Lucky Soap, Chicken Bones & more

The most recent superstitious thing Suegra has brought into the house is this soap. She got this in El Salvador for Carlos.

The soap is supposed to bring you luck in whatever you need luck in, (in our case, dinero.) Carlos said he wasn’t sure he believed in it but proceeded to lather up anyway.

When I laughed at him, Carlos tried rubbing it on me.

“Hey, you better watch where you rub that,” I said.
“Why?”
“Well, I don’t know how it works but what if whichever body part you rub it on is the one that brings in money?” I said.

Carlos stopped rubbing the lucky soap on me after that.

Usually, I try not to laugh at things like this – I try to be respectful of other people’s beliefs, but some of them seem very strange and even silly, (though Suegra and Carlos think I have equally weird beliefs sometimes.)

Here are just a few of the beliefs I’ve encountered over the years while living with two Salvadorans.

Voodoo?

I actually prefer the “silly” beliefs because the alternative is disturbing ones like the time I believe she tried to put a curse on me. I will never forget the time Suegra angrily moved out of our house. During that year that we were “disowned” I was cleaning the house and happened upon something which quite frankly kind of freaked me out.

When I dusted the top of the doorbell box high on the wall, I knocked something down. Whatever it was, it clattered to the floor. I reached down to pick it up and knew immediately that Suegra had something to do with it. It was a chicken bone and I really don’t know why she put it there. She may have put it there as a blessing on the house when we were on good terms – or, more likely, she may have put it there as a curse when she left. I still haven’t asked because I don’t want to stir up anything with her.

The reason I suspect Suegra is the one who put the chicken bone up there is because it’s just too strange for there to be any other explanation. After all, I already know some of her other beliefs, and this wouldn’t even be the strangest. For example, I know that there was a woman Carlos was involved with before he came to the United States. Suegra hated this woman and she told Carlos to stay away from her, but he wouldn’t. This is when Suegra became convinced that this woman had cast a spell on him by putting his photo in her underwear.

Luck & Wealth

Speaking of underwear, I mentioned before that she wears her own underwear inside out for luck.

When one of the children accidentally puts their shirt on inside out, Suegra announces that it’s “Día de San Antonio” and this is also good luck.

Rue plants likewise bring good luck.

A lot of her superstitions revolve around attracting good luck/money and discouraging bad luck/loss of money. She chides me for sweeping in the evening, (the household will lose money.)

Magnets, on the other hand, attract luck/money.

Health

Beliefs that don’t fall into the luck/money category, usually fall into the health category. She avoids quick changes in temperature. If she has been using her sewing machine she says her muscles are “hot” and so she won’t reach into the freezer to retrieve anything – (she has me do it instead.)

Carlos is also this way to some degree though he never explained it. When we first got married he’d come home from work and though he loves to be clean, he would always wait awhile before taking a shower – saying he wanted to rest first. Later I realized that this was part of that same belief. And now that I think about it, I wonder if when Carlos’s Mexican co-workers advised him not to have sex with the ceiling fan on, perhaps the hot/cold thinking is also why they believe that.

Other medical issues – “Empacho” is a gastrointestinal problem which Suegra believes can lead to death. She gets very worried about feeling bloated and will do everything from massaging her stomach to brewing various concoctions to cure it.

Sometimes Suegra also complains of having air trapped in the body. I don’t know if this has scientific merit or not. I don’t know if it has a specific name but she’ll say “Tengo aire” before pounding a fist against her back in an attempt to clear it out.

Other oddities

Suegra believes that if you point at a rainbow, you’ll make it disappear. Also, you should not watch a dog relieving itself or it will cause a sty on your eye.

Have you heard of “Tapa Boca” candles, or “Shut up” candles? If someone is gossiping about you, you light it and by the time it burns out, the person will be forced to stop talking about you. There are dozens of other similar candles for every imaginable problem as well.

In the end, living with Carlos and Suegra all these years has caused some of their creencías to rub off on me.

If the palm of my hand becomes itchy, my first thought is that I will soon come into money. And, if my ears are ringing, I assume someone is talking about me so I bite the tip of my tongue.

