Just back from a two-week trip to Brazil, I’ll start with the first one of a series of posts. This one is about the last church we visited in Brazil: Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (Our Lord of the Good End). This is the most famous church in Salvador de Bahia, therefore if you are interested in getting to know about its architecture, etc., you may check it on the Wikipedia.
When you approach the church the first thing that catches your attention are the thousands of little ribbons (fitas) of multitude colours attached to the entrance. Beforehand you have been offered those ribbons everywhere around the city. Prayers come to Bonfim and together with their prayer they take one of the little ribbons, and attach it to themselves (or the entrance, the benches or the candles in the church…) making three knots. Supposedly they are granted one wish for each of the knots, and they shall not remove the ribbon until the wishes come true.
We all have seen youngsters wearing this kind of ribbons with the same wish-that-comes-true bond. Nevertheless, I find it curious that it is connected to the church. But on the other hand, two other examples that I found years ago come to my mind.
The first one is from a visit to Estonia in 2003. In the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, in Tallinn, the church also provided people with a piece of paper where to write their wishes to later deposit the paper in a box (after due payment, of course). I may still have somewhere at home one of those papers… obviously having taken the paper with me nothing was wished so nothing could be proved about the effectiveness Alexander Nevsky. I accept a scientific reprimand.
The other example is from Japan. There, close to Shinto shrines we can find Ema, or small wooden plaques where wishes are written upon and which are left hanging from special places destined to them. Again, you see thousands of them sometimes. I felt more scientifically obliged in 2008, so I used my chance to ask for only one wish; nothing personal, nothing related to love or richness (something that the genius of the lamp surely would have approved): I wished for Real Madrid to win the 2008/2009 Champion’s League… did I succeed? Well, that season Barcelona won the League, the Spanish Cup, Champion’s League, Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup, and Club’s World Cup… not very effective.
The idea of asking for that wish started out as an exercise to prove the existence of God and at the same time checking to which confession He felt closer… but that is to be explained in another post.
Going back to our business of today: Every superstitious person will argue that my wish in Japan didn’t come true solely because of making it public before it happened, but that is what all Japanese do! Once bitten, twice shy: this time I have been more cautious. I took my fita do Bonfim and attached it to the entrance iron wall and will keep silence about those wishes until they come true. Will they?
Well, I have a basis to think they will. Take a look at the pictures of the Room of the Miracles below. This is a room within the church where people who have seen their prayers’ effect leave a picture of themselves with a thank you note, a poem, an explanation of the miracle that occurred to them… and even wax or wooden replicas of different parts of the human body that were healed by Senhor do Bonfim… (this view is bizarre to say the least).