28 September 2017

13 Superstitious Beliefs of the People of Santo Tomas, Batangas in 1925

An old chimney in Sto. Tomas, Batangas during the American colonial era.  Image credit:  University of Michigan Digital Collections.
From an Anthropology paper entitled “Superstitious Beliefs from Santo Tomas, Batangas,” written in 1925 by one Aurora A. Hernandez, we get further glimpses of Batangas culture almost a century ago. The paper is part of the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines’ Digital Collections.

The author was presumably from Santo Tomas, and hence she limited the scope of her paper to beliefs in the community; but one, the belief in what seeing a black cat could bring, is almost universal. All the others were also probably known in other parts of the province and possibly even the rest of the country.

Some may even be still familiar to older readers, which makes it remarkable that modernity and education have not completely eradicated superstitions. Here are the thirteen beliefs from Santo Tomas, edited for grammar where necessary but otherwise as the author wrote them. I have also taken the liberty of inserting annotations in brackets [x] where I found them necessary.

The cock crowing
If the cock crows at an unusual hour at night, there is somebody eloping from the household that owns the cock. [It is most amusing that all these Otley-Beyer Anthropology papers always used “cock” rather than “rooster.” The word’s slang usage meaning you-know-what probably did not become prevalent until the forties and later.]

A rooster crowing at night could mean someone was eloping.  Image credit:  The Luther Parker Collection at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
A boy’s baptism
If only one boy is baptized along with many other baby girls, he will always be fortunate in courtship.

A dog howling
If a dog howls in front of one’s house, there will be a close relative dying. [Strangely enough, I have one or two experiences of this very same thing happening, albeit in all honesty there were probably more instances of the dog howling without anyone I know dying.]

A dog howling at night could mean somebody dying.  Image credit:  Pets World.
Dreaming of tooth falling
If you dream of one of your teeth falling, a close relative has just died.

Dream of a burning house
If you dream that your house is burned, a relative of yours has died.

Smell of a burning candle
If you smell a burning candle although there is none in your house, a relative of yours is dying. [The version of this superstition that I am familiar with is that if one smells a burning candle, somebody close to you (and not just a relative) has already died instead of still dying. The smell of the candle, as I have always understood it, was supposed to be from the dead person’s wake.]

The smell of a candle burning could mean somebody dying.  Image credit:  Pexels.comhttps://www.pexels.com/photo/red-lighted-candle-220618/.
The black cat
When you are travelling and you meet a black cat, do not proceed anymore for something will happen to you. [And that “something” is usually not a good thing. The belief in the black cat bringing bad luck is almost universal.]

The gambler meeting a snake
If a gambler meets a snake on his way to a gambling den, he will win. [This is certifiably the first time I am hearing of this superstition. However, I used to hear it from jueteng (small time lottery) solicitors when I was young that that dreaming of a snake brought good luck, and it had the equivalent number 8.]

A gambler encountering a snake was considered fortunate.  Image credit:  Free3D.
The godmother/father
During baptism, if the godmother or godfather prayed the Apostles’ Creed and then blew on the baby’s head, then the baby will inherit all the godmother’s or godfather’s characteristics.

Before a wedding
Before a wedding, neither the bride nor the groom is allowed to leave the house for some evil might happen. [The more common superstition, even in the west, is the groom is not supposed to see the bride the day before the wedding.]

Before a wedding, neither the bride nor the groom were supposed to leave their respective houses.  Image credit:  The Luther Parker Collection at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
Child eating from a knife
If a child is made to eat his or her first meal from the end of a knife (the first time he or she is made to eat a rice meal), he or she will grow up a sharp talker. [Unfortunately, the author did not elaborate on “sharp talker” which is quite open to interpretation. It could be that the child would grow up quick witted and eloquent or with an acid tongue or, in the vernacular, “mataray.”]

Lucky cat
When from a single cat an owner is able to get 13 cats in the next generation, he or she will never suffer poverty. [The author’s exact words were “When from a single cat you were able to get 13 in number thin generation, the owner will never suffer poverty. [“Thin” is obviously a typo and “thin generation” sounds a lot like gibberish. Nevertheless, the way I paraphrased her word seems viable enough.]

Cats could also bring good luck.  Image credit:  Bored Panda.
A young girl getting married
When the young girl is to be married, old folks put money in her skirt while it is being sewed. Because of this, the young couple will never suffer being penniless.

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