The Saci is one of the most well-known Brazilian legends – it even has its own national holiday. October 31 is Dia do Saci, or Saci Day. It was established to direct attention away from the American Halloween tradition and toward Brazilian culture but few Brazilians commemorate it, even with official support in São Paulo state and a few municipalities.

It is celebrated mainly among the youngest students, for whom Saci plays a magical and at the same time frightening role. Many teenagers still prefer Halloween with its pumpkins, costumes, and trick-or-treating.

Who is Saci?

Saci (pronounced [saˈsi] or [sɐˈsi]) is a character in Brazilian folklore. In some regions, the Saci appears as an evil being, in others, as a playful and graceful creature. He is a one-legged black or bi-racial youngster, who smokes a pipe and wears a magical red cap that enables him to disappear and reappear wherever he wishes (usually in the middle of a dust devil).

Considered an annoying prankster in most parts of Brazil, and a potentially dangerous and malicious creature in others, he nevertheless grants wishes to anyone who manages to trap him or steal his magic cap. However, his cap is often depicted as having a bad smell. Most people who claimed to have stolen this cap say they can never wash the smell away.

Every dust devil, says the legend, is caused by the spin-dance of an invisible Saci. One can capture him by throwing into the dust devil a rosary made of separately blessed prayer beads, or by pouncing on it with a sieve. With care, the captured Saci can be coaxed to enter a dark glass bottle, where he can be imprisoned by a cork with a cross marked on it. He can also be enslaved by stealing his cap, which is the source of his power. However, depending on the treatment he gets from his master, an enslaved Saci who regains his freedom may become either a trustworthy guardian and friend, or a devious and terrible enemy.

Saci by Astrud Gilberto

Here’s a really song about Saci, by Astrud Gilberto with The James Last Orchestra. The lyrics (in English) follow the video.

English Lyrics for Saci:

In the middle of the night the rooster crowed three times
Many times it sang before the morning came
That’s when I saw that beauty
Of the washerwomen at the job of washing the clothes we wear

Often the cock
And I could not stop crying
alone behind the steering wheel that skidded
noticed a clear instant

What moite behind the Saci was crying
‘Inda could hear, do not know where
the song rolled in the air

There goes Pererê Saci jumping on his leg
To see the washerwomen in Chororó source
there comes Pererê Saci jumping on his leg
Deep deeper the woods

Cry, cry and no one has pity

There goes Pererê Saci jumping on his leg
To see the washerwomen in Chororó source
there comes the Pererê Saci jumping on his leg
Deep deeper the woods

Cry, cry and no one has pity

Here comes Saci, Here comes Saci, Here comes Saci Pererê
Ó Saci, ó Saci, ó Saci Pererê

There goes Pererê Saci jumping on his leg
To see the washerwomen in Chororó source
there comes the Pererê Saci jumping on the leg
Deep deeper the woods

Cry, cry and no one has pity

There goes Pererê Saci jumping on leg
To see the washerwomen in Chororó source
there comes the pererê saci jumping on the leg
Deep deeper the woods

Cry, cry and no one has pity

Here comes Saci, Here comes Saci, Here comes Saci Pererê
Here comes Saci, Here comes Saci, Here comes Saci Pererê

Sources:

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