USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Bahamian Beliefs’
Customs
general
Protection

Don’t Wear Silver in Water

The informant’s family comes from the Bahamas. She was born in the Bahamas and is a talented Bahamian woman. Her mother and she were extremely close and she learned a lot of the folklore that she shared with me from either her mother or from being with her mother. Eventually her family moved to Florida where they learned American cultures and were able to compare and contrast the two. 

Informant…

“I’m not really sure if this is considered folklore or a proverb, but one tradition, or superstition, or maybe it could be considered water etiquette in most island cultures is that you absolutely never wear your silver jewelry or anything shiny into the waters. I don’t mean like swimming pools, I mean the water with fish and other things in it. We do this because we believe that a barracuda will attack you if you do. I think its because silver or any other flashy types of jewelry or anything will confuse a barracuda and it’ll mistake you for the little critters it preys on and will attack any human wearing it.”

When she was asked why this is a superstition she said, “Well a barracuda will attack you.”

Then I asked, “Have you ever seen it happen or heard it happen to someone close to you?”

She said, “well… no, My mom just told me and here mom told her and I’m sure her dad told her as well. I don’t know where they got it from, I just know not to do it.”

Analysis…

Superstitions play an important role in the way that people may act, what they will do, what they will say, what they will wear, or when they will do things. Usually superstitions are practiced because of good luck or bad luck and doing something one way will prevent bad luck from happening, and give you good luck. In the case of the informant this is a superstition of something you don’t do or there will be bad consequences. Maybe this originated by an older sibling trying to fool his younger siblings into doing something he wanted so he made up a story about barracudas attacking, or maybe someone was actually attacked by a barracuda because of the jewelry the person was wearing. Regardless of where it came from it is a heavily practiced superstition and is not ever broken in fear of being attacked.

Folk Beliefs
general

Bad Luck

The informant’s family comes from the Bahamas. She was born in the Bahamas and is a talented Bahamian woman. Her mother and she were extremely close and she learned a lot of the folklore that she shared with me from either her mother or from being with her mother. Eventually her family moved to Florida where they learned American cultures and were able to compare and contrast the two. 

Informant…

“In the Bahamas there is a superstition about ladders. If a person is walking on the sidewalk and there is construction going on or for any other reason there is a ladder blocking the way, it is considered bad luck to walk under the ladder. The person walking should completely veer off their intended track to avoid the ladder and then continue on their intended path once they are clear from the ladder. In my culture a person will never walk under a ladder.”

I asked her were it came from and she said she wasn’t sure she just knew that it is blatantly obvious that people will not walk under a ladder. If the ladder happens to be in their way they will go around because they don’t want the bad luck that comes with it.

Analysis…

Superstitions play an important role in the way that people may act, what they will do, what they will say, what they will wear, or when they will do things. Usually superstitions are practiced because of good luck or bad luck and doing something one way will prevent bad luck from happening, and give you good luck. I have heard the don’t walk under a ladder, or if you see a black cat that is bad luck. To me I don’t buy into superstitions, however some cultures do. If there was even a thought in their heads that walking under a ladder would bring them bad luck why would they walk under anyways? It makes sense that they would avoid the ladder completely. Our society I would say is split between those who are superstitious and those who aren’t. I think because our society is so diverse and full of lots of culture combined that we don’t have just one culture for everyone to believe exactly the same thing and practice the same things.

Customs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Life cycle
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

“String and Ring Test”

The informant’s family comes from the Bahamas. She was born in the Bahamas and is a talented Bahamian woman. Her mother and she were extremely close and she learned a lot of the folklore that she shared with me from either her mother or from being with her mother. Eventually her family moved to Florida where they learned American cultures and were able to compare and contrast the two. 

The custom…

…is performed if a woman is pregnant at her baby shower. A ring is paced on a string and she holds one end of the string in one hand and the other end of the string in the other and pulls the string so that the ring will move. If the ring swings back and forward the baby is predicted to be a boy, and if the ring stays in the middle of the string the baby is predicted to be a girl.

The informant born in the Bahamas and raised in Florida, learned this custom as a young girl. Her mom would take her to baby showers of her mother’s friends. “It was so exciting” the informant said, “to go and experience the pregnant ladies as they would celebrate the new life they were creating”. At these baby showers, very similar to the ones we in American are use to, they perform different customs or rituals to either predict the baby’s gender, when it will be born, and just as a well to celebrate the almost to be mother and the new life she would carry inside of her. To explain it to me (a Wyoming resident with no exotic traditional background) the informant said, “You know like the old wives tales? That is kind of what this is. I know you’ve heard of the saying If the belly is high the baby is a girl and if the belly is low the baby will be a boy, it is really similar to that I guess. My culture just does it [the string and ring custom] for fun, but we actually believe in it [its results]“.

When asked how this tradition started, the informant replied, “I’m not sure, I’ve never asked where they got it from, I just remember it being performed at almost every Bahamian women’s baby showers I’ve went to. I am sure the ones where it wasn’t performed, probably the woman pregnant wanted the gender [of the baby] to be a surprise”. If mothers don’t perform this when they want the gender of their baby to be a surprise, I suspect that usually the custom has correct answers which is really neat.

Analysis…

I think that this custom, ritual, or tradition is sort of similar to the “belief” that Americans have about pregnancy from old wives tales. I was extremely happy when the informant connected her custom to a belief that I was familiar with to help me understand why they do it. Similar to here, I think that the custom is sort of for fun, but when it boils down to it, whatever the results of either how a person is carrying their child or what the string and ring test shows, is a legitimate prediction of the gender of their child until it is born and they are able to learn the truth.

[geolocation]