Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Nightly Ritual for the Spirits

My informant LK’s grandmother believed in good and bad spirits.  In every house she lived in, she always felt a presence of spirits.  LK explained that his grandmother was born in Kansas and grew up in Chicago.  “That’s a story too because some people say she was born in Mexico and brought over.  And so we never know.  But she was a U.S. Citizen, so she had to be born in the U.S., I imagine.”

LK’s grandmother was born into a family of Mexican Americans, or quite possibly Mexicans.  LK explained that his grandmother’s mother knew how to work certain spells and certain magic.  “She could do something and make it not walk for a day…So you never wanted to make her angry.”  Clearly, spirits were a part of LK’s grandmother’s culture when growing up.

Therefore it is no surprise that LK’s grandmother regarded the spirits all through her life.

LK explained, “Every night she would leave a glass of water for the spirits–for the thirsty spirits.  And every night she would say prayers for her spirits.  When she prayed to them, she’d light a candle for the spirits and her guardian angels. She had two guardian angels: one was a Hindu with is hands folded and the other was a black woman.”  When I asked if the water was left out to appease the angry spirits and make them more comfortable, LK explained that the water and prayers were for the good spirits.

It seems as if LK’s grandmother equated good spirits with guardian angels.  Perhaps her guardian angels were African American and Hindu because both come from a tradition rich in spiritual beliefs.  Lighting a candle for the spirits probably comes from LK’s grandmother’s Catholic roots, as lighting a candle for someone after praying for them is a common practice in Catholic Churches.  Her practices are perhaps indicative of Catholic culture among Mexicans–Catholicism is not followed the the T.  Rather, the religion of LK’s grandmother seems to be a spiritual belief that melds Hindu, African American, and Catholic beliefs and practices together.

The culture that my informant’s grandmother grew up in was present in LK’s life.  Consequently, he believes in the spirit world.  LK’s grandmother’s beliefs persist in LK’s own life.

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