“What we don’t understand we can make mean anything.” ― Chuck Palahniuk
Isn’t that the truth? You probably have a few of your own superstitions. I know I have many. I’ve skirted around the ladder propped up in our backyard when our workers were on our roof. I always find pennies or cordobas on the road. If they are heads-up, I take them because they are good luck. If they are heads-down, I ignore them.
Yet, why do we behave this way? We learn superstitious behaviors through a simple reinforcement process. If a certain action appears to lead to a desired outcome, we do it over and over again. And why do we repeat these actions? Because we like to have some semblance of control over uncertainty in our lives. If we are unsure about an outcome, we try to find a way to control it. Thus superstitions are born.
Nicaraguans have many superstitions, too.
Our friends visited us with their newborn. He was wearing a bracelet with a red band and two seeds on the bracelet. I’ve seen these before on newborns, so I asked about the significance. Apparently, one of the maladies parents must watch out for is called calor de vista. Babies get feverish and sick when people who have been drinking alcohol gaze at the baby. The new Papa explained to me that even families and friends who drink too much can pass on their oncoming hangover instantly to the baby. The bracelet is protection for the baby against drunks.
OH NO! A drunk must be nearby! Quick, hold up your bracelet!
I went to the elementary school last week for the Grand Opening of the new preschool building. Although, I had been quarantined due to my recent eye operation and an outbreak of pink eye on Ometepe, I thought the epidemic was over. Yikes! The director had a bad case of pink eye!
When she saw me, she ran away from me because she knew my doctor said NOT to be around people with pink eye. I explained to her that I was fine, as long as I didn’t touch her or put my hand to my face. She shouted to me from a distance. “Don’t worry. If you get pink eye, I will find some breast milk for you.” Apparently, this is common practice for eye infections. A little drop of breast milk in each eye and you are good to go. I thanked her, but said that probably wouldn’t be necessary, as I repeatedly sprayed antibacterial gel on my hands.
Many superstitions revolve around water.
We sweat a lot in the tropics. As a result, nothing is more refreshing than a big ole glass of cold, cold water. However, our workers won’t touch cold water. They believe that drinking cold water after sweating will harm the body and make them sick. Instead, they drink tepid water right from our hose! Although this post is about superstitions, really, they need to stop drinking water from a hose! That will most definitely make them sick. If they have a cold or cough, they will only drink hot beverages. Cold beverages make them sicker.
We only have cold water showers in our house. Most of the time, I find them wonderful, especially after I have been outside working on a hot day. But, the locals refuse to bathe after exercising or working hard in the hot sun. They say it makes them sick. When I asked them about it, they said it had something to do with open pores from the sweat, and soap gets in the pores and goes through the body contaminating it with soap.
Bathing at night makes you sick, too. Bathing should only be done in the morning. You should not bathe after you eat, either. It makes you vomit.
Superstition is a cultural ingredient that goes into some Nicaraguan foods, too. Grapefruit trees are abundant here. Yet, seldom do we see Nicaraguans eating them. The men believe that grapefruits are the opposite of an aphrodisiac. Eating a grapefruit does not enhance their sexual prowess. On the other hand, turtle eggs are a delicacy and an aphrodisiac.
Nicaragua’s Easter Iguana soup is a cherished and hoped for aphrodisiac. Although Nicaragua banned hunting Iguanas, it still goes largely ignored. Usually, they are cooked in a rice and vegetable soup called sopa de garrobo.
And finally, a tragic story of when superstitious religious rituals go horribly wrong.
Nicaraguan woman dies after being thrown into fire in exorcism ritual
What superstitions do you practice regularly?