Monday, September 12, 2011

Bouchercon Hiatus:Brazilian Wish Ribbons

If you're unfamiliar with what Bouchercon is, you can learn all about it by going here:

In case you don't know it already, the only one among us who isn't attending is Dan (We'll miss you, Dan) and we're all pretty busy with preparations and travel.

We have, therefore, agreed that two posts from each of us, in succession, will be drawn from our archive.

The one below, originally dated the 10th of February of last year, is particularly appropriate, because, during the event, I'll be handing out Brazilian Wish Ribbons to anyone who asks for one.

So, if you're reading this, and you're going there, don't forget to buttonhole me.

Because they also make terrific bookmarks.

This is me.

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 Portugal.

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.
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…

On the other hand, if you're less superstitious than I am, you can always use it as a bookmark.

So, if you see me wandering around Bouchercon -- ask.

Leighton - Monday


  1. Beautiful story, and I always find it amazing how deep our respect for the unknown is. Rightfully so. Have a great con, and enjoy yourselves.

  2. Thank God, Lil, you didn't say "behave yourselves."


  3. Thank you for a fascinating story!

    If I were going to Butchercon, I´d definitely accost you to get one - to use as a bookmark ;)

    Have a wonderful time, and bring some good stories back home to share with us.