Tag Archives: protection

Superstitions – Witchcraft, Omens And More

Witchcraft, Misterosos, Possession, Cures And Other Miscellaneous Superstitions, Beliefs and Omens

Many Dominicans do believe in witchcraft and other mysterious spiritual occurrences. Many of the beliefs come from religious and spiritual backgrounds and also from their African and Spanish heritage. This mix of a little bit of everything combines to make the Dominican culture so unique, interesting and wonderful.

Witchcraft, Misterioso, Possession and Cures | Miscellaneous Superstitions, Beliefs and Omens

Sign on the house reads in part translated "San Miguel grants good luck to all"
Sign on the house reads in part translated “San Miguel grants good luck to all”

Witchcraft, Misterosos, Possession and Cures

*Witchcraft is said to cause many illnesses here in Dominican Republic, especially if an illness or disease comes on swiftly or lasts a long time.

*Many illnesses are said to occur when a person hires a brujo/ sorcerer (male witch) or a bruja/ sorceress (female witch) to call upon the spirit of a diseased person to gain vengeance or because they are envious of someone. The end result is the person that used this means of getting even can become sick themselves. This because they became possessed themselves unknowingly. Because of this possession, they become physically or mentally sick.

*This spirit that causes sickness to the unsuspecting human is called the Bacá. This spirit is brought into existence to protect the owner of some property or to make another sick. Any person that the owner of this spirit comes in contact with will become sick or crazy.

Sign on a Brujaria "Artículos religiosos y para la suerte" (religious articles and for luck)
Sign on a Brujaria “Artículos religiosos y para la suerte”
(religious articles and for luck)

*Diseases can be caused by not giving enough attention to the misterios / spirits and making them angry. If you make fun of them, don’t take them seriously, do not believe in them or do not give them the sacrifices they feel are their due. If you cause the wrath of a misterioso they could possess the offending human and cause illness, both physical and mental. If there is no visible cause for these illnesses it is then advisable to get in touch with a brujo so they can tell you how to deal with this problem or to aide in getting rid of this trouble causing misterioso. Also, it is recommended, if you have an angry misterioso possessing you to go on a pilgrimage. Many times this pilgrimage will include, among other things, repenting of the sins and sleeping on the floor in front of an altar.

*Sometimes the healer or Brujo will get possessed by this misterioso himself so he can be spoken through thus knowing by feeling and seeing the illness himself. In this way he can best know how to deal with and cure the problem. These possessions can be complete body and mind possessions where the misterioso enters the Brujo or Bruja. Some just prefer to use Vista Clara/Clairvoyant where they do not have to be possessed, only inspired, by going into a trance. Some say God inspires them others say the misterioso does. After these visions, they can see how best to cure a person or disease. Sometimes by only asking the possessor to go away rids the person, others times it is necessary to prescribe a traditional folk remedy of herbs and natural ingredients or by some specific action. They can use card reading, reading of coffee grounds or read water in a glass with a candle behind.

*There are the ceremonies for expelling evil spirits that have taken possession of someone. Witches and exorcists expel them with rituals and procedures in which they employ various tools, techniques and materials such as trying to persuade them to leave; drawing crosses with garlic on the hands, forehead and back of the possessed person; striking the victim with whips of brooms made of the leaves and branches of certain plants and bushes (e.g. guandule, anamú). The churches also have ceremonies for expelling evil spirits that are led by the minister or an important member qualified to do this ceremony.

*Many times, after a person who has experienced and cleansed themselves of this possession, have themselves become spiritual healers. After a person has overcome a disease or illness caused by these misteriosos, it seems they have, in many cases, gained the special powers to aid others in how to overcome the misteriosos. It is said that the only way a misterioso would permit them to be healed is for them to become Curanderos/ Healers themselves. The Curanderos are usually Brujos, both at the same time. They are considered to be quite powerful.

*Some cures are just the traditional Ensalmar / praying for health. Some are instructed to write their wish on a piece of paper then place it inside or under a magical object, maybe a statue, a candle, or a special stone or trinket. Some cures can include an exorcism, especially when a bad spirit called an Envío possesses the person. The bad spirit can be sent into some living animal or creature.

Many different saints displayed.
Many different saints displayed.

*There is a bottle that can be used as a trap to put the evil spirit in. There is a trap inside the bottle in which the person spits several times and trap’s the evil spirit.

