Haww see it is the maata. Everyone looks at me in shock and concern. Yeah it’s the mata I was afraid of this. We must take her to doctor but also find out what we need to do.
Oh please it’s just a virus.
No no you are still young and you know nothing yet. maata has entered your home and body. She is angry and thats why you have spots all over your body, so we must do the right thing to please her.
So they say the things we have to do are….
The voices fade slightly as I begin to think about what my family just said, but it doesn’t make any sense. What angry goddess, maata? Is this even true and even if it is should we be believing this?
….We will need to take a few things to offer to the deity so she can pray and ask for forgiveness….
Didn’t Guru Nanaksar Dev Ji say to not to do idol worshiping and superstition had no benefits?
So many questions and no one really knew the answer and when I questioned it, I was told to be quiet or this is what they do. So it seemed as all I was hearing was they say, they say, they say, this alone was a reason for doubt (in my 9 year old view anyway). For starters who the hell is they?
The family members continued to discuss and share their knowledge on what needed to be done and as I re-engaged with itching the rash…
Stop scratching you will get scarred! Then who will marry you….
That was a memory I was recalling to my husband as we sat in our holiday apartment in London. We were there for my cousins wedding but the day before the actual wedding P came out with chicken pox. Although it was going around we didn’t anticipate it would happen at this moment in time.
DaddySingh couldn’t remember his experience with chicken pox, so his mum filled me in with the details whilst I shared my stories, as you do! He did however do the obvious Google research as did I a few moments earlier just to check all medical information when he goes you can’t go to the wedding now so we better let your family know.
Damn, the wedding I forgot about that! Ugh I guess we’ll be stuck in the apartment for 2 days then. Actually you can still go to the wedding daddysingh!
Oh! Yeah I suppose I could go and enjoy myself still. Cue cheeky grin
Chicken pox also medically known as the varicella-zoster virus, is a mild and common childhood disease although adults can get it too but generally 90% of adults are immune if they have had them before. Please refer to the nhs website for detailed medical advise. During those 2 weeks though, when I had chicken pox I learnt all the myths and superstitions on it and when P got them it all came back to mind because they are still followed even now!
We returned home after the 2 days and had a few relatives visit to check on P and of course share their stories and advise on ‘cures’. This is something I had already preempted from my experience and growing up with my desi family.
In india it is considered that mata, an angry goddess has entered your body, so in order to appease her, many rituals and prayers are undertaken so that she leaves the body. I could not find many sources on this but this blog goes into it in more detail. With this in mind I was taken to the mandir where the pandit performed his ritual followed by prayer and we were given prashaad, blessed food. Oh and we rang the bell, that was the fun part, for my child self. I did continue to argue though that the whole process was simply a blind act or blind following (you know the monkey experiment) because following with out explanation or understanding is offensive and fruitless, which of course fell on deaf ears. However The visit to the lovely mandir was an educational experience.
This is no disrespect or mockery to Hindus or Mandirs or any religion here whatsover but I did not believe in the mata idea as everything was a contradiction to Sikhi, none of it was making sense to me. However after doing a bit of research I have learn’t that the belief behind the mata stories come from the ancient texts of Devi Mahatyam, where a goddess killed a disease spreading demon and purified the blood in infected people (very brief description here), further more taking medication is/was deemed to aggravate the demon, so a spiritual leader is requested to undertake prayers and rituals.
Did you know though, some of these have scientific reasons for helping ease effects of chicken pox but people seem to highlight the mythical reasons or simply just don’t have a valid reason why they believe/follow. Oh they say you should do this and that. I don’t know why but let’s not take the risk.
Common Indian myths and the scientific benefits:
Quarantine yourself: the one with chicken pox should stay away and avoid contact with other people as it is bad luck, people would be afraid of the mata in case they too become a target so to speak. However the virus is simply highly contagious and although in some case it can be dangerous such as elderly and pregnancy (see nhs) most of the population recover with out any medical interventions. Therefore staying away is the same courtesy as having the flu, so however tempting it may be, its best to avoid the urge of running around the streets like a naked diseased zombie, stay at home and rest until you recover.
Don’t look in the mirror: as the more you look the worse the rash will get. The virus can increase with new pimples for upto 3 days before it stops and enters the next phase. So psychological if you believe in the superstition or have any doubt by day 3 you would natural probably shit yourself and stop looking in the mirror. Don’t worry though this is the natural process of the chicken pox. Plus if you have pox up your bum you would definitely want to stay calm!
