August is traditionally considered to be a month of bad luck in Paraguay. It is the end of winter and people’s food, money and health tend to be drained by then (especially if you’ve been wearing damp clothes all winter). August also brings the “Santa Rosa storm”. In addition, the first Monday of August is said to be particularly unlucky since people believe it to be the day that Cain killed Able (in the biblical tale). There is a saying “Agosto, vaka piru, tuja ha guaigui rerahaha” which translates into “August, the month that takes (aka: kills off) skinny cows and the elderly.” Yikes!
Fortunately there are some simple solutions for warding off bad luck. The most popular (maybe because it involves booze) is to drink a shot of “carrulim” on August 1st. This drink is made with “caña” (unrefined rum made from sugar cane), ruda (rue, an herb with a grimace-inducing bitter taste) and “lemon” (lemon). Hence the name ca (cane) -ru (rude) -lim (lemon). On the morning of the first the streets of Paraguay are filled with vendors selling small bottles and shots of this strong drink. To learn about the indigenous origins of this tradition check out this ABC Color interview with Dr. Aníbal Romero Sanabria , author of “Más Paraguayo que la manioca and de other essays on Paraguayan customs and traditions.
For those who prefer their liquid luck in non-alcoholic form there are a couple of medicinal herbs (“yuyos” in Spanish and “poha ñana” in Guaraní) that can be added to your tereré. “Agosto poty” (August flower) and “pyno’i” (a type of nettle) are the most popular but some choose to use a mix of seven herbs. Which specific herbs make up the mix depends on the preference of your “yuyera” (medicinal plant vendor). Everyone’s blend includes the aforementioned “Agosto poty” and “pyno’i.” Top choices for the other five include “ka’apiky” (Pellitory), “perdudilla blanca,” “ruda” (rue), “romero” (rosemary), “paraguay cedrón” (lemon verbena), “taropé” (Dorstenia brasiliensis ), “Menta’i” (lemon balm mint), and “horse strain” (Xanthium spinosum). It is believed that consuming these medicinal herbs will help purify the blood and regulate blood flow, presumably undoing the negative effects the month of August is thought to have. However it is worth noting that both “rude” and “Agosto poty” are toxic in large quantities. Every August various authorities take to the media warning people to moderate their consumption.As tabloid Diario Crónica puts it, if you drink too much you might “link a big seven intoxication later” (end up royally intoxicated).
Combine your shot of carrulim or your special tereré on August 1st with a hearty helping of jopará on October 1st and you have a good luck menu for the year. Add in a “ho’ysã porã” ice cream or beer on the 1st of January to ward off the heat and you should be all set!
Did you drink carrulim on August 1st? Share your method for warding off August’s bad luck here or on the Discovering Paraguay facebook page .