After a day of shopping with my informant and friend, we went to a restaurant for dinner. Once I was done eating and she was finishing up her last bites I pulled out my wallet and placed it on the table. She startled me by abruptly saying, “Don’t do that!” Confused, I picked up my wallet checking to see if I killed a bug or something. She then explained that it was a superstition in her country. Now a year later I reminded my informant (a twenty-two year old female from the Gabonese Republic, a state located on the west coast of Central Africa) of that specific event and she revealed that “In my country…you’re not supposed to pull out money or put it on the table until everyone is done eating…It’s okay to keep it down near the chair but not on the table.” When I asked why, my informant stated, “Because you will be broke [laughter].” When asked where she learned this from the informant claimed “everyone does it” meaning it is the custom among locals. She admitted not paying much attention to this belief as a child, however, once old enough to pay for her own meals she often forgot to not put money on the table. Days later, “I would be broke.”
As revealed by my informant wealth is a concern among the locals. “A lot of the beliefs in my country have to do with losing money.” I think this superstition hints at a negative attitude towards poverty. I think by placing money on the table while people are consuming food it symbolizes consuming wealth. Another thought is that exposing ones wallet leaves opportunity for others to think against someone’s wealth. Similar to the evil eye a negative thought may be a form of contagious magic.