I looked in the mirror this morning and decided I needed to trim my hair. I got the scissors out (one of the very very few perks about having curly hair - you can do it yourself) and just as I was about to start snipping I stopped and said, wait a minute - what phase is the moon at? And then I couldn't remember if cutting your hair with the waxing moon was an American superstition or a Brazilian one. I guess that's one way to tell if you've gone native - when you start mixing up your old wives' tales.
Well the moon is waxing right now, so I went ahead and trimmed my hair and then thought I'd sit down and share with you some of the other oddities and superstitions I've come across here. I imagine a lot of them are regional and Catholicism gets mixed in there a bit. Some are very tied to rural life. Actually that's what a superstition often gets called here "uma coisa da roça" which means something from the country.
1. Don't put your purse on the floor. The money will go out. (Or wont' come in...)
2. When guests are leaving, the owner of the house has to open the door for them. If they open the door themselves, it means they won't come back.
3. Similarly, you have to exit a house (or any building) by the same door you came in through. Bad luck if you don't.
4. Don't eat mangoes and milk together. It can kill you.
5. Don't take a shower or read a book after eating. This too can kill you.
6. If someone gives you something in a plastic container, say a cake, you can't return it empty. If you do, you won't get treats again.
7. If you hear the screech of an owl or a caracara falcon it means someone is going to die.
8. When a woman gives birth she can't eat finely cut couve (collards) for 40 days or she will become ill. (It has something to do with the fact that they've been cut. I'm still trying to determine if this applies to other finely sliced things.)
9. On the 7th day after a baby has been born, no one is allowed to see it. Day 1-6 are fine, and day 8 onward is okay. But if people look at the baby on the 7th day it will grow up to be mentally slow. (Geraldinha said she has a cousin who is "meio bobo" because his mom allowed visitors on the 7th day).
10. An unwed couple can not become godparents to a child. If they do, they will never wed.
11. Wednesdays and Fridays are bad luck days to receive any unsolicited gifts or food. Apparently these are the days that people can put a hex on you. If you receive something on a Wednesday or Friday you should put it out with the trash or risk having someone put a mucumba spell on you.
12. During the Holy Week (Semana Santa) you can't clean your house or do any sewing. Geraldinha said she once got caught sewing by her father and he became very angry and told her that each stitch she made was being put in the body of Christ.
You also can not hunt or fish during the Holy Week. It's very bad luck and apparently animals become magical. Geraldinha told me several stories about people in her family breaking taboo and being met by talking animals. Once a cousin went fishing. When he pulled a fish out of the pond, the fish looked at him and said "Ouch, ouch! My chin!" and freed himself from the hook and jumped back in the pond. Another time another cousin shot a sloth in a tree, hitting it in the arm. The sloth stopped and licked the blood and then looked at them and said "I'm out of here" climbed down the tree and walked away.
That's all the ones I could remember.
I'm sure there are tons more - especially up north where the culture is very influenced by African and indigenous religions.
I wanted to come up with a list that totaled a nice solid number, like 15 or 25 but didn't succeed. Maybe some of you Brazil-living peeps can help me out. What other superstitions are out there? Do you follow any of them? (or do you cut your hair any ol' time of the month?)