LA MAGIA NEGRA
A tradition in Brujeria
By Brujo Negro 6/29/06
This essay is an introduction to the classical aspects of La Magia Negra and how it is viewed as a traditional branch in Mexican Brujeria. In doing so, this essay will shed light into this branch of Brujeria which has been highly misunderstood by both advocates of Magia Blanca (white magic) and Curanderos alike. Please note that these are my own observations based on personal research and personal experience as a practitioner of Brujeria, other practitioners have their own ideas and you are welcome to your opinions. Read on as this is a well researched essay one meant to illuminate and not cloud the mind with conjecture and hearsay.
What is Magia Negra? Basically it is a Spanish term which literally translated means “black magic” when one thinks of black magic the automatic definition is: using magic or sorcery to harm another individual or the use of magic for selfish or greed driven pursuits. This is a far too simple and narrow minded definition for La Magia Negra something that shall be further defined.
La Magia Negra is an aspect of Brujeria which came to Mexico through the influences of the grimoires “grimorios” that were imported by the Spaniards as early as 1540 and distributed to the Indigenous and Mestizo* people in Mexico. It has become part of the unique blending of culture in Mexico, and at one time in pre-Hispanic Mexico these terms were not even known. If we were to look into the ethnographic studies of the Nahua in ancient Mexico we find that the ancient Nahua did not believe necessarily in the concept of good or evil. In pre-Columbian Mexico the Chichimec’s of Xolotl people that predated the Mexica there existed the healer physician (shaman) with an intimate knowledge of herbs, animals and elements for medicinal use that specialized in healing the sick from natural and supernatural illness. 1*
There existed the counterpart shaman that specialized in malevolent practices this character was sometimes known as the false-physician because his skill was usually the opposite of the healer physician and was at times called upon by vindictive people to work malice upon someone that such people intended harm towards. These hechiceros* would rely on their knowledge of plants and animals often accompanied with prayers and incantations addressed to various malevolent spirits in casting spells upon their victims. To these ancient Chichimec Brujos good and evil spirits were not clearly distinguished as such they would call upon any force that would assist them in their endeavors.
These two ancient characters in Mexican heritage set the stage for their descendants in contemporary Mexico which bridge a link to the distant past and the living past of which many examples exist to this day. When the Spaniards began to colonize Mexico the Monks in charge of converting the indigenous people of Mexico toward the Catholic Religion did their best to demonize the ancient deities healing and bewitching practices of the ancient Nahua. All that was not of Christ was therefore of the Devil or evil, a concept that was never clearly identified in the minds of the ancient Nahua. The Devil or evil as a Christian concept was never understood in the eyes of the Nahua, this led to the syncretism of beliefs that came to affect the healing and witching practices in Mexico.
For example: The gospels of Christ contain many stories with Jesus of Nazareth healing the sick, along with his apostles preaching the word, healing and exorcising evil spirits from the afflicted. This is the attitude that was cultivated by the missionaries towards native healers in a vain attempt towards conversion. Instead of total conversion this created syncretism for the Curanderos who took the example of Christ as the greatest of healers. In addition the missionaries cultivated the idea all things of God are of white light and all that is evil of the Devil is dark or black, further syncretism occurred with the grimorios that included titles such as Magia Blanca “white magic” and then of course Magia Negra “black magic” there are other grimorios such as El Libro Supremo and El Libro de San Cipriano all of which contain the themes of magia negra y magia blanca.
Let us not forget the attempt of the missionaries making Quetzalcoatl to be the Christ figure and Tezcatlipoca* the Devil figure. This was easy for the missionaries because it is well known that Tezcatlipoca demanded human sacrifices, Quetzalcoatl was satisfied with animal sacrifices. Tezcatlipoca being a powerful sorcerer and the lord of the North icy region of the dead was a trickster god one that was sometimes called the enemy on both sides.2*
Since the missionaries viewed all witchcraft as coming from the Devil, Tezcatlipoca was the likely candidate to become the Devil of the Mexica religion. Due to this attempt by the missionaries the Devil no longer was feared in minds of the early converts which gave rise to the veneration of the Devil who was their old God in disguise. Although Tezcatlipoca was considered malevolent he was also known to reward the brave and punish the wicked and cowardly people of society. He was also known as “Prince of this world” anyone familiar with Christian lore is familiar with the story that the Lord gave the Devil dominion over the earth, which is another synchronization used by early missionaries to frighten new converts.
It would be wise not to forget that Spain brought to Mexico its Witchcraft and Black Magic which included the infamous Black Mass practices, which will be cited in their due place.