Stay away from the menstruating ladies: This one is similar to not entering a Mandir when you’re menstruating. In the old days it was considered unhygienic and women were essentially banned during that time. There is absolutely no reason why this should happen and menstruating is a natural process of the female body.
Leave water close to you: simply so that you don’t go around and potentially spread the disease, because it is contagious. hello hydration!
Don’t take a bath: you CAN take a bath but just be careful not to break any of the pimples as the stuff can spread on your skin and cause more pimples so be careful and pat to dry. So the only questions here are do you smell really bad that it can’t be avoided? and is it worth the extra spots due to accidental popping? Just kidding it’s totally up to you!
Do not scratch, you will permanently scarr: agressive scratching can cause permanent scarring, however generally most should fade over time.
Neam leaves: used as an ointment, to bath in, lay on and hang outside and around the house. To ward off evil? Well superstitiously maybe, along with lemons and chilli of course. However Neam leaves actually have antiseptic properties to help with healing and alleviating rash symptoms, just like the benefits of aloe Vera. The hanging around the house is like the onion effect or using dettol antiseptic spray to kill the bugs.
Avoid cooking and eating oily and deep fried foods including onions and garlic: as this further angers the goddess! Actually the virus can reduce liver functionality and therefore make it harder to digest these types of foods, so basically avoid and give your body a rest.
No medication: it is believed that only prayers and worship for forgiveness can rid of the disease and medication only makes mata more angry. Although in most cases medical interventions are not necessary some do get an extreme version of it and in this case would require medical help.
Your feet will not be infected: as mata would not touch your feet. Chicken pox can spread anywhere, in fact you can get it in your mouth, ears and eyes too. Oh and don’t forget you bum bum!
Roast black chick peas. Not really sure what this was supposed to do or what I was supposed to do with them. However I did look into the health benefits of them just out of plain curiosity and discovered that black chick peas applied in a paste form can help reduce scarring from pimples and acne. Who would have thought!?
Pray to the aloe Vera plant: I have no idea what on earth this would do. Any ideas? The actual gel though is fantastic for helping with skin conditions and cooling the itchy rash.
When going to the bathroom avoid walking with left foot and hop till you arrive at your destination… Ok, this one was a wind up. Haha.
No sex: The funniest thing I heard was whilst a relative shared these stories with me that she was advised along with other things, she couldn’t have sex for 6 weeks….Erm. Well, apart from the cautionary advise for early pregnancies and newborns, if you are not planning on having more babies there is no reason I can find for this one. So sex away…
Voila, that’s my list of myths for chicken pox. Did I miss any? Do you have certain beliefs or rituals for chicken pox? Let me know I love learning how other people do things and why.
Why is it hard to stop though …
Perhaps in fear of being attacked by the angry maaji, I mean Mata. Oops, cue huge teeth grin. Superstition refers to any belief or practice which is explained by supernatural causality, and is in contradiction to modern science. Associate professor of psychology Don Saucier stated that superstitions are behaviours that people perform in an attempt to affect or control their future by performing certain tasks in certain way to either help alleviate anxiety or to simply better their chances in a certain situation.
It seems though that these behaviors can all be linked to a strong belief that has been embedded in human history, Dale B. Martin (30 June 2009). Superstition in India is considered a widespread social problem* , which can be seen through religious and spiritual beliefs, as well as amulets, totems and charms that were used to ward off evil and arguably sacrifices performed to receive good luck.
Also if a person’s superstitious behavior and the events it’s linked to are shown repeatedly to be unassociated, then the superstition could go away. This process is called extinction in learning theory. However if the association reappears for the person, then the superstition can just as easily return.
All this totally makes sense when we think of our Indian culture and women (and some men too) because generally speaking according to research (Vyse) women are more superstitious than men. Our Maaji’s were born and brought up in a society where men were the main bread winners and women the home makers, where they had limited say in the outside world, so maybe in order to have a sense of control of events in their lives they end up with superstitious behaviours?
Do you agree?
*The literacy rate of India, according to the 2011 census is at 74%. India’s literacy rate rises to 74%: Census. March 23 2011. Extracted 26 July 2016