Mal de Ojo y Brujas (Evil eye and witches)
I was going to write about myths in the Dominican Republic as I had listened to many stories that appeared to be legends or myths. Then I realized that what appeared to me as myths are actually beliefs and traditions.
Religion, magic and superstitions are all integral parts to daily living in the Dominican Republic. If you listen and observe carefully it is part of all that occurs daily. For the purpose of this entry I will focus on the evil eye and witches. Many more entries to follow.
The Mal de ojo/evil eye is especially thought to cause illness in babies. It happens when somebody looks at a child with envy and makes compliments without without saying “Dios te bendiga” (God bless you). This is very similar to “Mashallah” (God willed it) in Arabic and used in a very similar manner. If giving a compliment it must be followed by Dios le bendiga as if you don’t you may be responsible for the evil that follows. I interpret it a bit as warding off the evil eye of envy. If children become sick suddenly and without any physical reason and a doctor has no explanation it is often thought to be caused by mal de ojo.
This is also seen in greetings. The older person says, “besa la mano” (kiss the hand)…the younger person responds with the other person’s relation to them…”mami…papi, tio, etc..(mother, father, uncle). Then the older person says, “Dios te bendiga” (God bless you). In fact this just happened as I was typing. This helps ward off the evil eye as well.
At birth to protect the child, one says, “God bless you” to protect against the evil eye. A small bracelet of beads is placed on the child’s ankle or wrist to ward off evil and to bring prosperity
The “Ásabache” is a black hand or fist, sometimes a red and black bean that is used to ward off the mal ojo/ evil eye. Usually worn around the neck, even on a gold chain. Always a good baby shower gift.
Our twins were born in Abu Dhabi and I recall my wife putting a small piece of black fabric around the right arm of our twins. I didn’t think much of it at the time but living here in the Dominican Republic I now realize it is serious business.This fabric draws in and collects negative energy keeping it from the baby.
My wife has told me not to have the children exposed to the sight of certain people to avoid the evil eye. I certainly don’t see it and have no problem with the people but here it is for real.
The evil eye is ever present sometimes known and sometimes unknown so it always best to protect at all times.
I asked my in-laws about the evil eye and witches and the conversation became serious immediately. For them it is a certainty that these things exist. One example given was a woman looking at a plant and the next day it was dead. I won’t go into my hypotheses, but there is no question in their mind.
I asked them how they protect themselves in the presence of the evil eye and they told me two things: 1. Cross your fingers 2. In your mind say, “boca culo” (mouth ass) four times. Most of these things I ask about have very specific answers. Seems exhausting to me, but everything is in its place.
Moving on to Brujas. Witches. Yes, witches are a given as well. This does not appear debatable. While I fear for the plight of witches it is the way things are. In the family room last night we discussed how a witch had flown over the house in the past and landed with a loud crash on a neighbor’s corrugated aluminum roof. I did ask what they found, but nothing was found. There are huge fruits and coconuts in the area that could provide similar impact but that idea was dismissed quickly.
The witches are old women, and night dwellers. They do fly on brooms but they prefer changing into large birds. In this form they can fly closer to houses and yell with loud squawking sounds. It is said that the witch removes its skin before flying. When they take to flight they are said to say “Without God nor Santa Maria!”. People say they have heard the Bruja during flight laughing and singing in a hideous voice
When the witches rest they do so under the branches of the platano (banana) tree. The witches will suck the blood of the children either from the navel or the big toe. It is said that a Bruja will not attack the children of its own friends or if they are twins.
This is good news because we have twins.
The beliefs, traditions, superstitions and rituals are countless and infused into everyday life. More to come.
Que Dios les bendiga!
Mal de Ojo y Brujas (Evil eye and witches)