A limpia, a cleansing, is done to get rid of negative energy. The informant heard of it because she was walking around in Mexico City with her family, and saw people doing it on the street at a little shop. Her family approached to see it being done and what all the commotion was. The service was donation based and she asked if they wanted to do it. The lady who was in charge of the ritual was indigenous, and worse Aztec decorated and inspired clothing. She explained what she was doing so they would understand what they would be going through. First, she started by asking them to close their eyes, sprayed some kind of liquid(herbs mixed into a liquid that smelled like lavender), and told them to rub it all over their hair, face, and clothes. She said a prayer, then started to burn incense and circled their body. She did this a couple of times, then grabbed a fresh herb and smacked them on their legs and body. Their eyes stayed closed the whole time. Then, she blew a whistle that is supposed to symbolize a jaguar, twice in each ear, then blew a concha, then rubbed the liquid once more, and said a final prayer. She said it was to get rid of bad energy or imbalance, to bring balance and positive energy. Prayer is done in Spanish which said, “Relieve this person from any harm in their life, may this limpia be helpful with the presence of god”.
The informant doesn’t believe in those things but did it because her mom wanted to do it. She enjoyed the smell of herbs, and the incense made it relaxing but did not believe in the superstition. She grew up hearing of limpias because her father received limpias all the time when she was a kid, and she would also see it done in other cultures.
This limpia is a form of folk medicine done in Mexican culture. It revolves around being faced with bad energy and thus people needing a way to remove this bad energy. It involves some aspects of religious tie-ins such as the prayer, the incense, and the rubbing of some oil, or liquid made of herbs but also relates to Aztec culture. Additionally, herbs seem to be a part of this reliance on natural remedies for the curing of illnesses that are commonly found in Latin America.
The informant begins by explaining this phenomenon called “agua de calson” which translates to water made of underwear. She heard it first from her Tia since her aunt used to have a lot of boyfriends. Her aunt would always be joking around stating that she would make them drink her agua de calson but as a little kid, she would just listen. She did not understand what that could mean and so one day she asked her what it meant but she was just told to not worry about it. Then on the TV channels, there was this Mexican show that that they always like come up with rituals or stuff that you can do so you may get more money, have better luck, a better chance at love, etc. This ritual would have the person take their used underwear and boil it in water. Then they would take the water that resulted from that, and make the person, who they are attracted to and want to seduce, drink that water.
The informant has also seen it on TikTok however she is not fully aware of how often it is actually done. She believes her aunt only ever joked about doing it but never truly did it. She also states that she believes this type of ritual or magic might be common with people in other countries in Latin America. Additionally, she provided an example of a similar form of ritual where the person will wrap a photograph of their lover in a red ribbon and pour honey and cinnamon on it. She stated that honey is viscous, sticky, and sweet and cinnamon has a strong smell. Then the person must bury the picture under the dirt and it is supposed to make the targeted person more likely to fall in love with them. Both examples are deemed to be “brujeria”, witchcraft, and are looked bad upon as they are means to make others fall in love with them.
These two examples are forms of magic in folklore. The first example seems to incorporate elements of both homeopathic magic and contact magic. For starters, the targeted victim is supposed to drink water that has the juices of the persons’s underwear without knowing almost as if it is a potion, that results in the desired outcome of them falling in love. It also shows some form of contact magic but uses an element that was in contact with the perpetrator, not the target. The second example utilizes homeopathic magic because it mimics the person with the photograph and potentially a tie being formed with the ribbon and honey. Then the burying of the item might resemble the person being trapped under their love. Overall these examples seem to represent a bad use of magic and thus can be seen as witchcraft.
The informant spoke of their New Year’s traditions surrounding the strike of midnight and the beginning of the new year. All these examples his mom would tell him to do but he never really asked why or questioned the point of it. He just knew that his mother knew best and so he would do as she said. The first example he gave was filling his wallet full of money which would then result in a year of wealth. To emphasize the year of wealth, he would also take a certain dollar bill depending on his choice, fold it, then wrap it with a red ribbon. Then he also indulged in the common 12 grapes traditions. As soon as the clock turns 12, the informant would eat 12 grapes and get 12 wishes for the new year. The informant states that he would try to eat the grapes as fast as possible because the faster he did it, the more likely the wishes would come true. Another example was having lentils on a plate and at the strike of midnight, he would grab a handful and throw it back behind himself. The remaining lentils are then supposed to be put into your wallet and it would provide a year full of wealth and prosperity. The informant added that his mother would tell him that lentils are a symbol of abundance. Lastly, the final example was surrounding a year full of travel. The informant would exit the house with their suitcase and walk a lap around the neighborhood, then return to their house.
