Magic, superstition, and religious beliefs are woven into the very fabric of Dominican culture and it’s hard to see where one ends and the other begins. It was so normalized, that in my household, no one batted an eye whenever anyone mentioned spirits or witches. Not in a puritanical, fearful way or dripping in skepticism, but with the matter-of-fact tone of someone who had been raised to see magic, wonder, and God everywhere.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Friday the 13th (and as it turns out Tuesday the 13th) would hold some special significance for those of us who believe in magic. It is a day where spells, potions, and prayers increase in potency—even more if the day coincides with a full moon.
So on this day, while a lot of folks will be seeking out local brujos and brujas to read their futures at the bottom of a coffee cup, make love spells, and curse their enemies, I thought I would take the time to talk about 13 of my favourite Dominican superstitions, rituals, and spells!
Coffee is a big deal for most Dominicans. It’s the first thing we brew in the morning and a visit to a Dominican home will most likely prompt offerings of a cafecito. Some cultures read your future from tea leaves, but Dominican brujas do so with the coffee grinds scattered on the bottom of your cup. One of my favourite superstitions also involves coffee: if you drink your coffee standing up, your plans for the day won’t come to fruition. It’s a daily reminder to take a moment, relax, and be present in the moment.
When I was a child I longed for the kinds of rainy days where the sun shined through the rain drops. I lived for the moment my mother would pause, look up at the sky and say “se está casando una bruja”—or a witch is getting married. It never failed to give me goosebumps. Now, whenever this happens, I too, look up at the sky, say the words and send a little prayer into the sky wishing a lifetime of happiness for the brujita who has found her media naranja. Another superstition around rain is based off of a Spanish language rhyme: “Si te cae el primer aguacero de mayo tendrás buena suerte por todo el año.” Which means if you get caught in the first rain of May you’ll have good luck for all of the year.
Aloe vera plants abound in Dominican gardens, aside from being great medicinally it also has magical properties. Folks say that hanging an aloe vera plant over or behind your door wards away bad energies. Some say that if the plant flourishes, good things will come to you, while others say that if it withers there is a lot of negativity afoot. A variation of this is to hang bread over the door which will ensure that food will never be scarce.
Though many of the spells and rituals mentioned in this post are meant to repel evil, here’s one that is meant to usher in good fortune. If you place elephant figurines or statues facing away from the front door in odd numbers, it will bring good luck for all of the inhabitants of the house.
Bad energy or the evil eye is something a lot of us worry about. And besides hanging aloe over your door, some folks go to a brujo to make them a resguardo which is a protection against the evil eye and any spells someone might try to cast over you. Sometimes its a small package usually wrapped in red paper or cloth which contains ingredients known only to the brujo and which the carrier is instructed to never open and always keep on them either in their wallets or on a string around their neck. A simple resguardo, usually for newborns, is a necklace or bracelet with a polished jet stone.
If you’re in need of a spiritual cleansing to get rid of any bad vibes you can do at home or have a bruja do it for you with an egg. Holding the egg carefully—so you don’t drop it or accidentally break it—you pass it over your entire body. The egg absorbs all of the negative energies. If you’re doing it at home, dispose of the egg without breaking it. If you’re with a skilled brujo, they might crack the egg open to read the yolk. And if a long life is what you’re looking for, then eat the first egg laid by a black hen.
Many cultures have superstitions around broken mirrors—from seven years of bad luck to seven years of bad sex. But what I didn’t know until I started asking around was that there’s a counter-spell. If you break a mirror, simply collect all of the pieces in a bucket of water for seven days and seven nights and this should prevent any bad luck from ever coming to you.
One of my favourite superstitions has to do with roosters and which I have since learned is common in other Caribbean nations as well. The superstition goes that if you’re crossing your eyes or flipping up your eyelids and a rooster crows your eyes will remain stuck in that position forever. My mother used to shout this one to me all the time, without a hint of irony in her voice (in Santo Domingo it made sense, but how we were going to hear a rooster crow in a New York City apartment on the seventh floor seemed not to crossed her mind. Had we lived on the ground floor it also would have made sense since a few blocks away I know of at least a few neighbours who kept roosters in their basements. I don’t know why).
Broom superstitions and spells are pretty common in the Dominican Republic. From the belief that if someone accidentally sweeps your feet you’ll never get married to the famed witch’s nightly flights. But my favourite broom related spell is one for pesky visitors that have overstayed their welcome. If ever you get undesired guests, simply place a broom behind a door, throw some salt at it and soon the visitors will suddenly remember they have other things to do that don’t involve bothering you.
Salt is another powerful spell ingredient. It has the capacity to ward away bad luck, unwanted visitors and to absorb sickness. If someone in your household is sick or has a fever that isn’t breaking, simply put a bowl of salt under their bed overnight and the salt will absorb any negative or illness-inducing energies which you can promptly dispose of outside!
And last but not least, if you find yourself low on funds you can always keep a single dollar bill in your wallet, which according to us, will bring you more money. I’ve never tried this so if someone wants to volunteer a dollar, I will gladly do an experiment. Or you can tell me in the comments below if this or any of the spells above have worked for you! What are some of your favourite spells or superstitions? —Mechi Annaís Estévez Cruz
This article originally appeared on UnaVainaBienSpanish.com.