Blue sarpusu and bluing

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The bracelet is not the only way to shield a baby from the evil eye. Another way is by using blauwsel. When I asked my fully Dutch grandfather last week what he still knew about blauwsel, the first thing he asked me was why I even wanted to know that – it has long since been outdated , or so he said. He was willing to tell me what he still knew, though. Blauwsel, he told me, is the name of a whitener used for textile. His own father used to sell it in the textile store he owned. The blue-ish powder was able to correct the yellow hue that worn-out white textile may have, returning it to its original crisp white color. But he emphasized once again that these compressed blocks of blue powder are now outdated. However, this is not the case in Suriname.

In the Surinamese community, blauwsel still plays an important role in the protection against ogri ai. There are several ways to protect a baby from the evil eye using blauwsel. One way is to bathe the baby in water in which a block of the powder has dissolved. You can also dip a finger in water and then rub it into the powder, as this creates a sort of creamy paint-like substance, which can then be smeared behind the ears of the child, on its feet, above its bum or on its forehead. Once this has been done, the baby is ready to face anyone who comes to visit, even if they look at the baby with envy because of its beauty.

Pregnant women can protect themselves by washing their bellies with blauwsel, or they can paint a cross on their belly to protect themselves and the unborn child from the evil eye. They usually do this if they experience a lot of morning sickness or if the unborn child is restlessly kicking in the belly.

Not only pregnant women and babies can be protected from the evil eye through bathing in blauwsel. It is tradition to have a wasi (ritual herbal bath) on the last day of the year. This herbal bath is performed with Swit’ watra (‘sweet water’, as it usually smells of sweet perfumes, herbs and flowers). One of the components of this sweet water is blauwsel. This bath will cleanse a person spiritually, give renewed energy, and protect from the evil eye.

So, although my grandfather was right that blauwsel is not as common to wash clothes as it used to be, it is still used for rituals of cleaning and washing.