*A graveyard caretaker or Barón del Cementerio/ Baron of the cemetery can send the evil spirit away. A bath, in a tub, spring or river, can be used with herbs or medicines in the water that one must wash in on the designated days and hours. This bath can wash away evil and also bring good luck as well, all depending on the ingredients and procedures used for this cleansing. There are many different amulets, among them animal teeth. Sometimes an item is burned and the ashes are taken internally or rubbed on the body.

Brujaria or Santeria selling all types of cures and protections.
Brujaria or Santeria selling all types of cures and protections.

*Many of these healers have learned their trade passed down from their ancestors. Their knowledge of herbs and the mental states of the people make many of their cures really work. The herbal remedies are many of which modern medicines have been derived. I am not sure about some of these healing medicines but many times a sickness can be just in the head and maybe a little superstition to make the sickness go away is all that is needed. If you believe it is gone, it is gone. Also, the herbal healing methods have been used since the beginning of time and many really do work. Some seem to come from Indian traditions and African traditions as well. Many are believed the world over only in slightly varied forms.

*Many Dominicans do believe in witches. They go to a Bruja when they really want to win the lottery or when they feel wronged by someone. A wife who knows her husband is cheating will go to the bruja to get a spell to make her husband impotent. Witches are also called to make medical remedies for the sick. They know how to use herbs and all the natural remedies. Brujas will use herbs, animals, chanting, singing, dancing, small idols, card reading and smoke in their consults among other things.

A very frightening grave in El Batey. Something to stay away from.
A very frightening grave in El Batey. Something to stay away from.

*The places that sell these remedies, candles and other items are called Brujarias. These stores and shops can be found in many places throughout the country. They have all sorts of candles and items from luck charms to an item that can be used to inflict curses.

*A baka is an evil spirit sent to occupy the body of an animal. Be it a goat, cow, dog, cat or chicken this baka is used to protect and to bring harm to anyone trying to hurt its owner. If you hear a knocking at the door late at night do not open it as it could be a baka looking for its next victim.

*A piece of red cloth tied to an item, even tied onto a human wrist or ankle, is said to protect from the witch and her evil eye. The red draws the attention of the bad being thus sparing whatever it is tied to.

*I’ve heard if someone has placed an evil voodoo spell on you the only way for you to break that spell is to throw a stone and hit the witch right on the forehead. It must bleed. If it doesn’t bleed, then the spell won’t go away.

More information about brujas in the myths and legends section

Some Personal Experiences

*Once I saw an owl flying by. I was talking to a friend in the park about it. He told me that it was a bruja and to be very careful.

*Another time I was joking with a man that I was a witch and to be careful not to make me angry. Every time I saw him in the next year or so he would run up to me and greet me like I was his old friend. Once I acted a little angry when he did not greet me right away. He was apologizing with such fervor, acting like he was afraid. After I heard him telling his friends that I was a very powerful bruja. I then knew that he really did think I had the power. I had to explain to him that I was just joking, I was not a witch. Now, when I see him, he waves but does not make the big fuss over me like he used to.

Espiritista - Bruja and her tools of the trade.
Espiritista – Bruja and her tools of the trade.

Miscellaneous Superstitions, Beliefs and Omens

*If a fighting rooster sees himself early in the morning when his head is still under his wing, he should not fight that day because he will lose.

*Don’t cross your eyes while a rooster is crowing.

*If one has an itch in the right hand they will receive money, but if it is in the left hand they will lose money.

*Tuesday the 13th is the equivalent to Friday the 13th in the USA. No matter how you look at it, it is bad luck. There is a saying for this day “Ni te cases ni te embarques ni de tu familia te apartes”/ Do not get married, do not sail and do not be away from your family. It sounds better in Spanish and it rhymes.

*If you lose something burn a velon / candle in offering to San Antonio and you will find what you lost.

*Never work with wet cement after 4 PM or you will get the infamous “gripe”/ flu.

*There are ciguapas who live in caves, often near a river, who have backward feet. When pursued, their tracks lead the hunters to where they have been. (more on Ciguapas)

*There are the speedy zanganos, who are able to travel amazing distances in a very short time.

*There are the resguardos / amulets that are worn for protection against enemies that are purchased from suppliers. The most effective, they say (and you know who THEY are), is a bag with a small cross attached that contains a special prayer. Others include the tooth of a cow, a fragment of burro bone, and a black coral cross.