The informant practiced these traditions on a varying basis, some years committing to certain traditions and others committing to none. He explains that his belief mainly focused on his belief in his mother and that he would only do it whenever his mom told him of a tradition. He heard of all of these through her but does not truly know where most of these traditions come from.
It seems like many of the traditions come from sympathetic magic. They all seem to be things that you do to get the desired outcome of a whole year full of wealth, prosperity, travel and so many other things. Additionally, many of these traditions focus on wealth most likely due to the position the informant was in. The informant lived in Brookyln, New York with not much resources for him and his family so it only makes sense that his family would want to wish for that and try their best to somehow bring that upon themselves, even if it means doing all these traditions for the new year.
The informant speaks on a superstition they practiced whenever they left their house. His parents always said that whenever they went to a party or event or if there were a lot of people, they must carry a garlic clove in their pocket. The informant stated that his mom told him it was meant to prevent mal ojo, the evil eye, or bad juju. His mom would state that by the time they came back home, the garlic would be dry and shriveled. The dryer it was, the more it had protected you from evil and bad that was wished upon you. He also stated that el mal ojo was explained to him as someone envying you and wishing bad upon you. Garlic keeps vampires away so it is probably something similar to that notion like religion or just good at keeping bad energy.
The informant comes from Veracruz, Mexico and believes that it is practiced a lot there. Veracruz is believed to be the place where there are the most witches, so lots of superstitions and white magic, black magic come from there. The informant mentioned a similar thing is putting a whole lime in your bag, letting it absorb all the negative energy, then at the end of the week you throw it away.
This seems to be similar to other rituals and folk beliefs that people use for protection. They are rooted in protection from stuff that hasn’t happened or doesn’t necessarily exist. The protect people from stuff they can’t explain other than something they attribute to as the “evil eye”. For example, the informant stated that they would use the garlic whenever there were a lot of people so their family was expecting that they would receive the evil eye despite not knowing any of the people. This reflects a view of others in a negative light, most likely due to unexplained illnesses and mishaps in life and blaming others for these unexplained things.
The informant talks about how important the Dia de los Muertos celebration was for his family. Normally celebrated from November 1st to 2nd but there are sometimes extra days based on location in Mexico the person is from. Dia de los Muertos celebrates the dead by preparing a feast and all their favorite toys, meals, and so much more. This preparation thus invites the souls of the dead to be with their family. The first day would celebrate any children that the family had lost, and so candy, juices, and toys would be put out on the altar. The second day would be to celebrate the elderly, so they put out conchas, food, beer, a basket of fruits, and other things they might have been known to love.The third day would be to celebrate anyone in between who had died, where family and friends would add anything left to add, decorate the tables, with colors like orange, red, green, yellow, pink and so much more. The informants also stated that they would include edible sugar skulls as decorations and a pastry called Pan de Muerto. This is a big bulbous loaf of bread, shaped with knots with the round ball at the top and a cross intersecting that. Marigolds were bright orange, meant to guide the souls of the dead back to their homes that scattered the altar.
The informant emphasized that the reason the holiday celebration was so important is because everyone within the family would head over to help decorate, or just be there as a family and talk. They would all remember the deceased and talk about the memories they shared of them that would help to bring them closer together. When the celebrations were over, everyone would be able to dig in and eat the food. The informant added that they never put pictures despite the big depiction and representation of having pictures on the altars because of poverty in Mexico and lack of cameras in Mexico. Thus the memory of their dead loved ones would live on in their memory.
It seems to me that the importance of family is crucial to this holiday celebration as it commemorates any family member dead or alive. It takes a different take on the dead of ghostly stories and instead expects the souls of their dead ones among them, with only love and remembrance felt at the celebration. A small part of this is similar to the concept of contact magic as they use food and toys that they used to love in their life, but it is not directly in contact with them. Additionally, symbolism such as the pan de muerto where the ball or knot at the top is meant to represent the skull and the cross is meant to represent the bones from their bodies. The holiday is very cyclical and falls at the same time of the year to have a dedicated time to commemorate any loved ones that have been lost.