iv. Brujeria

Brujeria (also brujaria) is Spanish witchcraft or witchery. spells magic spells

Both men and women can be witches, brujos and brujas respectively. Brujos is the plural term that can mean either a group of male witches or both male and female witches. The female witch is considered the most powerful, and traditional brujos believe that the sacred bloodline or spiritual bloodline is passed down by the female (matriarchal lineage). This means that the line is inherited from a female but ends with a male.

The word bruja is believed to derive from bruxa, which is from the the Celto-Iberian dialect in Spain known today as Gallego. It shares its roots with Portuguese. The present day Portuguese use the term bruxsa. The original meaning is roughly evil or unwholesome night-bird, which are retained in modern Portuguese, but have evolved in Spanish to mean simply ‘witch’.

Brujeria is used amonst brujos to mean both the ‘ways of the witch’ as well as witchcraft, while hechiceria means ‘the craft of the witch’ – witchcraft, or more literally, spellcraft.
Amongst the people I know we use brujaria solely for the ways of the witch. On this site, you will see both, with a predominance for my use of the terms.

Cultural Variants

My experience is that most people understand brujeria (also brujaria) from a North American perspective. So it is considered a path from Latin America, more specifically, as derived from Mesoamerica.

However, a bruja/o is a witch who is of Spanish descent. This means that brujeria cannot solely be derived from mesoamerica.

Mesoamerica is a region that is roughly what is now Central America. Brujeria is a Spanish word. So the brujeria of Central America is a combination of Spanish and the indigenous people of that region (predominantly Mayan), so it is heavily influenced by ancient paganism.

Further south of that region, brujeria is diverse, from a similar mix of indigenous and Spanish culture, to the European styles found in Argentina and Uruguay. In these latter countries, brujeria often takes on Christian, specifically Catholic, influences.

However, the term bruja/o has just as many negative connotations as does its English counterpart ‘witch’. To refer to somebody as a bruja/o is often to label them an ‘evil doer’. So most South Americans of European descent refrain from using it in reference to themselves. Some of these people have adopted the term curandera, which means faith healer, a family reference, or simply no term at all. In contrast, brujos from Central America or the north of South America are usually respected member of the community. They are sought for their powers of healing, divination and spellwork.
It should be noted that curanderismo is also a practice that is totally distinctive from witchcraft, in that they do not use spells or divination but rather, work as psycho-spiritual healers doing such things as soul retrievals.

The brujos from Spain are either Christian or pagan-witches. The first group use folk magic and combine it with Catholic ritual and beliefs. This includes priests and nuns. The latter group are not Christian and either practice secretly or veil their practices under Catholic ones. Non-Christian brujeria from Spain is predominantly influenced by the ancients, either Greco-Roman, Celtic, or Phoenician. This latter group does not tend to use folk magic, but instead practices what is commonly known as traditional witchcraft.

With the large Hispanic emigration into North America, brujaria has naturally gone there as well. The brujos of America are either traditionalists, combine with vodhu, or have reconstructed a modern style.

So essentially there are three distinct forms: ancient pre-Christian form, Christian or modern form, and a contemporary reconstruction.

Beliefs and Practices

Beliefs vary between traditional and modern brujos. Traditional brujos hold core beliefs that are similar to or identical to the witchery around the world. Modern brujos are diverse and can resemble faith healers, be shamans, spiritualists, or pagan.

Practices are greatly diverse and are dependent upon the locale and the form of brujaria. Ancient forms tend to reflect the religions of the indigenous cultures, whilst modern forms tend to be syncretic and use the current dominant religion (usually Catholic).

The most well known practices are similar to English witchcraft: spells (hechizos), charms, amulets, divination, and use of plants (usually herbs). Other practices might include phenomena similar with traditional English witchcraft; namely shapeshifting, glamoury and hedgeriding. Brujos pagano (pagan-witches) might participate in ritual or ceremonial ecstacies.
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