In early November of 2001, while I was living in Spain and attending university, I took a trip to northern Portugal as a requirement for the Portuguese language class I was taking. We left Madrid on November 1st, the Feast of All Saints, and meandered by microbus through Spanish villages dotted with cemeteries overflowing with flowers and candles placed on that holy day as offerings for the dear departed. We passed though the dense, mysterious and undeniably haunted woods of Galicia into northern Portugal. We spent a few late autumn days walking through the charming cobblestone streets of Ponte da Lima, Viana do Castelo and Braga. One evening, my classmates, my teacher and I came upon a souvenir stand in the central plaza that was selling all kinds of trinkets among which were a variety of colorful ribbons with the words “Lembrança do Senhor do Bonfim,” Memory of the Lord of Bonfim printed on them. Out teacher explained that these were wish ribbons that originally came from Brazil but had since spread all over the world. Tradition dictates that a friend must tie the ribbon onto your wrist with three knots while you make three wishes and the ribbon must be worn until it falls off on its own. Of course we all loved the idea of having wishes fulfilled, so we bought these ribbons and began tying them onto each other’s wrists in a delightful wish-making frenzy. I honestly do not remember the wish that I made, but I have heard from others over the years that many wishes have been fulfilled and blessings granted by wearing the lembrança.
The lembrança, which directly translates from Portuguese as “memory” or “souvenir” comes from Salvador da Bahía, a city in northeastern Brazil, in particular from the church of Our Lord of Bonfim which dates back to 1745. Around that time, a Portuguese sea captain brought a statue of Our Lord of Bonfim to Salvador and a church was built around it in fulfillment of a promise he had made and in thanksgiving for the divine help he had received. Immediately, many healings and other miracles were reported at the church and its reputation spread far and wide. Starting in the early 1800’s, it became common for people to bring colorful ribbons back from The Church of the Lord of Bonfim as a memory of their pilgrimage there. The ribbons were exactly 47 centimeters long which is the length of the arm of the statue of Our Lord of Bonfim. It is not exactly known when the tradition of making wishes became associated with the lembrança, but it was certainly in place by the 1960’s when these colorful ribbons became a ubiquitous symbol of the hippie culture in Brazil and throughout Latin America. Today the lembrança can be found in many parts of the world and is a sign of faith, friendship and love.
It is said that the different colors of the ribbons are intended to help manifest different types of wishes. Truthfully, I feel that this is a recent development in the tradition of the lembrança and that any color ribbon can be used for any purpose as long as it is placed and worn with love, faith, hope and respect. Just for reference sake, I will include a list of the colors of the lembrança and their purported significances: White: peace, calm, cleansing, and stability. Red: Love, passion, desire and power. Light Green: Youth, health, rebirth and renewed energy. Dark Green: virility, masculinity and male strength. Yellow: money, wealth, new opportunities in business and a desire to grow rich. Orange: Success in career, achieving personal goals. Blue: Peace, harmony, stability, loyalty in a relationship. Dark Pink: Passion, love, relationship and marriage. Light pink: gentle love, kindness, feminine energy and sweetness. Again, it is my opinion that these color associations are more a product of the new age movement and not traditionally associated with the lembrança, but I have included them just for reference sake.
The proper way to place the lembrança is to have a friend tie it onto your wrist with three knots while you make three wishes. You could also repeat the same wish three times for reinforcement. I like the aspect of having a friend tie the lembrança, since it fosters friendship and allows for a moment of spiritual connection. The lembrança is worn until it falls of naturally which can take several months. It is said that by the time the lembrança falls off your wishes will have been granted in their entirety, but they have been known to manifest even while the lembrança is still beging worn. In such cases, it is still a good idea to wear the lembrança until it falls off to complete the process and as a sign of gratitude for the wish granted.
I hope you have enjoyed this post on the lembrança and that if you ever encounter these ribbons that you give them a try. If worn with faith, hope and love, I have no doubt that your wishes will be granted. I thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and as always I wish you peace, happiness and abundant blessings.