USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘witches’
Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Signs

Witches in Nicaragua

Original Script: “So…basically…my mom told me that, I don’t know…that maybe back in the 1970s or 80s there was a huge earthquake in Nicaragua that like killed a ton of people because a volcano exploded. And like it had huge sinkholes…like a bunch of sinkholes in the country. So people would fall into the sinkholes and they were never found. So basically, my mom said that a bunch of witches were the cause of the Earthquake because it happened a day or two after Halloween…So my mom and a lot of people in the country think it was because of witches that came around the world and I guess like, Nicaragua is one of the most international spots for witches…like Santeria and Voodoo, and like all the dark magic kind of thing and they came around the world and all the negative energy that came with them from being there caused the earthquake. So they think that is the reason why a lot of people died. I mean witch thought it very common in Nicaragua….Like there is a story about the president’s wife, Rosario Murillo, because they think that she is a witch.

So the president has been the president for maybe like four terms, like he did two terms before, than there were other presidents, then he became the president again. I mean he changed the constitution of Nicaragua was to say that you can have unlimited terms so basically like a dictatorship…like a communist country. They say that the reason how is life is because of his wife. Because his wife has a really strong influence over him, like, she is a super intelligent woman, like she studied in Switzerland at this boarding school…and she speaks like twelve languages. And she knows a lot of people in the world, like diplomats, really powerful people. They think she is a witch, because the way the country is set up. For example, there is a Christmas tree in the middle of the capital that is there all year round and it is always lit up, and its like, its really weird. When I went there I was like what the hell. Why is there a Christmas tree in the middle of summer? And it’s even more insane during Christmas time…like everyone think she is really weird and brainwashes her husband. Like during, presidential meetings that are broadcasted she is always speaking, or speaking over him, or even cutting him off, and it is just weird because even though he is the president. In Latin America, even though woman are equal they still have that role of being submissive, so the fact that she is controlling the president that is kind of a big deal. And everyone think that she is crazy and that she casted a spell on her husband to make him do whatever she wants, so she is really the one controlling the country. And, like whenever something goes wrong she is the one that gives the public speech. I don’t know…she even dresses really weird. She looks like a witch with her dress and long skirts mismatched, and her creepy hands…and her facial structure, hollow bone cheeks, big nose, her eyes even look scary, her evil face! Like she’s a witch! Everyone is afraid of her because they think she is going to cast a spell on them!”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Kamilah and her mother have always been spiritual people. The belief in witches, demons, and angels is strong to Kamilah’s mother however, it is even more so in her home country—Nicaragua. While Kamilah did not particularly believe in witches as her roots from Nicaragua do, the case with Rosario Murillo, really made Kamilah a strong believer in them.

Context of the Performance: Talking about the Dictator’s wife and strange occurrences; speeches, Rosario Murillo, makes in accordance to presidency issues.

Thoughts about the piece: Interviewing Kamilah Lopez was one of my favorite interviews thus far. I had never met someone with such an interesting story about witches and them causing natural occurrences, which was very thought provoking to me. This legend is incredibly remarkable especially because it is one of the legends that made Kamilah believe in witches.

To begin with, the witches’ causing an Earthquake was a collisions of two oppositions: witches and a natural disaster (Earthquake), which fits the category of a legend perfectly: it is something that can happen in the real world (Nicaragua). Kamilah had mentioned that Nicaragua was still in an old-world type mind-set. Which is fascinating considering that the people of Nicaragua, including Kamilah’s mother, believe that the witches caused an Earthquake that killed hundreds of people. It is noteworthy, that the people of Nicaragua have an old-mind set, because it was a mind-set that came before “science” was established, thus, a natural disaster, which ended up killing hundreds of people, could be contributed to “witchcraft.” However, I wonder what could be said about the Earthquake if it had not killed as many people, but still followed days after Halloween.

