AB: Aloe Vera plants in the front of your house to protect you from evil. I didn’t know that was why we had Aloe plants in the front of our house. I have never heard of that before.
AB is a 20 year old biology student at UCSB from southern California that is half Guatemalan and half Irish. She is describing a conversation she had with her mother asking her about the aloe plants they had in front of their house. Her mother is a nurse that is originally from Guatemala and lived there until her teenage years. This information was taken from a casual interview over Facetime. Earlier in the interview she talked about how her mother believed people practiced witchcraft and AB thought it was somewhat weird.
It is interested that there had been aloe plants in front of her house and AB had not realized until recently why they were there. However, it seemed that she felt it was more of a superstitious practice than something that really worked. The belief in magic seems to be related to the practice of using magic to protect yourself from people who may use it in a way to harm you. The aloe plant is considered to have many healing qualities both in the field of medicine and folk medicine. This seems to be somewhat of a spiritual extension of this belief. Not only can the plant heal you physically, but heal your spirit from evil energy that is trying to enter your space. Thus, making it the perfect plant to have in front of your house.
This story is about the significance of bats in Cameroon. We usually stun bats with a broomstick—the weapon of choice in this case—and we tie them to a string and we tie it to the front door. There’s usually only one opening to the houses in the village so it works out, and the bat wards off any evil spirit that would be coming to attack you or any type of negative omen that would be put against your family by some type of black magic. And I learned this by seeing it, by seeing my grandmother do it when she found a bat fly into the house—oh yeah, and the bat has to fly into the house physically, you can’t just get a bat from outside and catch it and do that.
Akawkaw “Coco” Ndigpagbor is a student-athlete at USC whose family comes from Cameroon (a country in west central Africa). Her family is quite religious and very superstitious. They have very strong traditions and believe in the power of dark magics and evil spirits. Her family has many rituals to expel or cast out evil spirits from a dwelling, and this example [given by Coco] is one of the most common ways of doing so.
The trapped bat offers a form of protection from evil spirits and acts as a kind of protection amulet. Many cultures have used amulets and talismans to ward off evil, but most tend to inanimate objects that can be worn. Some wear a necklace with an eye-shaped pendant to protect them from the evil eye. Some wear garlic around their neck to protect themselves from vampires…
Only her family members who live in Cameroon carry out this practice. Her American family—even if they come from Cameroon—does not. One of the main reasons for not continuing this practice is due to the fact that most of her American family lives in Southern California, and they never see bats. Thus, they never have the opportunity to trap one that flies into their house. Coco also mentioned that it is mostly the older generations that did this and that the younger generations did not really believe in the magics and evil spirits that the elders believe in.
Roxana told me she heard this Magical Superstition from her Mother when she was quite young. She was playing with compact mirrors at the time, so Roxana estimates she was about seven when she first heard this superstition in her home in Orange County, California.
She says, So I was young and sitting in the living room and it was really sunny. I had a compact mirror in my hand, one of those stupid toy princess ones and I was playing with it in the room, making reflections with the mirror on the walls. And she said, Dont do that. When I was little I did that and someone told me not to do that, because if you reflect the sun with the mirror, then your father will die a week later. And a week later my Dad died. So then I got freaked out because her dad Did die, you know? So I got freaked out and stopped.
Now, Roxana says if shes standing by a window with the sun coming through it, shell stand facing the sun so the mirror isnt reflecting the suns light. I believe being told this superstition at such a young age makes it hard for her not to believe it now, whereas those of us who have never heard this superstition will likely find it hard to believe in. I also believe the severity of the impact upon Roxanas family her grandfather dying a short time after her mother was seen reflecting the sunlight and chastised for doing so as connected to this piece of folklore makes it difficult for Roxana to simply disregard the action.