*Beware of Coats or also known as Bilín. He can become a burro or other animals as he desires. People here have a lot of respect for Bilín.”

*During the 30 years that Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic, many countrymen were arrested for violating various laws. For example, if you weren’t farming at least 10 tareas (about 1.5 acres), the soldiers marched you off to jail. Some of these men were able to avoid arrest by making themselves invisible whenever soldiers were in the area; others turned themselves into stumps or rocks, or at least that is what you saw when you looked at them. A few men could escape from the soldiers by changing into eels and disappearing under the water when they crossed a river or stream on the way to jail.

*You are never to work or do anything of great effort on Corpus Christi Day. That is a “cosa mala”/ “bad thing” (which, for Dominicans, is one of those things that nobody really knows why is offensive to God, just that it is offensive).

Corpus Christi day march.
Corpus Christi day march.

*Having sex on a Good Friday (Easter Friday) is a bad thing. People who do, supposedly, will be stuck the rest of the day in whatever position they were in.

*You must always say God willing (“Si Dios quiere”, “si díos lo permite”, “con díos delante”), if you are talking about seeing someone tomorrow or if you are going into town (A man told his family that he was going to town and left out the important phrase. He walked, and walked and walked but he never ever made it to town!!)

*Never pick up coins from the ground. They might have evil spells, and if you pick them up, that spell will fall on you.

*If someone is calling your name don’t turn around on the first call. You must wait for the third call because it might be a zombie calling you to steal your soul.

*If the first transaction of the day for a salesman is on credit the salesman will have problems with the clients for the entire day.

*To mention Christopher Columbus’s name is very unlucky. Instead of using his name, Dominicans call him “The Admiral.”

Frey Bartolomé de Las Casas

Frey Father Bartolomé de Las Casas

Father – Frey Bartolomé de Las Casas was so many things to so many people. He was part of the original colonization of Santo Domingo. He fought for human rights in defense of the Indigenous peoples of Hispaniola.

Painting of Frey Bartolomé de Las Casas
Painting of Frey Bartolomé de Las Casas

Books By Las Casas

Frey Bartolomé de Las Casas was a Spanish colonist, a priest, a friar, the founder of a Utopian community and first Bishop of Chiapas. He was a scholar, historian and 16th century human rights advocate. Las Casas has been called the Father of anti-imperialism and anti-racism. Considered by some to be a saint and by others to be a fanatic and close to insanity.

Las Casas to this day is still very much an icon. He is the symbol of justice and the fight for human rights in Latin America. He led the way for many peoples fight for freedom and human rights. So, no matter what people thought of this Dominican monk, he made a great influence in the life and culture of the world.

It is interesting to note his birth and death years. 1484*-1566*. There are many different dates for the time of Las Casas birth and death. Originally it was said he was born 1474 but after some scholars did some studying they discovered he was really born much later in 1484. So now history has change and his official birth date is November 16, 1484. Las Casas died, some reports say on July 17th and others say the 18th, 1566 when he was either 81 or 82 years of age.

The statue honoring Las Casas located in the Plaza Bartolomé de Las Casas in the Ciudad Colonial
The statue honoring Las Casas located in the Plaza Bartolomé de Las Casas in the Ciudad Colonial

Las Casas was born in Spain and studied in the Cathedral school of Sevillana. He came to Hispaniola with the expedition of Nicholas de Ovando in 1502. He participated in some campaigns of conquest on the island and left for Rome in 1507. When he returned was granted an allotment of Indians by Diego Columbus.

Padre las Casas was the first to hold mass for the Indians in the Americas. A sermon of Fray Pedro of Cordova in favor of the Indians helped to unite the fight in the defense of the exploded Taino Indians. He intervened with the head of the Dominican priests to look for the solution to the problem of the indigenous peoples. As of that moment, the young priest became the lawyer of the mistreated Native race. With that aim he traveled to Spain, where he met with King Fernando the Catholic, at the end of 1515. He gained nothing with that interview.

After the Death of King Fernando, Cardinal Cisneros replaced him in the Court. Finally, with Cardinal Cisneros at the head, Bartolomé was able to form a group, administered by Spaniards and helped by monks, to aid the indigenous peoples of the island. Still, the people in charge did not want to give freedom to the Indians.

