“Don’t tell anyone, or they will call her a Bruja,” said my mother. The Bruja, to which my mother referred, was my Aunt. She has The Gift. If you didn’t know, bruja is the Spanish word for witch.
I can only describe my family’s practice as a combination of Native American/folk religion and Catholicism with a dash of Santeria. More of a spiritualism. But if anyone asks, we’re Catholic, definitely NOT witches.
It was common, where I grew up in Brooklyn, to have mixed practices. You go to Mass every Sunday, but then there is that other thing. That thing you just don’t talk about.
For example; the house across the street had the front yard blocked off for their… chickens. The delusion of them being pet chickens quickly dissolved after finding my first headless chicken in a trash can. Apparently, they were brujas too.
Unlike our neighbors, we did not sacrifice chickens, nor did we have elaborately decorated alters. While they had statues of the “saints” with offerings of alcohol, flowers, chicken bones, and coins, we only hung a few crosses in our home. But that didn’t matter. It was our Faith that mattered.
I was taught that you have guardian angels, guides, and spirits around you, your “people”. Faith gives them strength to help guide you through your life. The only way I can describe it is like having really sharp instincts. They are the inclination that makes you turn left instead of right. They are the warning you feel in your guts when something really bad is about to happen. They are the omens.
You build a relationship with your guides through prayer. Prayer is energy. Blood rituals were forbidden. Blood binds you in life as well as in spirit. Blood is a powerful source of energy. It is life, but it is more difficult to use. Anyway, blood magic was for witches, and we’re Catholic, definitely NOT witches.
As I got older, and learned more of the family craft, the line began between bruja and being spiritual began to waiver. I learned about faith as energy. That energy can be a propeller for protection and luck. I learned that everything requires sacrifice, and that sacrifice means a lot of things. Nothing is free.
I learned that spells and prayers are the same thing. I learned to be careful what I ask for and to balance myself. I also learned to never wish harm upon others because everything comes back to you, eventually.
I learned that every family craft was different. I learned that a bruja can be both good and terrible. I learned about a type of faith that you can only grow up with, and never really understand as an outsider. But, just in case anyone asks, we’re Catholic, definitely NOT witches.