Don’t step over someones feet

The twenty-two year old female informant born in the Gabonese Republic, a state located on the west coast of Central Africa, revealed that it is bad to step over some feet or legs. “Say for example, my legs are hanging out like this [Dangled feet from chair] and someone steps over me they will …um… take  away all the bad stuff …like stress and tiredness.” This superstition is especially stressed among expecting couples. For example, “if a man and his pregnant wife are lying down… he can’t… he must be careful not to cross over her” because he will take on her symptoms of like “cramps, morning sickness or pain and aches”. My informant learned of this from peers. Even after being partially raised in France she herself avoided stepping over people even while in the states.

Taking on someone else’s pain reminds me of the common saying “spend a day in someone else’s shoes.” A person’s foot is literally and symbolically significant. Legs and feet essentially carry a person thru life. In this context the person doing the crossing takes on all negative ailments. This is a form of contagious magic in that the brief interaction between two persons affects both of them. The person who crosses is relieved temporarily of ailments. The other person doing the crossing bears the other persons burden. When asked whether walking around someone was acceptable? My informant said yes. It is acceptable to walk under and around but never over.