Furthermore, it is also important to note that Voodoo and Santeria—which Kamilah had mentioned that the negative energy from the meeting of witches caused on Halloween the Earthquake—are, indeed, attributed to negative attributes, which these qualities mostly revolve around death. As noted by Kamilah and her mother, Nicaragua is a center ground for such witchcraft practices, thus, the people of Nicaragua attributing the deaths from the earthquake to Voodoo and Santeria is correlated with the background of the two practices and the mind-set of the people makes perfect sense. Additionally, Santeria is associated with paganism, which correlates with the Christmas tree mentioned by Kamilah that Rosario Murillo keeps all year long. Hence, the people of Nicaragua believing that Murillo is a witch, creates an eerie parallel between Murillo and Santeria. For more information on Voodoo and Santeria please see Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism by Lilith Dorsey.1

Moreover, the people of Nicaragua creating a comparison to the devastating Earthquake and Murillo being a witch is not only eerie but thought provoking. It brings into the common question of the personification of witches being attributed to the masses fearing a person—particularly a woman. Because Murillo has such influence in not only Nicaragua and over her husband, but the world because of her connections, people fear her and her capabilities. Especially because of the established quasi dictatorship in Nicaragua, people start to question what she can really do and the negative affects she can bring—for a prime example the earthquake that killed hundreds of people. Additionally, there is also the stereotype of having physical characteristics that makes one look like a witch. As Kamilah had mentioned: “and her facial structure, hollow bone cheeks, big nose, her eyes even look scary, her evil face! Like she’s a witch,” thus, the stereotypical dress and physical appearance of a witch becomes prominent in the people’s belief of why Murillo is a witch. For more information on Rosario Murillo, please see Dictator’s Handbook by Randall Wood and Carmine DeLuca.2

In conclusion, it is not so hard to see why the people of Nicaragua believe in witchcraft and why Murillo could be a possible witch. Because of the association with Santeria and Voodoo, the negative affects the country has been experiencing can all be contributed to their belief in witchcraft along with the fear of Murillo.

1 Dorsey, Lilith. Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism. New York: Citadel, 2005. Print.

2 Wood, Randall, and Carmine DeLuca. The Dictator’s Handbook. Place of Publication Not Identified: Gull Pond, 2012. Print.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Legends
Magic
Myths
Protection
Tales /märchen

Saying “Bless You” Can Save One’s Soul

Saying “Bless You” Can Save One’s Soul

“Se acostumbra decir salud a alguien que destornuda por obediencia pero hora en dia, no mucha gente se sabe el verdadero significado. En realidad se le tiene que decir ala gente que esta destornudando, ‘Jesus le ayude” porque cuando alguien esta destornudando es porque el cuerpo se quiere desaser de un espiritu maligno… esta historia era muy comun cuando yo era nina. Mucha gente creia en todo esto porque eran tiempos en donde existia mucho la maldad, la brujeria y las brujas… yo no se a quien escuche diciendo esta frase por primera vez, alomejor porque era algo que alguien cresia escuchando… al parecer, ahora no hay tanta brujeria como antes, pore so talvez mucha gente ya no dise la frase como debe decirla. Pero yo la sigo diciendo, y la voy a seguir diciendo.”

“It is custom to tell someone bless you when they are sneezing as a sign of friendliness but now a days, not a lot of people know the real meaning of it. In reality, one has to say to the people sneezing, “may Jesus help you” because when someone is sneezing, the body is trying to get rid of a bad spirit from within… this was a very common story when I was a little girl. A lot of people believed in all of this because they were times where a lot of evilness existed, witchcraft and witches… I don’t know who I first heard using this phrase, maybe because it was something that one just grew up hearing… from the looks of it, now there isn’t as much witchcraft as there was before, maybe that’s why a lot of people now don’t say the phrase as it’s supposed to be said. But I still say it that ways and will continue to say I that way.

My informant is a Mexican native of 68 years. She was born and raised there and continues to reside there. In her times, life was much simpler; there were no schools so anything she had to know was taught by people around her. Even though her stories may not seem plausible, they are the kind of stories she grew up listening to so she will hold her faith to their truthfulness with no hesitation. She now continues to pass on the stories she know to her children and grandchildren.

