18 October 2017

22 Beliefs Held in San Jose, Batangas in 1925

Church at San Jose, Batangas.  Image from the Luther Parker Collection at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
One of the most refreshing documents that I have come across among the Henry Otley-Beyer Anthropological Collection at the National Library of the Philippines’ Digital Collections is a paper written by one Agapito H. Mendoza1 which enumerated superstitious beliefs held by the people of San Jose in Batangas, presumably his hometown, in 1925.

I call these “refreshing” because most of the beliefs that he wrote about many of these I had not heard of before; and this is even more remarkable considering that the town of San Jose is right next door to Lipa City where I live.

Mendoza separated the beliefs into two categories: those related to weddings and married life and every day superstitions. I make annotations in brackets [x] where I see them appropriate.

Wedding superstitions and omens

Shoe-throwing
Old shoes thrown after a newly married couple brings good luck. [Most people will be more familiar with the tradition of throwing rice at a newly wedded couple, supposedly for fertility and good fortune2. However, the practice was apparently an old English tradition3 and was likely practiced elsewhere in Europe as well. The obvious assumption is that it was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards, otherwise the question will have to be how an English custom got to San Jose.]

It was customary to throw old shoes after a newly-wedded couple in San Jose.  Image credit:  BigThink.com.
Unlucky engagement ring
A diamond engagement ring is considered lucky, but a ring with pearls will bring ill-fortune. [In the West, pearls in engagement rings are “traditionally believed to bring tears to a marriage4.]

Losing the engagement ring stone
Should a stone be lost from an engagement ring, it should be replaced before the day of the marriage unless the bride-to-be can resign herself to misfortune.

Make a wish come true
To make a wish come true, turn your wedding ring three times on your finger. [A western version says turning the ring around three times brings good luck5.]

It was believed that turning a wedding ring around three times could make a wish come true.  Image credit:  ABCNews.
Making under-de-saya
If you want to be powerful over your husband [Mendoza likely meant “dominant over the husband], a bride should overstep the shoe of her husband during the marriage ceremony.

Name-calling
If the bride-to-be wishes to command her husband all the time [again, Mendoza probably meant if she wanted to dominate her husband], she should be the first to address her husband by the full name.

Everyday Omens

Itchy nose
Should your nose itch early in the day, it is an indication that you will hear important news before sunset. [In the West, an itchy nose could mean any of these: that you are going to kiss a fool; that you will get into a fight; that you may be annoyed or cursed; or that you will come into contact with someone with a hole in his trousers6.]

An itchy nose would bring some news.  Image credit:  The Luxury Spot.
Right side of the bed
To insure a lucky day, rise on the right side of the bed. [Mendoza likely meant the directional “right,” i.e. the opposite of “left,” but in the west the expression “got up on the wrong side of the bed” means a person is grumpy7. Conversely, somebody who got up on the “right side of the bed” is having a bright disposition.]

Broken shoestring
The breaking of a shoe string is a sure sign that your sweetheart is thinking of you. [In the West, a broken shoelace is thought to bring bad luck8.]

Combing hair in the dark
To comb your hair in the dark is a sure sign that disappointment awaits you.

Returning from a journey
To come back after you have once started on a journey brings bad luck. [Mendoza probably meant to return so soon after one sets out on a journey, such as when one forgets something and just had to return for it.]

Losing a garter
Should a lady lose her garter, it is an indication that her lover is still constant [meaning faithful] to her. [The garter likely the elastic band used to hold up the stockings. In the West, a bride losing the garter during the honeymoon is considered a bad omen9.]

Losing the garter was considered lucky.  Image credit:  Confetti.
Missing the mouth
If, while eating, you should miss your mouth and the food should fall, you may regard this an unlucky omen. [I consider this the quirkiest of all these superstitions, something a version of which I had not previously heard or read about.]

Smiling baby
A baby smiling in its sleep is believed to be holding conversations with angels. [This is the only superstition among those enumerated by Mendoza that I had previously heard of and is probably universal to cultures that believe in angels.]

A smiling baby was thought to be talking to angels.  Image credit:  Your Newborn.
Seeing a rainbow
If you see a rainbow, you can bring good luck by drawing a cross on the ground and spitting on each of the four corners (of the cross). [There are many superstitious beliefs about the rainbow; and the most common is the pot of gold at its end. This version from San Jose has a real novelty to it.

Sneezing
Sneezing three times in rapid succession is considered a good omen by some. [Superstitions about sneezing date all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It was thought of as either a good or a bad omen10.]

Finding a horseshoe
It is always lucky to find a horseshoe. The luckiest is to find one with eight nails. [Although I am hearing about this for the first time, apparently superstitious beliefs about the horseshoe bringing good fortune dates all the way back to the tenth century in England11.]

Putting on a new suit
Putting on a new suit for the first time on a Monday is an indication that the cloth will soon tear.

Three bees
It is a sure sign that your plans will meet with success if three bees alight upon you at the same time. [Unless, I am sure everyone is dying to say, they sting.]

Three bees were thought lucky for one's plans.  Image credit:  J. P. Greene's Blog.
All about numbers
Odd numbers bring luck more often than the even numbers. [In the West, even numbers are thought of as unlucky, particularly by gamblers12.]

Bad dreams
Never tell a bad dream before breakfast unless you wish it to come true.

Meeting an old woman
A seller who meets and old woman never makes a good gain (profit) on that day.

Notes and references:
1Beliefs in San Jose,” by Agapito H. Mendoza, written 1925 and online at the H. Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2The Bizarre Origins of 8 Wedding Traditions,” by Jenn Grabenstetter, published 2008, online at Mental Floss.
3Shoe Throwing at Weddings,” by James E. Crombie, published 1895 in Folklore Volume VI.
4Engagement Ring Superstitions,” online at Gemselect.com.
5Marry a Virgin,” published 1992 in the Investigator Magazine, online at Tripod.com.
6 “Itching Palms and Other Body Parts, What Does it Mean?” by Robert Tuttle, online at Odd Random Thoughts.
7Which Side is the Wrong Side of the Bed?” online at Wonder of the Day.
8 “Superstition and shoes,” online at In My Shoes.
9The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Superstitions,” published 1999.
10Sneezing Superstition,” online at Psychic Library.
11Horseshoe Superstition,” online at the Psychic Library.
1213 Superstitions about Numbers,” by Bambi Turner, online at How Stuff Works.

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