Date of Performance/Collection:
MV is a 2nd generation Mexican-American from New Mexico. Half of her family is of Japanese-Mexican descent and much of her extended family lives in Mexico. I received this item from her in a video conference call from our respective homes. She knows about this practice from her nana (grandmother) but she has never had it conducted on herself.
MV: When someone gives you the ojo… the lady, this could be your nana, or like anyone really, they could get an egg and rub it all over your body, and then all the bad energy goes in the egg.
JS: What’s the ojo?
MV: The ojo is when someone puts the ojo on you, like… if I gave you the ojo you’d be getting some bad energy. It’s like I bewitched you.
You pray a little bit and then rub it over your body… you do the cross up here (draws a cross on her forehead with her finger) and then just rub the egg over the rest of your body.
And then some people even say if you crack the egg in a glass of water, and like you see a trail, like in the water from the yolk, that’s the bad energy. But some people don’t do that.
JS: So it has to be, like, a special someone?
MV: Yeah usually it’s the brujería person… a bruja, a witch I guess… all nanas are like that.
The association of eggs with luck and goodness has long and deep roots. Venetia Newall provides a sketch of the various uses of eggs in ritual, magic, and belief: cosmological models, magical properties, the notion of resurrection, games and festivals emphasizing fertility and fecundity. (Newall) Her study focusses mainly on egg-lore in an Indo-European context but these significances resonate with our example here. The notion here is that eggs have healing properties, capable of dispelling and absorbing “bad energy.” The association of the egg with rebirth, shedding of old ways, fertility, youth, suggests that here, the egg is valued for its life-giving properties. Brujería likely has a long history that cannot be fully examined here but of note in this example is that the bruja, or intermediary, is always an old female – “all nanas are like that.” There is a kind of magic associated with older females which resonates with the egg as a symbol of fertility, the womb, and a source of life. In this variation, the catholic gesture of signing the cross on one’s body is present with some notable exceptions to the mainstream church’s gesture. The cross is made on the forehead, combined with the secular folk magic of the egg. This is not the gesture sanctioned by the catholic church as an international institution, but a gesture that incorporates elements of both secular, paganistic belief as well as religious reference: it is both Catholicism and Brujería, a mix of Christianity with a folk magic which the Catholic church has historically demonized. This healing practice is thus a way of combining multiple sacred traditions and forming a unique model of spirituality that sets secular magic against and alongside the hegemonic colonial forces of Catholicism.
Newall, Venetia. “Easter Eggs.” The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 80, No. 315. (Jan. – Mar., 1967), pp. 3-32