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Who Cursed The Left Hand?



August 13 is earmarked annually as a day to celebrate South Paws (Those who use the left hand). A child is born with two hands – the left hand and the right hand. While growing, the child tends to naturally choose which hand to use, either the left or the right. This is not dependent on the child’s environment, it just happens.

There are people who use their right hands efficaciously, while a few others use their left hands effectively, these ones are known as Southpaws. You will seldom come across people who use both hands effectively. They are known as ambidextrous people.

In some societies, Africa especially, use of the left hand is considered verboten, especially when giving or receiving from an elderly person, one is expected to use the right hand, except where the right hand is impaired and can’t be used. This has led to parents obligating their children to master use of the right hand moment they discover the child is a southpaw. Even some persons whose right hands are impaired or occupied consciously or subconsciously apologises when giving or receiving with the left hand.


The Bible describes how God will divide the nations on the day of judgment, “as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left,” with those on the right sent to the kingdom of Heaven and those on the left “cursed, into everlasting fire… (Matthew 25 vs 41).

A Kano State-based Psychiatrist and Psychologist, Emmanuel Okoye said psychology has nothing to do with what hand a person uses outside culture. “We as Africans tend to see the left hand as evil but it is mere superstition.

If you offer money to a person with your left hand probably because you have something in your right hand, the tends to give you your balance with the left hand even where the right hand is free.

Such a pertson’s insinuation is that you have an ulterior motive for paying him with your left hand or you wish him evil.”

Mr. Okoye went on to point out that likes of Barack Obama is left-handed and he is successful.

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The US has produced 46 presidents with 8 of them being left-handed, of the eight, only one; James Garfield was assassinated while in office. He was US President for only six months.

There abound some fables that connote the left hand as being evil.

Lucifer for thousands of years has been associated with the left hand in various ways and is normally portrayed as being left-handed in pictures and other images. In the seventeenth century it was thought that the devil baptised his followers with the left-hand and there are many references in superstitions to the “left-hand side” being associated with evil. As an example, in France it was held that witches greet Satan ‘avec le bras gauche’ meaning ‘with the left hand’. It is also considered that we can only see ghosts if we look over our left shoulder and that the devil watches us over the left shoulder.

Salt in Roman times was a very valuable commodity, giving rise to the word “salary” and was considered a form of money at the time. If salt was spilled, that was considered very bad luck that could only be avoided by throwing some of the spilled salt over your left shoulder to placate the devil as it was believed evil spirits lurk over the left shoulder.

Joan of Arc (burned at the stake in 1431 for being a heretic and a witch) was not necessarily left-handed; she may have been depicted in this way to make her seem evil.

Getting out of bed with the left foot first means that you will have a bad day and be bad tempered. i.e. getting out of bed the wrong side.

A ringing in the right ear means that someone is praising you. In the left ear it means that someone is cursing or maligning you.

An itchy right palm means that you will receive money. An itchy left palm means you will have to give money.

Wedding rings worn on the third finger of the left hand originated with the Greeks and Romans, who wore them to fend off evil associated with the left-hand

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The Romans originally considered the left to be the lucky side and used for augury. However, they later changed back to the Greek methods and favoured the right-hand side.

In some climes, the right hand often symbolises ‘male’ while the left hand is ‘female’.

If you hear the sound of a cuckoo from the right it will be a lucky year. If the sound comes from the left it will be unlucky.

The Meru people of Kenya believed that the left-hand of their holy man has such evil power that he had to keep it hidden for the safety of others.

If your right eye twitches you will see a friend, if it’s your left eye that twitches you’ll see an enemy.

For some people, when making a dress it’s believed to be bad luck to sew the left-hand sleeve onto a garment before the right sleeve.

When leaving to go on a journey, if your right foot itches you’re bound to have a good journey. If your left foot itches it will end in sorrow.

It is thought to be bad luck to pass a drink to another person with your left-hand or anti-clockwise around a table.

There are however also some superstitions in favour of the left hand.

If you apply an ointment with the forefinger of the right hand the sore will not heal. This is because this finger is said to be the ‘poison’ finger.

The ancient Zuni tribe of New Mexico considered left-handedness a sign of good luck. They believed the left was the older and wiser.

Christianity is strongly biased towards the right hand. It is the right hand that gives the blessing and makes the sign of the cross.

On one count, the Bible contains over 100 favourable references to the right-hand and 25 unfavourable references to the left-hand. E.g.: The right hand of the lord doeth valiantly, the right hand of the lord is exalted (Psalm 118 vs15-16).

The situation is much the same in Judaism and Islam. In Islam, the left hand and everything associated with it is seen as unclean. This stems from the Middle Eastern custom of using the left-hand and water instead of toilet paper and, more recently, of using the left handed to hold toilet paper for the same function. This is the origin of the term “cack-handed”.

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For Kehinde Alade an Awka-based Islamic cleric, academically, using the left hand is no problem as there abound some people who are left-handed yet are more intelligent than right-handed persons.

“I cannot discriminate against the left hand when in an academic environment. I cannot allow my relationship with a left-handed person be severed because he wants to give or receive from me with the left hand.

However, as a culturally-inclined person, it is a taboo for you to want to give or receive from an adult with the left hand. Islam also frowns at it. This explains why when we line-up to pray in the mosque, we line-up from the right.”

He adds that outside religion and culture, he doesn’t care with what hand a person gives or receives from him.

Ukoma Ezeokoye is a UK-based student of journalism and according to her, “I don’t really pay attention to what hand a person uses, though I am careful many at times as to the hand I use due to my original upbringing as an African child, do I say a Nigerian, Igbo girl.”

She went on to say that when her right hand is in use, she finds a way to put it above the left hand when offering or receiving to show using the left hand isn’t intentional. “Other times, I apologise for the use of the left hand.

Several times I had apologised here in the UK, and the people just chuckle it off and they’ll reply by saying it meant nothing to them, Africans and Britons alike.”

Whatever happens, making us of either hand is a choice for an individual to make.

What do you think or make of South paws? Do you really care about what hand a person gives to you or receives from you?

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Ejike is a journalist, short story writer, poet (unpublished) and an open minded individual.

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