No matter how angry I get at someone though, I will not hide a chicken bone in their house.

Links:

A blog post about hot/cold beliefs

Posted on March 23, 2011, in beliefs, Culture, Salvadoreños, sex, suegra and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Wow… a lot of material here! Es muy curioso lo que la gente cree. Yo más bien, cuando a estas cosas se refiere, creo que es el poder de la mente. Yo creo en el poder positivo o negativo de las VIBRAS. No creo en el voodoo o lo que llamamos “Embrujo”. Yo creo que hay gente malosa que pone mucha de su energía negativa en contra tuya y puede que te afecte de alguna manera.
    Lo del cambio de temperatura…. curiosamente yo si creo. Recuerdo que la señora que nos planchaba la ropa, después de planchar, se sentaba como media hora sólo a descansar. GOD FORBID tomara agua fría, se mojara las manos o se mojara por la lluvia. Según mi abue… esos cambios de temperatura eran malísimos para los joints (especialmente). Yo cada 3 lunas, cuando plancho… hago lo mismo. Que NADIE me moleste ni me pida algo de la refri porque NO LO HAGO!
    Coincido con algunas otras cosillas que mencionas, pero yo lo tomo más como una creencia cultural sin TANTA base científica.
    Lo del fan + sex…. esa explicación aparece en el Kamasutra pag. 567. Go check it out jajajaja!

  2. What a great way to start my day, with a laugh…thank you! My husband also has the hot/cold belief and it drives me crazy. He won’t reach in the refrigerator or freezer after cooking or doing the dishes with warm water. One thing you didn’t mention is ‘ojo’. Apparently there is some belief that if you look the ‘wrong way’ at a baby, they get ‘ojo’ and will cry and throw tantrums. The cure for ojo is rubbing an egg (in the shell mind you) all over the child, and then something about blowing onto it and putting it in a glass of water? Then you must dispose of the egg properly or you release the evil ‘ojo’ spirits to invade someone else’s body. (I may have part of this wrong, because we never practiced this, but my husband filled me in once when someone suggested my child had ‘ojo’. :)

  3. http://www.alibaba.com/product-free/110642937/Virginity_Soap.html

    There is virginity soap to tighten you up! LOL purdy crazy.

    Very interesting to read about some of your suegra’s superstitions. I suppose it is just another way of making sense of the world around us.

  4. Ay Tracy this is funny! It´s funny to learn about the cultural shock it has caused at your household… to me, it´s pretty normal, hahaha!
    Igual que Claudia, la señora que me plancha no se moja después de estar planchando, y creo que tiene todo el sentido del mundo!
    Yo si creo que los “enfriamientos” (the hot/cold thin) suceden. El “mal de ojo” (what Jessica was saying) y muchas otras creencias populares las entiendo como dice Claudia, son “vibras” que te mandan y que mandamos. No hay de otra.

    Now… how about la “cuarentena”? Every woman in my family has kept la cuarentena after having a baby. They do not go out for 40 days – except for doctor´s appointments if they have to – they put a band and some special ointment around their belly to help the skin tighten again, and they drink some kind of tea which I don´t know what it´s made of yet.
    Se hace religiosamente! Very important.

    I love all these popular/religious/cultural beliefs!
    Thanks for sharing them amiga!

    • SIIII los 40 días from hell!!!! Mi abue me aconsejó lo siguiente:
      1- No lea! La vista se cansa mucho y se deteriora enormemente si lee (no le hice caso y ahora soy una Magoo)
      2- Tomar agua de Linaza para bajar la panza, espcialmente si fue Cesárea (no le hice mucho caso y la panza todavía la cargo)
      3- CERO sexo (mmmm no comment)
      4- Comer sólo cosas asadas o hervidas.
      5- Taparse la cabeza (sorry, no lo hice. Será que por eso soy medio loca?)
      6- No comer vegetales crudos si estás dando pecho (le da cólicos al baby)

  5. Seriously, you need a book of short stories on living with two Salvadorans.

    The Lucky Soap and the lathering Carlos stopped doing is hilarious.

