The Superstitious Panamanian Divorce Effigy

I was driving to Cambutal, Panama to visit a favorite beach with my family, and over the road from a high tree was a hanging in effigy. I asked my neighbor lady what that was all about and she said very matter-of -factly, “when your husband leaves you if you hang a scarecrow outside the house dressed in his old clothes, he will have misfortune in his new life, and when the clothes are weathered and ruined he’ll come back to you sorrowful and faithful”. Another version is a neighbor will hang it for her to taunt her. She’ll eventually burn it down if he does not return before the clothes rot away.

Depending on where you were born will determine which superstitions and folklore or “old wives tales” you believe to be true. Here is a look at one regional hocus-pocus superstition of the Panama/Catholic culture.

Panama is a non politically correct country. You can say anything about everything, banter back and forth and be better friends because of it. Very refreshing having come from the land of “watch everything you say” America. A fat neighbor lady of mine has the nickname “gorda”. Fatty in English. She even has “Gorda”for her Facebook nickname. No fake outrage, no worries at all. Each person is proud of who they are and hold nothing back. Imagine that! Gay, fat, trans, woman or man, there is no need to hide who you are. Fatty is also a twin, so if the locals have back pain, they see her so she can use her left foot to massage out the pain. She and her twin sister also use other means to help men or women, and for $5 they’ll rub out anything you want. When they work together it’s $5 each. Anyway I regress. Back to the effigy.

This particular superstition, as do most of the rest, have natural outcomes that are to be expected. Men in rural Panama hold infidelity in high esteem. Many frequently cheat and often go on walkabout. They know where home is, but because of economics (the women rarely have the resources to go anywhere else) they wander around shagging new tails until they run out of money. Broke, dirty clothes, and now repentant, they return home. In the eyes of the woman, the effigy worked, and her despondent man will take up a job again.

This part of Panama has a grande Arabic influence. Very proud men. Very capable and strong adulterous men. Mountain girls are pretty and raised to serve. Rarely will the returning man be rejected. In what is otherwise a very beautiful life, in a very beautiful place with very happy people, this is one injustice that is traditional and tribal and accepted.

Depending on where you were born and to what family, you might be catholic, jewish, muslim, hindu, and so forth. If you were born in Utah after 1870, chances are very good that you know the one true and authorized religion of the one true god, and be mormon. We all have our qwirks now don’t we?

The ability to think for yourself is hamstringed by the region and traditions we were indoctrinated in. I am happy for this writing community of free thinkers to help the world make a little less biased sense!

Here are some favorite Panama superstitions and their silly counterparts.

1. In the land of barefoot people, if you don’t wear socks in the house you’ll catch a cold.

2. Don’t get rained on. 80 degree rain on an 80 degree day will make you sick, but getting sprayed by the fire truck in the heat of carnaval will not.

3. If you walk barefoot in the mud you’ll get worms in your skin, but barefoot constructing a house or farming is ok.

4. If your children don’t go to sleep at night, a white faced witch will look in your window. That’ll keep their eyes closed!

¡Que tenga buen día!


Author: jimoeba

Alternatives to big box religions and dogmas

8 thoughts on “The Superstitious Panamanian Divorce Effigy”

  1. In a storm, my wife’s great grandmother used to crawl under the kitchen sink, banging pots and pans together to scare it off. That’s rural Brazil for you.

    I love superstitions, though. Getting your hair cut in Mongolia on certain days is literally courting death, and in Indonesia finding a slither of cayenne pepper in a pan for no apparent reason is a sure sign something truly horrendous is about to happen. No self-respecting Palestinian will enter a building right foot first, the Japanese will hide their thumbs when a hearse passes to protect their loved ones. A monstrous, head-exploding, palm tree bending sneeze on the Banks Islands of Polynesia is cause for serious concern as someone is certainly talking badly of you, but for the Maoris in nearby New Zealand the same roof-lifting nose orgasm is reason to celebrate because someone fun is surely about to visit. Russians sit on their luggage before travelling to ward off disaster, cutting your fingernails after sunset in Laos is the next best thing to stabbing yourself in the ear with an ice pick, and go to any Brazilian beach on New Year’s eve and you’ll find tens of thousands of people diligently jumping over seven waves to welcome twelve months of good fortune. If you sneeze three times on a Sunday in Iceland smile because good stuff is apparently coming your way, but picking berries after October in Alberta, Canada, will invite only bad things.

    It’s absolutely fascinating!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is fascinating. In Panama banging the pans together will drive ants off your property. We had an invasion of army ants at the cabin three days in a row which is unusual. I bought a backpack sprayer with ant poison, but the locals told me it was unnecessary because banging pots together worked even better.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I could make a fortune with that. Nobody has them and we get some hellacious lightning during the rainy season. And these lightning rods could be special imported rods from a world renown Chinese manufacturer guaranteed to absorb at least 1.21 jigawatts.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know. Even when you can illegitimise a belief , there is always doubt and traditions to deal with. I had to turn my back on all religion and make a clean break as not to dabble mentally in it any more.


  2. “Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.” Bertrand Russell

    Bruce, still waiting…

    Liked by 1 person

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