MAGIA NEGRA AS A PATH IN BRUJERIA
Magia Negra is for all intents and purposes the left hand path of Mexican Brujeria its emphasis is on you as the practitioner; it is about your getting ahead and not just your survival but thriving as a living organism on this planet. La Magia Negra appeals to the primal darker side of humanity to our basic needs i.e. money, sex, love, power success. It is NOT about blasphemy or mockery of GOD we respect and revere the Supreme Being above all because it created all things. To quote the old saying that is written in several sacred texts, God gives you the free will to choose which path to take in this life, what becomes of it is based on your actions and their consequences. This path does not prey on the innocent as it stands there are people now and in the past that profess to be white magic practitioners that do far more exploiting, deception, theft, back biting and slandering than any Magia Negra or LHP practitioner could ever imagine. There are certain prayers and rites that can be misleading and interpreted as blasphemous and they will be clarified in the following section.
SPIRITS, SPELLS, PRAYERS AND FORMULAS
I will make a partial listing here regarding the kinds of spiritual beings that are called upon and worked with in Magia Negra because I plan on introducing my readers to these characters in other essays on my site and I don’t wish to spoil the surprises. Also keep in mind the shamanic origins of Brujeria and that like the ancient Nahua, the Brujo will look at all spirits as potential allies despite theological origins. Probably one of the most popular spirits is the Devil sometimes called Lucifer in the tradition; we have glanced at the syncretistic aspects of this being in the section on origins. Due to the Devil’s syncretistic nature, being of Tezcatlipoca/Lucifer/Devil makes him the friend and ally of every Brujo and Bruja. There are many traditional prayers directed to the Devil asking his blessing of good fortune, for example I will quote and interpret part of a prayer from Veracruz Mexico beseeching the help of Lucifer for both dominion over others and good fortune.
After having made reference to the beautiful morning star that fell from the heavens for his disobedience the prayer reads: with the help of Lucifer may my order be fulfilled in combination with that of the Perro Prieto to dominate…name of person to be dominated. I also ask of you Lucifer, Lucifer, Lucifer, that you give me power to have good luck, work and money, to have all my desires: If it is in card games you Satan with your invincible power give me luck to win at all games of chance, just as you surprised el Perro Prieto, surprise those that place themselves against me. Lucifer, Lucifer, Lucifer give me power for all that I ask you will grant and in love may I be privileged; Lucifer, Lucifer, Lucifer I order that my request be granted. It is easy to see that some of these prayers are quite demanding in their nature this is done because one has to be bold in the face of the Devil if one expects help. Proof of syncretism Tezcatlipoca rewards the brave and the brujo is showing his courage to dare and demand anything of the Devil.
This attitude towards the Devil is not uncommon in Mexican culture as I can recall in times past from my conversations with the sister of the Bruja that worked at the Botanica in my hometown referred to the Devil as El Hermanito this means little brother. She said she referred to him as such because he is a creation of God and we are all God’s children so he is our brother, and should not be insulted or disrespected because some day he may be helpful. Other spiritual beings of a syncretistic nature are one mentioned in the prayer I quoted Perro Prieto he is one I will discuss in another essay. Also El Coyote is a spirit in the tradition this is one that my grandfather was fond of he is a trickster and goes in between the Brujeria paths Black White or Grey to use the classical terms. There are other animal spirits in the tradition but as I said before these will be introduced in other essays.
Spirits such as those that belonged to sinners and criminals are called upon for an array of purposes one famous group are the Siete Espiritus Intranquilos or Seven Restless Spirits; they are basically damned souls in the inferno chained to the Devil. These spirits are usually worked for love spells and curses meant to torment ones rivals. Other spirits were directly adopted into the tradition are the host of infernal beings mentioned in the old Grimorios and have been conjured with the same fervor as those that have indigenous though syncretistic roots. Are Saints called upon in Magia Negra? Yes there are several saints and in between beings such as La Anima Sola which is an import from Spain that can and have been incorporated into Magia Negra. At this point I’d like to state that whether Saint or Devil I have read certain archeological texts that show proof that the Archangels, Cherubs, and Jehovah have been petitioned for both love domination and curses intended to cause great harm to an enemy these petitions were worked by ancient Coptic Christians.3*
This is why it is hard to say what is morally good or evil, even in contemporary times Saints have been called upon for purposes that may be labeled black magic such as to break up a couple or harm an enemy. A very good example of a magical formula used in Magia Negra which was borrowed from the Black Mass is the use of Lords Prayer in reverse invoked to curse an enemy. The Lords Prayer is a powerful protective and blessing prayer and magically it is believed that uttering the prayer in reverse will invoke the opposite and if directed at an enemy will evoke some form of ruin. There is even possible evidence that this magical technique has been borrowed from Mexico by witches of other cultures such as the Dine (Western Apache).