    We had a lot of Santeros in Miami and there was a Santero family three doors down from my grandparents. I wasn’t allowed to go over that way, for fear they would do a trabajo on me. I was taught never to walk over a bag in the street because it could be a trabajo someone threw in your path — and whether it was meant for you or not — you didn’t want to pick it up.

    Also, chicken bone? I’m thinking so not a blessing…

    xo

  6. Yo quiero una Shut Up candle, jajaja!! Not because I think anyone is gossiping about me or anything like that, just because I love the image on the front of it. As far as superstitions I don’t really believe in that stuff…but I’ve heard all sorts of crazy things. The one thing I do believe, is that whenever you see money on the floor, especially pennies you have to pick them up and put them in your pocket for good luck and a healthy pocketbook. If you don’t then you are despreciandoing dinero (I made that word up, lol) and you should prepare for the consequences :-)

  7. That would be hard to live with.
    I don’t have a problem with the logical superstitions (of course you don’t walk under a ladder- something might FALL on you, breaking a mirror is bad luck- it’s sharp tiny peices everywhere and mirrors used to be very very expensive, black cat crossing your path is bad- it would have likely spooked your horse and bolted or thrown you, etc.)
    But inside out underwear? I don’t know what that might be based on…??

  8. omfg rofl….. the dog and the stye in ur eye is funny as heck. The voodooo thing is straight up creepy but i kinda believe it too… my gma use to spit everytime she saw a black cat? Its so dumb but i do it? So maybe carlos just feels like me..obligated to do it..lmao… its funny though… a chicken bone… ohhhh myyyy thats like my suegra apparently if ur named after someone who is “traumitized” they become “traumitized” too lol

  9. the hot/cold thing.. that is a superstition?? i believe that! :O! i was taught to do things like that to prevent arthritis and other bone/joint problems.

    I’m surprised there wasn’t anything on the malojo.. has she ever said anything about it?

  10. No me hagas reir tan fuerte!! OMG! Those really are some true Salvi beliefs! Girl my mom lived by turning the broom upside down in the kitchen if someone came to visit and wouldn’t leave quick enough lol Y los 40 days aughrrr que no podes comer nada verde o solo queso seco con tortilla tostada. No comas carne que no deja sanar heridas. Goodness seriously I can go on all night!! Oh waittt!! No watermelon when you are on you monthly o huevos o fish porque te dan “stabbing pains” you know where. Little girls aren’t suppose to eat raw onions. Okay ya enough!!! LOL

  11. Oh my gosh, Tracy! I laughed so hard when I read this post this morning. I laughed because it was hilarious and I kept picturing Carlos and your suegra. And then I laughed even harder because everything sounded too familiar. :)

    My in-laws don’t really believe in voodoo, but my suegro swears up and down that he’s known a couple of people that have been “enhechizados”.

    My step-grandpa was a big believer in voodoo. He never practiced it, but his second wife did. (My grandma was his 3rd wife.) During his 25 year marriage to my grandmother, he always thought he was cursed. Especially when he found my grandma’s lost scissors under his side of the bed. That was all the explanation he needed for his sore back.

    Thanks for explaining about sex and ceiling fans. Now I know what Hubby and I have been doing wrong. LOL!

    My suegra won’t go outside, wet her hands or open the fridge when she has been ironing. Esta caliente, and she doesn’t want to get arthritis. I’m the same way, but only when I’ve been kneading bread, making tortillas or baking. Lo que no se hereda, se pega.

    I love reading your posts because they always bring back fun memories. :)

  12. LOVE! This reminds me so much of my suegrita, who I miss. Thanks so much for posting all these cultural tidbits. It brings back some fun memories. <3

  13. Very interesting post! Not sure how i missed this one! I’ve heard similar things from my Colombian friends and even “The Mexican’s” ex-wife (puerto rican)……. but “The Mexican” refuses to believe any of it. I on the other hand believe some, or at least do not want to risk it! LOL

  14. I catch myself picking this up, too. Like when my elbow itches… I won’t scratch it so that I’ll get money soon :) Of course, there’s things I won’t do that I learned from my mamaw that mi esposo thinks is crazy, like not opening an umbrella indoors — bad luck!

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