Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brazilian Wish Ribbons


This is me. The picture was taken this morning.
See that yellow string on my right wrist?
It used to be a ribbon once, a very special ribbon which Brazilians call a fita do Senhor do Bomfim. At least ninety percent of Brazil’s population has worn one of these things at some point in their lives, and the ones who haven’t are mostly too young to tie knots.
Here’s a (very brief) resumé of how the custom began and why we do it:
More than three million Africans were imported into Brazil as slaves.
They brought with them the Yoruba religions of Africa, which came to become inextricably mixed with Catholicism.
For more than 250 years, Salvador, in the northeastern state of Bahia, was Brazil’s Rome.
And the church of Nosso Senhor do Bomfim (Our Lord of Good Endings) became the Afro-Brazilian Vatican.
On the high altar of that church is a statue of Christ, carved many years ago in Portugual.
The length of the statue’s right arm is 47 centimeters.
Which is the length of one of these ribbons.
The ribbon bears these words: “Lembrança do Nosso Senhor do Bomfim da Bahia”
(A reminder/memory/souvenir of Our Lord of Good Endings of Bahia.)
Wearing them became a declaration of faith and, later, something more.
You’ll find them on the fence around the church.
This shot is of the same fence, taken from the opposite direction.
They come in various colors, each one identified with both a Catholic saint and an Orixa, an African deity responsible for a particular form of activity or endeavor. Mine is that of Oxum, the spirit-protector of writers and artists.
We wear them on our ankles or on our wrists.
We tie them on with three knots, one above the other.
And, as we do, we make three wishes.
Mine has been in place for about fourteen months.
I dearly wish it would fall off.
But I can’t remove it.
If I do, I run the grave risk of never having any of my wishes fulfilled.
Permanently.
But, if I hold the course, they’ll all come true.
Yeah, it seems silly doesn’t it? Being afraid to take it off?
But I could tell you stories…
Interested in having a fita do Senhor do Bomfim of your very own?
(If you don’t want to tie it on, it makes a great bookmark.)
Now’s your chance.
I left some fitas with one of my daughters in the ‘States.
I’d be happy to ask her to send you one. Just go to http://www.leightongage.com
When you get there, hit the “contact me” button and send me a mailing address.
The offer is good until the end of February, I’ll send them anywhere in the world, and I’ll do it as long as my daughter’s stock holds out.

Leighton - Monday

39 comments:

  1. I love the concept of the " Our Lord of Good Endings"because isn't that what we want for ourselves and the people we love - to end well when the time to end has come?

    I don't think of it as a superstition. If the wearer is require to make a wish as each knot is tied, some thought would go into choosing the right things to wish for. People wouldn't be wishing for anything superfluous or superficial.

    It reminds me of novenas, prayers for a particular blessing asked over the course of nine days. I think the Lord wants us to prove that we really want what we are asking or really need it. Focusing for nine days helps us to clarify what is real and important in our lives.

    Wearing it for as long as it takes to disintegrate reminds us of what we value everytime we look at it.

    I am interested in this as a means to focus on what is really the bedrock of family and the needs of all within the group.

    Thanks for telling us about this.

    Beth

    ReplyDelete
  2. It strikes me smart psychology underlies the tradition. It must take a serious commitment to wear a ribbon no matter what. It speaks to and of the wearer.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You said it came to mean something more as well--is it just the wishes or was it something else?

    Also, tell us stories! Share the legend of why you won't remove it! Please?

    Michele
    SouthernCityMysteries

    ReplyDelete
  4. I cannot get to an email address. On the web site. Can you please send me one?

    It sounds fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  5. great post Leighton...I've still got my wish ribbon...
    Cara

    ReplyDelete
  6. Another great post Leighton. I think I need a whole bunch of wish ribbons as our children need a bit of good luck at the moment. At least it is safer than lighting candles and nearly setting fire to the church.
    Best wishes
    Norman

    ReplyDelete
  7. In line with Uriah Robinson's comment, I think everyone's children,at least those over college age, need a bit of good luck.

    Three knots gives me a wish for each of mine.

    Beth

    ReplyDelete
  8. Beth, your thoughts, as ever provoke thought.

    Leigh, Oh, I'm committed...I'm committed, although sometimes my family thinks I should BE committed.