Anthropologist Keith H. Basso conducted a study of Western Apache Witchcraft that started in 1959 in his essay on witchcraft beliefs among Western Apache he relates to a technique of cursing that requires parts of a ceremonial chant to be uttered in reverse. Then in a footnote he relates and I quote from his text Pg35: The Western Apache practice of casting spells by repeating backwards the line of a ceremonial chant may have been acquired from the Mexican “Black Mass” in which ritual reversals of this sort are common. Before their raiding activities were brought to an end by the United States Cavalry, the Apache took many Mexican captives and as, attested to by the considerable number of Spanish loanwords in Apache, there was ample opportunity for cultural borrowings to occur. This magical formula the Lords Prayer in reverse was made popular by Anna Riva a Hoodoo practitioner also influenced by Brujeria in her booklet (Spellcraft Hexcraft and Witchcraft) she called this prayer The Devils Creed, Anna Riva undoubtedly was influenced by Magia Negra having known so well the prayer’s use in cursing.
The point in relating all of this information is that such prayer formulas although seeming blasphemous due to their origin are used as a magical formula in a traditional magical sense much in the same way as using psalms or passages from the bible which by the way are rich in the language of cursing if you don’t believe me look in the book of Deuteronomy or the book of Jeremiah. Rituals and spells used in the tradition are not so different from the rest of the Brujeria tradition in terms of techniques or metaphors what usually differentiates Magia Negra from Brujeria in general are the kinds of forces that are tapped into to get the job done so to speak. Love, money, success, luck, health protection and justice are all forms of rites and spells practiced in the tradition as much as all other forms of Brujeria have available to the Brujo.
To conclude this essay I wish to express based on the information presented and my personal experiences in this tradition. That it is no less valid than any other forms of Brujeria or sorcery nor is it a degenerate form of Satanism that exists to mock Christianity. Rather it is a highly evolved traditional branch of Mexican Brujeria. Magia Negra is in fact a descendant of the dark forms of shamanism practiced by the ancient Nahua in pre Columbian Mexico colored as much by the classical dark spirits as the philosophy. Shamanism as a whole is not merely healing and holistic practices as viewed in the Western mind. Shamanism was born from hunter and gatherer societies that believed in and lived with war, predation and survival. This holds true of their shamans or brujos that had to give their people the ability to destroy their enemies in war, guarantee the success of a hunt or a bountiful gathering of food and that they have the best wives and that their children be born strong.
Footnotes: 1* JAN G. R. ELFERINK, JOSE ANTONIO FLORES & CHARLES D. KAPLAN
Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl Volume 24, 1994
Universidad Nacional Autonomo de Mexico
Instituto de Investigaciones Historicas :THE USE OF PLANTS AND OTHER NATURAL PRODUCTS FOR MALEVOLENT PRACTICES AMONG THE AZTECS AND THEIR SUCCESSORS 1 section on physicians sorcerers and healers.
2* AZTEC RELIGION The Major Deities of the Mexica Tezcallipoca
AZTEC STUDENT RESEARCH GUIDE
(C)1997-2005 (Thomas H. Frederiksen)
All rights reserved
3* Ancient Christian Magic Coptic Texts of Ritual Power Copyright 1994 by the Coptic Magical Texts Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity all rights reserved; Notes taken from chapters on Love or erotic spells and Chapter on Curses.
Notes: Meztizo* a person of mixed heritage in Mexico used to define a person of Indigenous and European descent.
Tezcatlipoca* The ancient God of the Mexica his name meant Smoking Mirror, trickster god, patron of sorcerers most high deity in the Mexica Religion feared and revered by all classes of Mexica society.
Hechicero* a Sorcerer or spell caster
THE USE OF PLANTS AND OTHER NATURAL PRODUCTS FOR MALEVOLENT PRACTICES AMONG THE AZTECS by: JAN G. R. ELFERINK, JOSE ANTONIO FLORES & CHARLES D. KAPLAN
Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl Volume 24, 1994
Universidad Nacional Autonomo de Mexico
Instituto de Investigaciones Historicas
AZTEC RELIGION: The Major Deities of the Mexica
AZTEC STUDENT RESEARCH GUIDE
(C)1997-2005 (Thomas H. Frederiksen)
All rights reserved
The Aztec Trickster On Display:
The Darkest Side by Terry Stocker
Folk Practices in North Mexico Birth Customs, Folk Medicine, and Spiritualism in the Laguna Zone: by Isabel Kelly field study started 1953 work published 1965 All rights reserved, Published for the Institute of Latin American Studies by the University of Texas Press: Austin
Western Apache Witchcraft: By Keith H. Basso, Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona Number 15, The University of Arizona Press Tucson 1969
Ancient Christian Magic Coptic Texts of Ritual Power: by Marvin Meyer, General Editor, Richard Smith Associate Editor, Neal Kelsey Managing Editor Copyright 1994 by the Coptic Magical Texts Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity all rights reserved
El Libro de San Cipriano El Tesoro del Hehicero: Jonas Sufurino
Magia Negra: Editores Mexicanos
Spellcraft, Hexcraft & Witchcraft: By Anna Riva Copyright 1977 International Imports, Los Angeles California
Credits: photo is adapted from Magia Negra cover art classical Mexican Booklet.