February 5, 2009

Coisa da Roça

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?)


Danielle said...

I guess you've missed out on a more disturbing caipira superstition here...many rural women believe that if they have a cheating or straying husband, they can leave a piece of raw meat in their... ahem... for 1 day, and then cook it for their husband. The belief is that it will keep the men with them only.

My boyfriend is in med school and sees cases once in a while that show the unfortunate effects of this old wives tale. :o/

lovelydharma said...

oh my!!!!! I did miss out on that one! Yikes. and ewww...

Lindsey said...

I don't know if these are superstitions or actually medically validated, however, I've been scolded by many Brazilian mothers for walking around without shoes - apparently I'll get sick even if it's 90F outside. My boyfriend is a singer and will not drink anything ice cold, as it will damage his voice. Even his Dad won't take a cool sip because it will give him a sore throat. This goes for ice cream too, if you eat it when it's hot outside you'll get sick.

Sounds a bit crazy to me...

lovelydharma said...

Ha! I know! I will see people walking around in flipflops in the 60 degree rain. But if I'm inside on a hot day and not wearing slippers I will be told don't step on the cold tile! You'll get sick. I don't get it either....!

Corinne said...

my favorite one is "Olho grande" or the envious eye. This is not something you can really prevent. Basically, the evil power of envy is just out there to tharwt your plans of success. My husband is a huge believer in this one. Some swear by the figa, but generally the idea is you cannot tell ANYONE about your plans (professional, but family too) although my husband swears that just being sucessful brings it on as well (at least that is why he attibutes any misfortune to olho grande).

lovelydharma said...

Oh yes! The fearsome Olho Grande!

When I play buraco with my mother-in-law, I always accuse her of giving giving my cards the olho grande. She says that she puts "urucubaca" on them which is some kind of macumba curse. (Just as a joke! She's not a practitioner by any stretch of the imagination - pious little Catholic grandmom!)

Interesting, my husband is also very secretive when it comes to talking about plans with other people, even close friends. He's never described it as a fear of preventing success. But I think it must infiltrate the culture. Me, I blab about anything. Hmmm... maybe I should rethink that -- I could have been a millionaire by now!

Rachel said...

Hey there! I've seen your blog once or twice por ai but this was the first time I've stopped and read it, and it's awesome! You're like the Brazilian-American Pioneer Woman, only not annoying :) My mother in law won't let me turn on the fan or drink anything cold when I'm sick, or walk barefoot on the floor. Something about the contrast between the cold when my body is hot? Quem sabe. Anyway I'm glad I found you here! bjos

lovelydharma said...

Hey Rachael! ha ha, I only wish my life were as exciting as Rea (and that I was such a prolific-blogger...) But alas, our life has only pioneer dreams at this point while reality keeps us soundly in check in our apartment in the city.

Personally I like to walk around on the piso frio in my bare feet just to defy everyone.