    Michele, Just the wishes. And, okay, just one story:
    Our youngest daughter was getting married to a guy she'd been engaged to (well, okay, living with) for over a year.
    On her wedding day, she had this tatty, old fita de Bomfim that looked even rattier than the one I'm currently wearing.
    I remember the day she tied it on. And I surmised at the time that one of her wishes had to do with the guy.
    I can't be sure of that, of course. You don't tell anyone what your wishes are. Did I forget to say that? I probably did, but I'm saying it now, so be warned.
    But I digress.
    So, there she was, getting dressed for the main event, and she wanted to wear a diamond tennis bracelet that her older sister was lending her for the occasion.
    She couldn't manage to conceal the fita behind the bracelet, and it really was an ugly thing for a bride to have on her wrist, so in a fit of pique,she picked up a pair of scissors and...
    My wife screamed "Nooooo!"
    But it was too late.
    Youngest Daughter snipped right through the ribbon.
    The marriage didn't last six months.

    Lynn, I can't figure out why you can't get an email to me through the web site. Nobody else seems to be having any trouble. But, if it doesn't work, you can always email me at:
    leighton@leightongage.com

    Cara, I'm not surprised. In the old days they used to be made out of cotton. Now, it's some kind of sythetic fiber and wishes have gotten harder to get. Or at least take longer.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Replies
    1. I know I'm commenting waaaay after this was posted but I just found you because I was Googling opinions and perspectives on the se ribbons.
      For those asking about a story:
      On New Years Eve 2014, I tied 5 ribbons on my right ankle. I don't remember the exact wishes but they were corresponding to the color/meaning of the ribbons. About 4 months later in April of 2014, while I was removing a sock, I realized that one of the yellow/gold ones was unraveled. It didn't disintegrate or break, it just seemed like the last knot to close it wasn't tight enough or something. Either way, I thought this was a good thing as I had just received a promotion at work, and yellow being tied to money (gold, riches), I figured this must've been one of my wishes coming true. Not quite! Less than 2 months later I was out of a job, and struggled to find another job even going so far as losing motivation. Not to say that it's all about superstition, but it must be noted that the ribbon was UNDONE -- which is exactly what happened with my promotion/career move. So word to the wise. Don't break these and if it unravels, that is not a good thing

      Delete
  10. Leigh, I received my ribbon today. Thank you so much! It's pink -which deity does that represent? The three knots-wishes reminds me of a college professor I know who is also a nun. We traveled in France together and whenever we visited a new church, she said you were allowed "trois graces" (three wishes) when you said your prayers. The wishes I made that summer have so far come true.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Michelle,
    That one, the pink one is associated with the female spirit Obá.

    "...usada para obter felicidade no amor. Significa beleza, saúde, sensualidade..."

    i.e. "used to obtain happiness in love. Signifies beauty, health and sensuality..."

    ReplyDelete
  12. One of Ary Barroso's best-known and best songs, "Na Baixa do Sapateiro," invokes Nosso Senhor do Bonfim as a cure for unrequited love:

    "Meu Senhor do Bonfim arranje outra morena igualzinha p'rá mim."
       ================
     Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
     http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  13. I got my authentic brazilian wish bracelet at www.BrazilianWishBracelet.com . It is awesome! Still on for more than a year. I can't wait for my wishes to come true when it falls off.

    ReplyDelete
  14. mine untied and fell off...does that count as naturally falling off?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Uh-oh.
    The answer, unfortunately, is no.
    No one I know has ever had one that became untied.
    But the belief is that you make the wishes when you tie the knots.
    And that, if they become untied, the wishes are being unmade.
    So it looks like you're going to have to start all over again.
    Which is really a pain if you've been using it for months already.
    I can send you another one if you want to try again. But you'll have to send me your address through the "contact me" button on my website because I don't know which of our valued Anonymous readers you are.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Is there any protocol for when your wishes will come true? I've read on some sites that the wishes come true before it falls off and on others that they will only be granted after it falls off. If the answer is after, how long after? Very curious!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Anonymous,

    Some, or all, of the wishes MAY come true before it falls off. But, if that happens, you mustn't remove it, because doing so can then undo all the good work.

    In general, though, people start looking for the realization of their wishes soon AFTER it has fallen off.

    Soon. I can't tell you more than that.

    Some people get impatient and remove the ribbon after having tied it on. And then, of course, they NEVER get what they wished for.

    So you've got to be careful not to do that.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Leighton,

    Thanks for the awesome account of the history of the Bonfim Ribbon. This comment comes rather late, but is the band still attached to your wrist?

    I just tied mine on. A friend got it for me. He was just in Brazil, but I noticed you can buy them online now at bahiabands.com. I might have to get a few for my friends (cheaper than flying down to Brazil (although I'd love to do that as well...))it's such a unique, cultural tradition.

