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Battle of the Brujas

Talismans, candles, curses, prayers, tarot readings and more available here at the Bruja store!

Talismans, candles, curses, prayers, tarot readings and more available here at the Bruja store!

Tortilla sales had dropped off drastically and my sister-in-law was worried.  If she couldn’t make a go at the tortilla business, what other line of work would she get into?  She fretted a few days, hoping it was only a temporary problem.  But then the menudo (tripe soup) didn’t sell on Sunday, which was unheard of.

She trotted off to see Chencha.  Last time she went, Chencha told her that her sister L had thrown something at the local (store) that affected her sales.  (See Failing at your own business—Tortilleria).  This time, Checha said that the low sales were caused by a fat, unkempt woman.  My sister-in-law identified her as the woman who sells tortillas around the corner.  I expect this woman might have bad feelings for T, since my sister-in-law makes an awesome tortilla de prensa (pressed tortilla) and I would imagine this woman’s sales had dropped off, eliciting the envy that caused the black magic use and subsequent panteon (cemetery) dirt throwing.

So Chencha prescribed a candle and some spray and T went back to work.  Sales continued to be slow the following week.  When clearing up one afternoon, she discovered 5 yellow manchas (spots) that certainly hadn’t been there the day before.  She used a fibra (scouring pad) and agua bendita (holy water) and scrubbed until the dots were gone.

Later she was talking to me about these problems.  She couldn’t understand why someone would have so much envdidia (envy) as to do these things.  She certainly didn’t feel threatened by the tortilla place around the corner, or the one down the street.  In her opinion, each did what he or she could to get by and as long as her tortillas sold, she didn’t care who else sold tortillas in the area.

I told her that most people didn’t think like that, especially here.  It seems if someone gets ahead, those around him or her become jealous.  There is even a common saying here.  If someone gets something new, or is doing well in business, those that remark on the new purchase or success expect the person to dar el remojo (cut).  Remojo literally means to soak or wet.  So those asking for the remojo (soaking) are asking to be showered with the same splash of success as the new owner.  Once upon a time, the remojo was literally something given by the new owner to those around him or her as a way prevent envy of those who did not have a new item, child, spouse, etc.  It isn’t a practiced custom anymore, per se,  but the expression and the intent remains.

So apparently, T hadn’t fulfilled the requirements of the remojo and the ensuring envidia (envy) sparked these problems.  She placed a sábila (aloe vera) plant at the entrance of her local to absorb the mal vibra (bad vibrations) and bravely carried on.

Her persistence paid off and sales again were steady.  She has since hired a worker to help her meet the demand!

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La Curandera–A second reading

These cards, used to play baraja, are also used by curanderas to look into the present, past and future.

These cards, used to play baraja, are also used by curanderas to look into the present, past and future.

Two years later, I had an urge to go and see Chencha again. This time, it was personal. I was concerned that my involvement with the La Yacata business would risk the safety of my family and wanted to ask about it.

So my husband went and got us a number. He went for his consult in the morning and mine was later in the day. What she told him was he had an enemy, a tall white man, who was very envious of him and it would be better if he didn’t hang out with this person anymore. Then she said he still was “salado” very unlucky. He was not to go to any big cities or to leave the country at the moment. And that even in the matters of love, he was out of luck. Also that it was in his best interest not to drink until he healed completely.

So how close was she? Well, he decided that his enemy was our neighbor who could pass for any redneck in Tennessee as long as he didn’t speak. Then my husband had been considering going to Canada to look for work, as again he was out of a job. He was still recovering from a hernia operation and he himself noted that when he drank, the next day his wound ached. But men will be men, and he still drank. As for the love bit. . .well, there was that situation that he didn’t know about, but I didn’t mention that.

So in the afternoon, it was my turn. I prayed with her, just like before. She told me again that I became angry quickly and was slow to forgive and that I would live a long time. She said my finances were stable and that I had an enemy, blond with a big nose, someone who didn’t wish me well. But that didn’t bother me, a lot of people don’t like me. So what? Seemed a good description of Chuchi though.

So then I asked about La Yacata. She said there would be some resolution but it would be better if I distanced myself from these activities because the men that I was working with were in it for their own benefit and that when they got what they wanted out of it, they would leave me holding the bag.

