cebuano superstitions on death
Photo by Renato Danyi

Despite being heavily influenced by foreign cultures, some of the customs and traditions of Cebu remainintact all through these years. These superstitious beliefs and practices can be traced from various backgrounds – such of precolonial beliefs, religious teachings, and many other variations that have been passed and altered to adapt the modern times.

In this article, let’s identify some of the Superstitious Beliefs that are still being practiced and believed by many Cebuanos, especially when dealing with the dead.

Cebuano Superstitious Beliefs related to the Death

  • A black butterfly lingering around a person could be a spirit of the dead.

One of the commonly known superstitious beliefs among Cebuanos is the association of butterflies to the spirit of the dead. It is believed that if a butterfly lingers around you, the spirit of a family member or relative is visiting you – or a relative has just died.

  • Black cat signals bad luck or death.
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While cats can be a symbol of luck and prosperity in other countries, here in Cebu, a lot of people still believes that the presence of black cat signals bad luck to an individual. Accidentally crossing paths with black cats is taken as a bad omen of misfortune… and even death.

  • Taking a bath during the wake is a big no-no.

During the wake, families and relatives of the dead are discouraged from taking a bath or minding too much about cleaning up themselves. According to some, this is an insult to the dead because individuals close to the dead are supposed to be grieving – and not much show care about themselves.

  • Sweeping the floor during the wake can bring bad luck.

While the floor could get untidy because of visitors coming in and out, sweeping the floor during the wake is totally discouraged during the wake. According to Cebuano beliefs, this could drive away the spirit of the dead and may bring bad luck – such of another family member following the dead to the afterlife.

  • A dream about an uprooted teeth signals death in the family.

How bad is a bad dream? Well, in according to the superstitious beliefs in Cebu, one of the things that you should worry about is when one or all of your teeth begins to get uprooted for no apparent reason in your dream – they just fall off! While this may seem insignificant for others, this could warn about a possible death among the members in the family.

To counter this curse, the dreamer must bite a piece of wood to transfer such bad luck to that poor wood.

  • Never bring food home from the wake or else… the dead will follow you.

While it has become a habit of many Cebuanos to bring take-home food during gatherings and celebrations, bringing food home from the wake is totally prohibited according to superstitious beliefs. According to oral tradition, the food prepared during the wake will help the deceased stay well-fed in the afterlife and those who will bring food with them will either get bad luck or get followed by the dead.

  • Never visit two or more wakes in a day.
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If you don’t want to be the next one to die, be contented with visiting only one wake a day. According to the elderlies, those who visit two or more wakes in a day may die next or cause the untimely death of their family members.

  • Two siblings should not marry within the same year.

Locally known as “sukob” or the wedding curse, siblings are prohibited from marrying within the same year. In superstitious beliefs, marrying in the same year could either bring bad luck or death in the family. Others even believe that one of the two siblings may actually die.

  • Do not go home straight after the wake.

Others call this superstitious belief as “pagpag”. It is believed that mourners should never head home straight after the wake to prevent the dead from following them to their houses. Instead, they are encouraged to drop by somewhere else – like in a mall or sari-sari store before going home.

Another way of preventing the spirit of the dead from following the mourners can be done by what is commonly called as ‘palina’. This is a method wherein mourners walk over a burning grass before they go home from the burial site to drive away the spirit of the dead.

  • The smell of candle even if there’s no candle burning signals the presence of the dead.

There are many variations of this superstitious beliefs. Some say that if you smell the odor a burning candle even if there’s not candle burning, this could signal the presence of a dead family member or relative. Others also say that this could also be a death foretold among the members in the family or among relatives.

Of course, these superstitious beliefs can vary from one culture to the other. And this makes the Cebuano culture even more interesting. Do you know other superstitious beliefs relating to the dead? Share them to us and let’s get to know more of our customs and traditions!

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