Thursday, July 14, 2011


Tonight Lucas asked me to fix up an old berimbau for him, and since I had all the various pieces lying around the house I obliged him. For those of you who don't know, a berimbau is a one-stringed instrument of African origin that is played in Capoeira rodas around the world.

As I was working on it, Lucas started singing one of the songs his capoeira group sings at school. Since he trains a different style than I used to, I often don't recognize the songs. This one was a new one. It was about different characters from Brazilian folklore doing different capoeira moves. One line in particular caught my ear:

A mula sem cabeça deu a cabeçada...

I thought that was pretty funny. Those of you who speak Portuguese will probably get the joke. For those of you who don't, let me explain.

A mula sem cabeça is literally a 'headless mule.' In Brazilian folklore, these monsters happen when a woman does something naughty with a priest, and then is cursed, transforming into a mule spouting flames from its neck, where its head is supposed to be.

In Portuguese, you can create a word for getting hit by something just by adding the suffix 'ada' to it. For instance, if I elbow you I'm giving you a cotovelada (since cotovelo is elbow) and if I whack you with my flip-flop I'm giving you a chinelada (because a flip-flop is a chinelo). In the popular comic strip Monica she is known to give her friends/rivals coelhadas, which are whacks with her stuffed blue bunny (coelho).

So what is a cabeçada? It's a head butt. Cabeça (head) + ada.


A mula sem cabeça

by definition

cannot give

a cabeçada

because it doesn't




I told Lucas I'd ask his capoeira teacher about this silly song - it's also possible Lucas misremembered the words.

Then I asked him what Saci Pererê did. Lucas told me a rasteria, which is a leg sweep. I thought that would be a pretty good trick, because Saci has only one leg. But I guess it's possible, particularly if you are a magical creature.


markuza said...

So I asked Lucas' mestre about this song, and apparently he did have it a bit wrong: turns out the 'Mula Sem Cabeça quer dar a cabeçada' - meaning she wants to do a head butt- it's intended to be ironic. Whew- glad I got that cleared up!

Pedra said...

Yeah, I remember hearing about the headless mule and other folk tales while there. I found it interesting the number of people who believed in werewolves. Many swore that their cousin's friend (or some such distant relation) had seen one. It kind of made me think of the possibility!

markuza said...

My wife's aunt, who is a pentecostal christian, is convinced that she has seen some of these folk-tale beasties, I want to say curupiras, but I'm not sure.