¡Cuidado con las brujas!
¡No te vaya a chupar la bruja!
Those are two warnings that you might hear in any small town in Mexico. Translated, they mean “Beware the witches!” and “Don’t let the witch suck on you!” (OK, I realize that last one might sound dirty. Get your mind out of the gutter, this is supposed to be a scary story!) Witches, or brujas, are a major part of Mexican beliefs. Women don’t leave the windows open in their children’s room for fear that they will be taken away. It is a common belief that leaving a pair of scissors in an “X” either under the crib or tied by the window will ward off the bruja. In markets you can buy amulets that will protect the wearer from the curses and spells that might be cast against them.
Tonight’s blog is about witches, but not like you know them. I’m not talking the classic pointy-haired, green-skinned cackling hag that we see all over the place this time of year. I’m also not talking about all the people that practice Wicca. The bruja is a lot more than that. Simply uttering the word can cause panic depending on what part of the country you’re in. Brujas are both feared and sought out, and people tell you that they are REAL. They will come in the night and suck the life out of your children, drive you mad and curse you. But the term can be used to describe a psychic, a healer, a conjurer who casts spells or just someone who has dreams about the future that just happen to come true. (I’m talking about yours truly, but that’s something we’ll leave for a different post.)
My dad told me a story about the time he and a group of friends went camping. They were teenagers and wanted to have a camp-out on their own, sort of a rite of passage for them to show they were turning into men. They decided to visit Puebla, a place with hills and mountains that provided just the rough terrain that a group of young men desired to prove themselves. They loaded up on supplies in one of the small villages and then headed for the mountains. After hiking for a while they found the perfect spot to set up their camp for the night. They set up their tent and built a fire. One of them proudly announced that he had gotten his hands on a bottle of liquor. That should have been the highlight of the evening, but strange things were afoot. As they looked across the valley towards another mountain, they noticed some strange lights making their way up and down the mountain. At first they dismissed the lights as headlights, but there were no roads that went straight up and down. The lights also appeared to be moving faster than any car they had ever seen. There was something about the lights that mesmerized the group, they couldn’t stop watching them. All of a sudden, darkness enveloped them all. This was not the normal darkness of the night. No, this was something else. It was darkness like none of them had ever known. My dad says that even with the camp fire, you could barely make out the person next to you. Then they were all overcome with fear, panic as if something was out to get them. They became frantic, not knowing what was going on or what to do. One of the guys grabbed a pair of sticks and made himself a makeshift crucifix. They all huddled around it by the fire, shivering with fear. They then took out the bottle of liquor and drank until they passed out.
The next morning the guys woke up and headed back down the mountain. They decided to stop at a small village for breakfast. They were still talking about the previous night’s events when some of the locals overheard their conversation. They proceeded to tell the boys that what they had witnessed were brujas. The locals said that brujas lived in those mountains and that they would search for unsuspecting hikers that they could kill, eat and use for their spells. They had caused the darkness and the feelings of panic and that the further away the lights appeared, the closer they were. They had been lucky to have come back alive according to the local townsfolk. My dad and his friends made their way home and never returned to that place. To this day, any strange light reminds my dad of that evening and he gets a glint of fear in his eyes.
I will leave you with a video that has made the rounds on the internet. It has been featured on several Spanish news programs and attempts have been made to replicate it. The commentary is in Spanish, but you can see what the video appears to show: a flying humanoid shape that has been labeled a bruja by Mexican authorities. I'll let you watch and judge for yourself.