The ribbon of Bomfim is now a tourist item that is sold by street vendors in Salvador, but this humble ribbon has an origin in miracles. Printed on the ribbon is “Lembrança do Senor do Bomfim da Bahia”, which is “reminder of the church of Bomfim in Bahia” (Senor do Bomfim = church of good ends).
The church of Bomfim is in Salvador and has a long history of creating miracles. When you go to the church, there is an alcove tucked in the right back corner of the church that is filled with notes and photos, and even prosthetics, from the the families and groups that went to the church in search of a miracle. Some of the notes are thank-you notes for the visit, but others speak of the miraculous cure that occurred after the visit. It really is remarkable.
The history of the ribbon dates back to 1809, and it was originally worn as a necklace, dyed gold or black, and had small charms attached. The length of these original ribbons (known then as the “measurement of Bomfim”) was 47 centimeters, the exact same length as the right arm of the statue of Christ that sits on the alter of the church. These ribbons were blessed by the priests of the church and were said to perform miracles for the wearers.
With time, that tradition disappeared and the ribbons were more or less forgotten. Then, in the 1960s the ribbons were revived, but this time as something for tourists. The way that it is now worn is around the wrist and you have someone tie the ribbon on you — tying in three knots. As each knot is tied you make a wish. You leave the bracelet on, and with time the bracelet will naturally fall off (my first fell off after three months, the second after three years). It is said that when the bracelet falls off that the wishes will be coming true. While it is said to be a “tourist thing” I do see Brazilians wearing them as well — and while they joke about the wishes I also believe that they believe. I find it to be a lovely remembrance and much like people will do affirmations, set alarms, or wear jewelry to help set intention I believe that this does much the same.
P.S. There is one storyline that says that the ribbon colors correspond to the colors of the Orixas, or the gods of candomblé. And while some ribbon colors map to the orixá colors, others, such as pink, do not. Personally, I don’t subscribe to this storyline, as the ribbon is a specific Christian symbol tradition dating back to centuries and the synchronism between Christianity and Candomblé exists much more on the Candomblé side than the Christian side.