“Las Doce Verdades” (“The Twelve Truths”)-  Catholic Prayer

*Originally spoken in Spanish. The following is a rough translation. 

Description (From Transcript): “You tell the first truth and then the second, and then you would go back to the first one. Every time you would tell the next one, you would grab a handkerchief or a cloth and you would add a knot. The first was “La santa casa de Jerusalén donde vive y reina mi padre dios para siempre, Amen” (“The holy house of Jerusalem, where my lord lives and reigns forever, Amen”). You would add a knot and move on to the second. So the first, then the second, then the first again. Then the first, the second, and the third, and the first again, before moving on to the fourth one. And after the 12th– “The twelve apostles”– you would return back to the first again: The holy house of Jerusalem, where my lord lives and reigns forever, Amen”. And when you tied the final knot, that’s where you trapped the witches. They would get choked there. 

Context: TR is a Mexican woman, born and raised in Zacatecas, Mexico. She immigrated to the United States in 1995. This is a Catholic prayer. It was told to her by her grandmother. She explains, 

“This is a prayer but it was also a story that was told by people who believed in witches. In those times, there was no electric light so we would sit and light a lamp with a candle inside it and my grandma would tell us about witches. The light was very opaque so it would be scarier. We would sit with a cinnamon or yerbaniz (mint marigold) tea and once we were scared, we would trap the witches with the prayer of the Twelve Truths”. Even though she never saw a witch, she explains that she did believe in them as a child. She also explains that this is a Catholic prayer but not many people within the religion are familiar with it. 

My interpretation: Although this is a prayer, and therefore a religious practice, it also crosses over into the genres of legends and games because of the unsure belief in witches as well as the audience that the prayer is being told to (children). As explained by the informant, there was also the ritualistic aspect of doing this in a mostly dark environment, drinking hot tea- practices reminiscent of Americans telling scary stories by the fire pit. Additionally, this piece is unique from other Catholic practices and prayers because it crossed over into superstitious and Indigenous beliefs of Brujeria (witchcraft), which is often a taboo topic in the Catholic church.