I mean nobody gets tapped on the shoulder in Singapore. If you want to get someone’s attention, either you shout “oi!” loudly enough, or you firmly grab their arm to show that you’re human. There’s so many things wrong with tapping someone on the shoulder, and they all result in slaps.
Firstly, if you ever get tapped on the shoulder while walking down a dark, abandoned road, don’t turn around – there’s a ghost waiting to slap you with a supernatural curse. It’s said that you have three “lights” on your body that helps ward away the “yin” energy that ghosts are made up of. There’s one on your forehead, and one on each of your shoulders. If you just turn your head to see who it is, you only have one “light” shining on the supernatural, and that’s not enough to ward it off, hence they can slap you (otherwise every ghost would be slapping you straight in the face right?).
Secondly, if you tap a mahjong player on the shoulder, you’re also going to get a human slap in the face. The same lights that protect you also bring you luck, so physically tapping the shoulder is extinguishing one light, reducing the mahjong player’s luck.
2. The smell of frangipani
The humble frangipani flower. Credit: Yahoo Lifestyle
I hear that it’s a lovely scent that’s really exquisite – if there are frangipanis in sight. If you don’t spy any of those flowers around, but there’s an old abandoned tree, it means there’s a pontianak waiting to attack! I don’t really understand why pontianaks would have such a dead giveaway (since frangipani is a really distinctive scent), but maybe it’s their way of mocking nature. It’s like a gluttonous ghost exuding a durian smell before it attacks.
Also, don’t look up tall trees in the dark for the same reason. You never know what you’re going to see hiding there (good luck if your HDB flat faces the branches of a giant tree).
3. Taking the underground MRT from Novena to Ang Mo Kio
Not something you’ll ever want to see on a train. Credit: Native
Back when the MRT was more reliable and spacious, we were all terrified of taking the train when it went through Bishan area. Legend has it that they had to excavate a cemetery in order to build the North-South line, and all those displaced spirits weren’t too happy about the en bloc sale of their cemetery. If you were the only person in the train (unimaginable, I know right!), you’d be surrounded by otherworldly passengers as you went through Bishan. So nobody wanted to be the only passenger through those few stations.