Updated: Oct 22, 2021
“Brujeria” “Witchcraft” “Devil’s Magic”
These are just a few terms I have been told constantly over and over when I tell people about the rituals my indigenous side of the family does. Growing up Catholic, I was still oblivious to the fact that Catholicism and indigenous traditions don’t usually go side by side. I didn’t realize until I arrived in the United States to see that the Catholic Church I attended, not only bashed but also looked down on these spiritual and healing practices.
One cleansing ritual that is very familiar to me is “limpia con huevo” or also known as the “egg cleanse”.
It practically involves a glass of water (clean), an egg (symbol of life), and salt to create a barrier. It works by going into a peaceful room or environment and a shaman takes the egg into their right hand and cleanses you. Cleansing is done by taking the egg and rubbing it from the top part of your body all the way down to your feet. Once that is done then you crack the egg into the glass of water and toss a pinch of salt into the glass and interpret the image the egg white creates. To me, it was to get rid of negative and bad energy that could potentially harm me. It was also to cure “susto” or fear, and “mal de ojo” the evil eye that was placed upon me by someone else. To others, this ritual seemed “weird”, but to me, it was a ritual and practice of health and healing.
I went through many other rituals and they are all about healing and the well-being of people. This is what made sense to me. Now, believing in God is a different story. As any child who listens to their parents, I believed that their words were absolute truth, “God is good.” And, because we used to be devoted to going to church I “believed” everything they preached at such a young age. As I continued to grow, I could choose whether or not I wanted to go to church. I decided not to. It never felt right, and I never felt happy dragging myself to church to listen to something that never made sense to me. Part of the reason was that I had already realized the hypocrisy of the people that attended my Catholic church and Sunday school. Another reason was that I missed home, I missed Mexico and my family. Since I don’t really have family in the United States, I missed the feeling of comfort and belonging I had when I lived in Mexico.
In Mexico, not only did many of our friends and family practice rituals, but they also went to church. It made sense to me at the time, and I could see how it was being incorporated into my beliefs back then. Now, with religious trauma, and other aspects of myself that I have come to understand and accept, I struggle with religion. All I have known while growing up in the United States was having to pick one or the other. I never wanted to do that, but it felt like it was the only choice that I had. Nowadays, I consider myself spiritual and not religious. I am still learning and growing and finding people that are slowly making me see Christianity in a different light. Although I am healing, I know that I will never believe in Christianity the same and I think that’s okay. I feel more connected and whole when I go back home and practice rituals that connect me to the earth, cleanse my spirit and ground me by comfort in my family that leads a life with a different view.
I am still growing and learning, but I want to continue staying connected to my culture and roots. What makes sense to me, might not make sense to everyone else and that's okay. I want to continue learning not only about myself but about others’ experiences with Catholicism and rituals in my Mexican-American community. It is important for me to learn more about the influence of colonialism and Christianity throughout the last 500 years of history. When I have a better understanding of myself, my roots, and the way the world works, I think I will be able to help influence the perspectives of others on Native American rituals.