Monday, August 6, 2007

The black Jesus and the evil eye

Religion and superstition in Chile are openly intermingled, and it is sometimes hard to see what came first, the superstition or religion. The black Jesus on the way to Pirque is pictured at left. The story goes that a man sold his soul to the devil, made some kind of deal, then just before he died, he asked God(who is El Senor here-not just senor) to take him back. God forgave him and the devil(El Diablo) was mad because he didn't go through with the deal. The man had built the Jesus statue for God and redemption and the devil turned the Jesus black. The legend goes on to say that you can paint the Jesus white but it always turns black again to remind people. The statue was, at some point, really painted white but started turning black immediately. That may have something to do with the smoke from the candles burning below him but certainly an entertaining story.
The Evil Eye. I read the following online:
The evil eye is really one that combines superstition with religion. The evil eye is the name for a sickness transmitted -- usually without intention -- by someone who is envious, jealous, or covetous. It is also called the invidious eye and the envious eye. In Hebrew it is ayin ha'ra (the evil eye), which in Yiddish is variously spelled ayin horoh, ayin hora, or ayen hara. In mainland Italian it is mal occhio (the bad eye) and in Spanish mal ojo or el ojo (the bad eye or just the eye). In Sicily it is jettatore (the projection [from the eye]) and in Farsi it is bla band (the eye of evil).
The evil eye belief is that a person -- otherwise not malific in any way -- can harm you, your children, your livestock, or your fruit trees, by *looking at them* with envy and praising them. The word "evil" is unfortunate in this context because it implies that someone has "cursed" the victim, but such is not the case. A better understanding of the term "evil eye" is gained if you know that the old British and Scottish word for it is "overlooking," which implies merely that the gaze has remained too long upon the coveted object, person, or animal. In other words, the effect of the evil eye is misfortunate, but the person who harbours jealousy and gives the evil eye is not necessarily an evil person per se.
Here in Chile, babies are given a type of amulet or necklace made of silver and red with a picture of the virgin Mary for protection.
The other story that I love is the one about Casillero del Diablo-the Devils Cellar. You may know the wine, sold in the states, but not the propagation of a century old legend known throughout the world. In the 19th century, the founder of Concha y Toro, Don Melchor, discovered that his vineyard workers were sampling his greatest wines. To discourage this action, Don Melchor spread the rumor that his deepest, darkest cellar was the Casillero del Diablo (Cellar of the Devil), so that no one would dare go in there. It worked, and a legend was born. Today, this mysterious and legendary cellar continues to hold the finest, estate grown wines of Casillero del Diablo.
Another version of the story is that rebels trying to free Chile from Spain hid down there and Spanish soldiers were told that the devil was there. Being good Catholics, the Spanish refused to search the cellar. It's possible that Don Melchor knew that story and used it to his advantage later.