Growing up on the gorgeous but super superstitious and religious island of Curaçao, I was constantly scared of something or someone. As an adult I often wondered if it was because of my personality but I am not one to shy away from anything. I’m more of a grab-the-bull-by-the-horn kinda girl, a real go-getter. But one day it hit me. It must be all those old wives’ tales I heard growing up, or the “Doom” scenarios described to me when or if I ever behaved badly. I still find myself making the sign of the cross for example whenever I drive past a church. Driving in Curaçao means crossing yourself pretty much at every intersection or street corner.
I was brought up in a Catholic household where the fear of God was often used as a behavioral tool. As kids we used to sometimes spent the day at our grandparent’s house. We loved it but would make sure to always be on our best behavior whenever we were there. You see, although our aunts (unmarried and still living with mom and pop) would spoil us rotten, devoted catholics that they are, they would regularly use words like:
“Don’t do that. God will punish you”
Now, some 30+ years later I still have trouble shaking that and I swear that the $20 bill I lost the other day is punishment from God for not stopping my car and giving that little old lady a chance to cross the street. I did feel better once I quickly did the sign of the cross driving past a church. I’m sure all must be forgiven now and God and I are still pals.
Besides “God the Punisher” there were other scary tales or sayings that one had to keep in mind while trying to survive the everyday island life on the island of superstitions.
The tale of Ézé
Ézé was a black winged creature that would roam the nights in search of children’s blood. His name would be used at times to scare you into perfectly behaved little children, especially around bedtime.
Just two buckets will do
One must always throw two buckets of water behind the hearse as it is driving away from the deceased’s house after picking up the body. This is to ensure that nobody else in the household is claimed by the grips of death.
Prophecies of the moth
Beware of a big black butterfly or dark moth in the house. This is a sure sign that someone close to you is about to die.
Better known in the rest of the world as Voodoo. These dark and macabre ceremonies, which often include lots of candles, blood in a goat’s skull and a fat lady dressed in folkloric attire smoking a cigar. If you were conducting yourself in an odd way it was often blamed on “bruhería”.
Blame it on the Umbilical Cord
When a child is born the mother is advised to keep or bury the umbilical cord near the front door so that the child can always find his/her way back home. My poor mother is convinced that her neglecting to do this is the one reason why all her 4 kids now live abroad.
There is another ritual that must be performed when a child is born and it is amazing to see that this ritual is still practiced today. We start with “Blous”, a blue powder used normally as a detergent. The newborn child is bathed in “Blous” water for cleansing. After the bath, a bit of the blue powder is dabbed on the child’s head to ward off evil spirits, evil eye and jealousy. The ritual is completed by the baby wearing a bracelet or necklace with three very important charms: the black fist, the red bead and the blue eye. Should the baby get sick after being held by someone who gave the baby a little too much attention, then the baby is again bathed in the blue bath and an item of clothing from that person would be placed on the baby to take away the “evilness” or “infection” that person brought to the baby.
Home is where the chicken blood is
When building a new house one needs the obvious cement, blocks and sand but also chicken blood. A chicken must be slaughtered and the fresh blood poured in the 4 corners of the house as soon as the foundation is finished. This will ensure smooth construction and a strong and stable house.
Knees and death
Once at my grandparents’ place I needed to change the channel on the tv. Being lazy I didn’t feel like getting up so I knee-walked to the tv (there was no remote control at my grandparents’ house). My aunt almost suffered a heart attack upon seeing me do this and she quickly yanked me to my feet and told me to never ever knee-walk again. How was I supposed to know that knee-walking invites death?
A broom and a wedding
When someone is cleaning their house make sure not to stand too close for if that broom sweeps over your feet, it is a sure sign that you will never get married.
Always be pleasant or……
Another sure way of guaranteeing that your kids will always be nice to others: if you are not nice to someone, that person will come at night and pull at your toes after they die.
Late night shenanigans
One must always be careful when coming home late at night. Walk in backwards so you face whatever evil spirits are waiting to enter your home. This will make them think twice about coming in uninvited. Another way is to stop at the door and turn your shirt inside out and wear it with the tag on the outside before proceeding into your house. I’m sure someone’s old lady came up with this one to make sure her husband came home early.
So tonight when you’re in bed make sure your toes are safely tucked in, your pj’s are inside out and you dab a little blue soap powder on your head in the sign of a cross.
Sleep tight and don’t let Èzè bite.
I’m curious to know: What superstitions did you grow up with?