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On Witchcraft

By: Susana Raymundo

Witchcraft, spells, enchantments and magic have always been talked about here in Guatemala.  In many communities, scientific medicine did not exist as it does today—so when folks got sick, injured and so forth spells and witchcraft were turned to both as cures as well as ways to explain and understand the world.  Within the practice, the belief is that human beings are an integration of body and soul—when body and soul are balanced, then the person is in a healthy state.  There are negative energies that aim to destabilize the soul and produce a lack of balance.

There are also people who do black magic to provoke instability in other people.  They do ceremonies with charms, photos and things obtained from the other person’s body (hair, nails and so forth).  Body secretions such as sweat, tears or spit can also be taken from the victim if he or she is not aware to try and increase the amount of negative energy.  It is also possible to do cures by smoking tobacco, taking bones from animals or a liquid mixture that has rum.

Another thing that can be done are sacrifices.  Heads of animals can be cut off and the blood can be dripped onto the ground.  Humans can also metaphorically be “sacrificed” (though not in the same way as Apocalypto).  This happens if a baby dies during childbirth, or in an accident—the soul can be dedicated as a sacrifice.  The dedication can be done through flowers, candles, money or rum—depending on the brujo.

People who are victims of black magic may begin to suffer headaches, stomachaches, back pain and other pains.  Psychological effects like poor concentration and depression may also be felt.  Some spells are done to provoke problems at work, or at home within families, friends or lovers.

These victims will not suffer these effects all at the same time—it will depend on the type of witchcraft that is being practiced.  If the person detects in time that they are suffering from a spell, then they can defend themselves with what is known as la limpia (a spiritual cleansing).  He or she can go with an ajq’ij (a Mayan priest) to discover what sort of spell was cast by the ajitz (witch, in k’iche’) and the spells will ultimately be combated according to the instructions of the person who is doing the spiritual cleanse.

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