    Again, thanks for the history lesson!! Hope mine falls off quickly!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Anonymous,

    Nope.
    That one fell off.
    But I've got another three wishes lined up.
    So I'm about to tie another one on.
    Maybe I'll wait until just before Bouchercon, so it doesn't look too grotty when I'd attending that event.
    The thing is, they used to be made out of cotton.
    And they fell off pretty quickly.
    Now that they're made out of synthetic fabric, they've turned into a really long-term commitment.
    Did you elect for your wrist or your ankle?
    A lot a ladies prefer the ankle these days.
    Just because they take so darned long to fall off. And when they get old, and faded, they don't call so much attention.
    Uh-oh, maybe I should have mentioned that earlier, huh?
    By the way, it's said that they only work if you receive one as a gift. So maybe you don't want to buy any.
    I gave some to one of my daughters in the 'States quite recently.
    And I'll get her to send you a few, if you send me a snail mail address through my website.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Are you still sending ribbons? I am very interested in one. :) This is great. I've been researching this on and off for years and I have always been interested in Brazilian traditions. Would love to try one, that is, if it's still in affect. Besides that, that you for your knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Wren,
    I can arrange it.
    Please email me through my web site with a mail address to which it can be sent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are awesome!!! Will do!

      Delete
  22. Hi,
    I was curious? what do you mean untie versus fell off? just curious as to what the bracelet actually does physically. isn't the bracelet knots suppose to untie after a while?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hi Anonymouse, I suppose it would be physically possible to "untie" one, but I've never seen anyone do it. Once the knots have been made, it would be very tricky at the very least, and only with the aid of some kind of a pick. By "fall off" I mean tht the material of the ribbon, in time, unravels, becomes thinner, deteriorates and , one day, it simply breaks -- causing the ribbon to fall from your wrist.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thanks!! If you don't mind asking, did your wishes come true? I have a bracelet on either wrists and I'm reallyreally hoping my wishes will be fulfilled.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi Anonymous,
    MIne did, as a matter of fact.
    Coincidence, maybe, but...

    Of course, I can't make any guarantees for yours.

    But I wish you good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi,
    Were your wishes hard and complicated and possibly life changing? Did you settle for more quick wishes. I'm discouraged and I would love to hear some encouragement stories from either you or someone you know.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hello Mr. Gage, The story caught me completely, could it be possible to me to get one?
    That would be a great way to start this yea!
    if so how can I contact you to give my information to send it?

    Hugs from México

    ReplyDelete
  28. Olá Luis,
    Please send me a snail mail address via my website (use the “contact me” button) and I will arrange to have one sent to you. Abrazos.

    ReplyDelete
  29. hi
    i'm very interested in this story. do you still have another one to send? and could you send it to another country?

    thank you :)
    your Thai Reader.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Yes, Sesei.
    My daughter in the US still has a few ribbons.
    And I will be happy to oblige.
    Please send me a mailing address through the "contact me" button on my website.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Sesei,
    Would you kindly send me your mailing address once again? I had a computer glitch and deleted it.
    Sorry and Thanks,

    ReplyDelete
  32. of course, i'm going to send to re-send you my mailing address and thank you again :)

    ReplyDelete
  33. :)) i got your nice gift today, thank you Mr. Leighton.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hypothetically if you make a wish with a date you hope for it to come true and that date has passed without the bracelet breaking, does that mean your wish wont come true

    ReplyDelete
  35. Hello, my Portuguese friend gave me one of these about 4 or 5 months ago, until I read this post I thought you were to make two wishes before you tie it. I made my two wishes, but I deeply regret one wish and I really want to the other to come true. In hope of my first wish coming true I told a friend what it was, but I am very supersticious. What do I do?
    Thank you,
    Your Irish reader :-)

    ReplyDelete
  36. I know I'm commenting waaaay after this was posted but I just found you because I was Googling opinions and perspectives on the se ribbons.
    For those asking about a story:
    On New Years Eve 2014, I tied 5 ribbons on my right ankle. I don't remember the exact wishes but they were corresponding to the color/meaning of the ribbons. About 4 months later in April of 2014, while I was removing a sock, I realized that one of the yellow/gold ones was unraveled. It didn't disintegrate or break, it just seemed like the last knot to close it wasn't tight enough or something. Either way, I thought this was a good thing as I had just received a promotion at work, and yellow being tied to money (gold, riches), I figured this must've been one of my wishes coming true. Not quite! Less than 2 months later I was out of a job, and struggled to find another job even going so far as losing motivation. Not to say that it's all about superstition, but it must be noted that the ribbon was UNDONE -- which is exactly what happened with my promotion/career move. So word to the wise. Don't break these and if it unravels, that is not a good thing.

    ReplyDelete