This specific story was fascinating to hear because even though it may seem like one specific type of folk tale, it ends up incorporating several other folk themes. This story incorporates a sort of cure for evil spirits, as well as incorporating witchcraft and witch concepts. Witches are not scientifically proven to be real so therefore one can infer that this story may be a fallacy, however, just because it has not yet been scientifically proven doesn’t mean it’s false. Furthermore, the fact that my informant believes this story to be completely true, can only serve as point in favor to considering the truthfulness of this story. I however personally don’t believe it’s entirely a true story, but it is fascinating to see the kind of mythical identities that were incorporated into this story which tie in to the time of when this story originated.

Earth cycle
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Swedish Myth: The Witches’ Pilgrimage

Contextual Data: I asked my friend if she had any stories or myths from when she was younger that she wouldn’t mind sharing with me. She mentioned that she was half Swedish, and so there were a lot of Swedish myths and legends that she had heard growing up and which she encountered whenever she went to Sweden. She mentioned one particular tradition that took place around Easter time, and I asked her to tell me more about it. The following is an exact transcript of her response.

Informant: “Okay. Well, I don’t know if it’s…It’s directly related to Easter, but it’s around Easter time, and I’m not really sure where—where it comes from, but my family lives, like really far in the north…So I remember when I was visiting there—I mean, I’ve been several times, but once I was in Sweden around the time of this holiday. And I don’t really remember what the holiday is called, but, um… It’s at the very least a northern Sweden thing—could be like a Swedish thing entirely. But, um, basically they have this legend that on the certain day of the year—it’s around Easter—all of the, um, witches in Sweden will fly to this like mountain in the north. And it’s called—I think it’s called Blue Mountain, but I’m not entirely sure, but it’s kind of like this witch pilgrimage that happens. And all of the witches, like, fly—like, you know, you could see, like, witches in the air going on, like, their migration to their…yearly convention at Blue Mountain. I don’t really know [Laughs]. So, um, I was really little and I woke up, and my parents woke me up and they were like, ‘[Name], [Name], wake up!’ And this woman walked into the cabin that we were staying in, and she was like all hunched over and she had these like, warts on her face [Gestures with hands to face] and she was missing teeth and she had like this shawl wrapped around her head. And she came over and she started, you know, kind of cackling at us, um, and gave me a bunch of, like, little chocolate covered eggs and, like, pinched my cheeks, and was generally kind of creepy [Laughs]. And then she left, and my parents were like, ‘Wow, [Name],’ um… ‘That’s one of the witches going to Blue Mountain.’ And I thought it was the coolest thing. Um… It actually turned out to be one of my Swedish family members whose name is Ann, and she just dressed up like, really well, and painted this, um, black stuff on her teeth so it would like she didn’t have—like she was missing some. But I think it’s something they kind of do for the kids up there, um, and I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe it’s like a throwback to sort of the pre-Christian times in Scandinavia. Um, but it coincides with Easter.”

Me: “So do you think it’s a celebration for the children? Or do you think there’s some other symbolic significance to it?”

Informant: “I think maybe at one point there was a greater symbolic significance—like sort of with Halloween, you know, you have…Like it used to not be necessarily about like, candy and kids running around dressed up, but it became a holiday that maybe was rooted—what was it, like  ‘sowin’ or ‘sowane’ or something, like that was the Pagan holiday. And then that became like, All Hallows’ Eve and then that became Halloween, and it sort of has been deconstructed to something that’s entertaining for kids because they can still kind of harness that, like, sense of magic that I think adults have kind of put out of their minds. Um, so I think at one point it was maybe more serious than it is, but I don’t know for sure ‘cause I have limited experience with it, but I think now, it’s definitely something that’s for, like, the children. It’s almost kind of like Halloween around Easter. You know, like a witch shows up and gives you candy.”

- End Transcript – 

My friend did a fairly thorough job of explaining the tradition and why it continues to exist — that it may have had a greater significance once upon a time (perhaps coming from pagan traditions or pagan mythology), but that nowadays, it is something that is sustained because of its appeal to children.

 

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