Evil eyes, red bracelets, and sweaty shirts

“Hermana Cristina, you need to be sure to put a red belt or scarf around your belly tonight. There is a full moon, so if you go outside you might miscarry!” I looked at Jackie like she was from another planet.

“What in the world are you talking about? Why would I miscarry because of a full moon? And how would a red scarf prevent it?” A few months pregnant, I was learning my first lessons in Honduran superstition.

Learning the beliefs and superstitions of other countries has always fascinated me. While in language school in San José, Costa Rica, I studied some of their country’s beliefs for the first time, as well as their origins. Then after coming to Honduras, I learned more, this time first-hand from the people.

One superstition we see here in Honduras every day is the belief in the mal de ojo or the “evil eye.” They believe that there are certain people (many times those with lighter colored eyes) that can make another person sick, tired, or simply cursed by giving them a certain look. Many babies here wear red bracelets on their wrists to protect them from the “evil eye.”

I got quite a few admonitions from other mothers in our town, and even a few in our church, for not putting a red bracelet on Claire when she was a baby. “She’s going to get sick!” they warned me. Thank the Lord, Claire has always been a very healthy child. If she had been sickly, I would have been subject to a flood of I told you so’s!

It surprised me how deeply ingrained some of these beliefs are, even in Christians. I met a lady from another area who had been a Christian for years, attending her local Baptist church, who insisted that the stories of the mal de ojo were true. It seems everyone has a story of some family member who was cursed, or a friend whose chickens all died after being gazed at. My lengthy explanations of germs and bacteria seemed to fall on deaf ears.

And that wasn't the only superstition I heard. I’ll never forget the time I took a couple of teenagers to the salon to have their hair blown dry and styled. Since few own or use blow dryers here, it was a special treat. But as we prepared to leave, the girls refused to walk the few feet to the car, since it had begun to drizzle outside. “It’s okay, just a few drops won’t mess your hair up,” I told them. “No, it’s not that!” they assured me. “If you have your hair blown dry and then it rains on your head, you’ll have a stroke!” It took me a l-o-n-g time to find enough plastic bags to cover them adequately to walk to the car.

Another time, a young mother in our church called me one day when her six-month old baby was sick. “He’s got a fever and some congestion. My mother-in-law told me to wrap him in a man’s shirt that was wet with sweat from work, but it hasn’t helped.” Oh my. I took her some Tylenol.

It’s easy for us Americans to chuckle and think, How silly! Believing you could protect yourself with bracelets, charms, or a special color! But we too have our own unique ways to “protect ourselves.” Most of us sleep well at night if we’ve managed to pay all our bills for the month and still have a little left over. We think our children’s future is safe as long as we’re contributing to that Roth IRA faithfully. We will be okay down the road if we have a thorough health insurance plan or our 401K is in good shape.

Over the past year of economic crisis, we’ve learned exactly how easily our safety net can come unraveled. It’s time to stop trusting in our own amulets and charms. Let’s remember Who is in control.

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. –Psalm 20:7
4 Responses
  1. Kimberly Grainger Says:

    How sweet life grows when we release our security blankets, financial and otherwise, in order to take His hand!
    Love you,

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  3. Dev Kumar Says:

    I just wanted to add a comment to mention thanks for your post. This post is really interesting and quite helpful for us. Keep sharing
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  4. Gina W Says:

    My daughter's husband is from Honduras, and he told her that owls are witches. How do they come up with that conclusion? Have you heard anything about that superstition?

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