History of brujería

Historically, brujería gave power to women. Brujería was primarily practiced by Indigenous, Mestizo, African and Caribbean women from Latin America.

In English, brujería can be directly translated to mean witchcraft. However, brujería is much more than just witchcraft.

During the 17th century, women in Mexico turned to brujería to access liberation in their marriages. For context, it was common for husbands to abuse their wives and cheat on them without consequence. Desperate for help, brujas practiced love spells to end their suffering. Women hoped that through brujería, they could reach equal power in their marriages.

In Brazil, Afro-Latinx people practiced brujería as a means to resist their colonizers and maintain ties to their ancestry.  They used brujería as guidance for healing and connecting to the earth.

Without a doubt, brujas posed a threat against colonization and the patriarchy. Thus, men silenced women and created a negative stigma against brujas.

For example, men in power blamed brujas for disasters such as floods, famine, and disease. In fact, when disaster struck, the Mayans executed brujas and disposed of their bodies in caves. Caves were no honorable place to be buried. The Mayans saw caves as dangerous places, home to the portals of the underworld. 

The term “bruja” even became a scapegoat term for anyone damned by society — poor, single and widowed women. These marginalized women were then executed for being “brujas.”

Essentially, any women who broke cultural norms and found their own means of liberation were a threat to the status quo. So communities dispelled marginalized women for standing up against both colonization and the patriarchy.

Brujas are both practitioners of witchcraft and historical feminists.

Common practices

  1. To attract love, a yellow powder called puyomate (an indigenous plant) has been historically used. Brujas smeared the powder on both a woman and her lover’s clothing to draw them to her.
  2. Another common practice brujas have used to attract love involves menstrual blood. Particularly, women would mix their menstrual blood with hot chocolate and serve it to their husbands. 
  3. To attract sexual energy, brujas would draw from the hummingbird. They carried hummingbird skeleton amulets, sprinkled the skeleton dust on their clothing, or sewed hummingbirds on their clothing. 
  4. Other brujas utilized brujería to perform cleanses and honor the earth.  In my experience, my grandmother would perform a cleanse called La Limpia. Historically, eggs have embodied the symbol of life. Egg rituals typically involve cleansing and then an energy reading. 
  5. Commonly called upon and adored by believers of santería is Oshun, the earthly goddess of sensuality. Oshun is a feminist icon known for being as “sweet as honey.” Her ritual for prosperity requires 5 oranges, 1 yellow candle, 1 white plate, cinnamon, honey, and a representation of the goddess. 

Here are the directions to perform the ritual of prosperity:

“Light the yellow candle in front of a sculpture or image of Oshun for five days. (Make sure you put the candle in a safe place. If you plan on leaving it unattended, blow it out, but light it again as soon as you return.) Tell her your wishes, preferably out loud so she can hear you. Place the oranges on the white plate. Pour several drizzles of honey over the oranges. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Leave this, together with the yellow candle, throughout the five days. Put the plate in front of Oshun. When the days are up, you may dispose of the offering.”


Modern-day practice

Today, brujería allows women to feel connected with their bruja ancestors, especially as a means to decolonize their spirituality and go back to their cultural roots. 

Contemporary Brujas are the intersectional feminists who the colonizers failed to silence.

Some view their bruja services to others as community-building, bringing service to those typically marginalized.

Brujas also respect and call upon nature to fight against the patriarchy. They can practice antithetical to the colonizer’s religion or in conjunction with their religious faith.

Today’s brujas practice through tarot readings, passed down traditions, healings, etc. While every bruja’s approach may vary, they all believe in brujería as a means of reclamation and power, especially in a male-dominated world. 

“My definition is honing in on your personal power and working with the energies around you to create the life that you want.”

-Tatianna Morales

Read also:
Why I Am Proud To Be An Afro-Latina
The Witch Resurgence: The Roles Of Witches In Modern Society
The Modern Spiritual Latina – Decolonizing My Spirituality