Not 2 weeks later, the president J, resigned from his post at a meeting, leaving us startled and in charge. (The Battle for Power Continues ) I suppose he had gotten what he wanted, although I’m not sure I will ever know exactly what that might have been.

Get your own deck here (Mexican Playing Cards Naipe Spanish Style Don Clemente Extra Classic Since (1887)

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La Curandera–The first reading

Curanderas cure with herbs and prayer in many parts of México.

Curanderas cure with herbs and prayer in many parts of México.

Thus, as we live in a place out of time, there are what are called curanderas here in México. The term loosely translated is “one that cures”, for the most part with herbs and prayers, that which ails you. All sorts of innocent looking items may be part of the cure. For instance, once I asked about this hairy looking thing in my mother-in-law’s house. It was a long brown stick with hair sort of like a horse tail whip that she said was a ward for evil and helped with the cure of her arthritic knee.

Now, I know that herbs are plenty helpful, in many cases more so than manufactured chemicals prescribed by doctors. There is nothing new in the idea of wise women in the history of the world. It was when I understood that a curandera is often a diviner, a fortune teller, or spell caster, that I was taken aback. After all, the bible warns against any association with witches and I had been raised a good Christian girl. But wait a minute, Chencha, the curandera was a devout Catholic.

So, before judging with biblical admonitions to “You must not preserve a sorceress alive” (Exodus 22:18) I needed to remember that the bible also speaks of prophets and prophetesses or seers in a positive light. For every witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7-25) there is a Deborah. (Judges 4:4-24)

Well, why not? When in Rome, the saying goes. . .So as things at the time were not going so well, off we trooped, my husband, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law L and myself.

Chencha had a little waiting room/store. She sold amulets and lotions but the bulk of items for sale seemed to be ladies undergarments. So we sat in the waiting room and were eventually called to the secret room behind the store. And I was introduced Chencha, a tiny woman that radiated peacefulness and power, an efficient elf. She got right down to business and read the cards for each of us with a well worn and shuffled tarot deck.

L’s cards were full of woe and even the egg that was used to cleanse the body came out bloody. She would need more cleansing sessions before she could be “cruzado” crossed or blessed.

My husband’s cards were also portentous. Chencha made the comment that if she told everything she saw in the cards, he would surely weep. And when the egg was waved around his body and then cracked open, it contained oodles of salt. Apparently this means he is “salado” or had envious friends or acquaintances that were interfering with the flow of his life spirit.

Then it was my turn. She took my hand and placed it on the deck of cards and asked me to pray with her. I repeated what she said. It was something like I asked that the cards would show me answers for my well being and future happiness and that we would be wise in the interpretation of what was about to be presented.

So she said that I had a good heart, that I would live a long time, that my child would be fine, that my husband liked to drink but that didn’t mean he didn’t love me, that I had problems with the butterfly shaped organ that affected my mood, that I got angry easily and found forgiveness difficult and that my finances had been going down steadily for 2 years. As an afterthought, she said that any trip I might be planning would be fine.

So how close was she? My husband and I were having serious problems, so much so that I was planning on leaving México to go back to the US in a matter of weeks. However, I hadn’t told even him of that plan. I have hypothyroidism, the thyroid is the butterfly-shaped organ in the neck, and I had not been taking my medication for about a year. Three days after this consultation, we celebrated our second year in México, and our funds were at an all time low. And my in-laws chimed in and said that I was a “corajuda” or easily provoked. Who am I to gainsay them?
She seemed right on the money.

Chencha passed an egg over certain areas of my body, those I suspect that are in the centers of power and prayed. She cracked the egg into a clear glass already full of water and peered into it. I had some salt, literally, salt. As with my husband, it meant I was salada, that someone or some persons of my acquaintance were ‘echandome el sal’ or wishing me ill and that it was interfering with my sense of well-being. However, it wasn’t enough for her to suggest the full treatment. She was pretty sure it would take care of itself.

However, L and my husband needed the full dose, 9 sessions of cleansing and prayer and then the final blessing if the egg was clean. Nine seems to have special significance here. When a person dies there is a “novena” or prayers for 9 days after the death. When a prayer making petition is published in the newspaper, it is for 9 days. And it seems to me there are 9 stations of the cross in Catholicism as well.

My husband completed his treatments and we went about our daily lives.

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