Las Casas returned to Spain, where meeting with the new Monarch Carlos V, proposed new plans to improve the life of the Indians. One of the proposals of the Father the Houses was the one to replace the indigenous population with black Africans. This proposal was accepted but it did not improve the situation of the Indian. The Indians of Hispaniola disappeared quickly, in spite of the effort of Las Casas to protect them.

When there were very few indigenous Indians left on the island Las Casas went to the newly conquered territories and continued with his defense of the natives. He was against the violent conquest of the territories and always protested against the great slaughtering carried on by the conquerors.

It is also interesting to note that Las Casas, while fighting for the rights of the Natives did not fight for the rights of the African Slaves. He did not want Indian slavery but he still used African slaves. Bartolomé de las Casas eventually came to the realization that all forms of slavery were wrong and inhumane. In The History of the Indies published in 1527 Las Casas is quoted saying “I soon repented and judged myself guilty of ignorance. I came to realize that black slavery was as unjust as Indian slavery…
and I was not sure that my ignorance and good faith would secure me in the eyes of God.”

Las Casas fought in several locations of South and Central America trying to prevent the extermination of the Indians. While in Peru he preached against the violence of Pizarro in the conquest of the Incan Empire. For this reason he was transferred and imprisoned in Santo Domingo in 1533.

Bartolomé continued his fight in 1535 when he was released from prison and continued on to Central America. In Guatemala he made an attempt of pacific conquest.

An interesting quote by Las Casas:
“The reason why the Christians have killed and destroyed such an infinite number of souls is that they have been moved by their wish for gold and their desire to enrich themselves in a very short time”

Las Casas Books

Las Casas fought for the rights of the Indians until his death in July 1566. He wrote several important works about the conquest and Spanish colonization in Las Americas. The books “Apologética” and the “Historia de Las Indias” (History of the Indians”) are the most recognized. In his will he signed over all his writings to the College of San Gregorio.

Some writings of Las Casas
*Apologetic History of the Indies
*History of the Indies
*Spanish Cruelties
*A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies
*Comprobatory Treatise on the Imperial Sovereignty and Universal Jurisdiction which the Kings of Castile Have over these Indies

A list of books by and about Frey Bartolome de las Casas on Amazon

Plaza Bartolomé de Las Casas in the Ciudad Colonial
Plaza Bartolomé de Las Casas in the Ciudad Colonial

For much more on Las Casas please go to http://www.lascasas.org

Plaza Frey Bartolomé de Las Casas

There is a small and beautiful plaza in the Colonial Zone honoring Las Casas. It is located on Calle Padre Billini between Hostos and Arz. Meriño.

Fuerte San Gil

Fuerte de San Gil/ Fort of San Gil

The Fuerte San Gil, one time named Fuerte del Matadero / Slaughterhouse Fort, is a 3-sided polygon fort. It was built between 1503 and 1510. This important fort was the first part of the defense of the walled city of Santo Domingo now called Zona Colonial or Ciudad Colonial.

Fort San Gil as the sun rises.
Fort San Gil as the sun rises.

This fortification was a very important bastion to protect the city from Pirate and marauder attack. The watchtower was located on the far corner of the fort. It gave a perfect view of any ship coming from the Caribbean Sea trying to enter the ports of the city. The tower also gave a great view of the sand patch below. This beach is riddled with caves that are excellent places for hiding.

Fuerte San Gil and the beach and caves below
Fuerte San Gil and the beach and caves below

In 1887 the original fort collapsed

due to rough seas. The fort was recently renovated. The renovation closely replicates the original. The area has been cleaned up and again is a nice place to visit.

The circular inner wall of Fuerte San Gil
The circular inner wall of Fuerte San Gil

The fort was ignored for many years and was in disrepair. The beach below was piled high with garbage and was home to stray dogs and homeless people who made the coral caves below their home.

Fuerte San Gil the wall that faces the sea.
Fuerte San Gil the wall that faces the sea.

There is a grassy area beside the Fort San Gil. It is a nice place to sit and watch the sea.

There used to be a restaurant located inside the fort. The barbecue pit can still be seen in the center of the old fort.

Fort San Gil in front of the Malecon
Fort San Gil in front of the Malecon

Location:

The Southwest most part of Zona Colonial where the Zone meats up with Ciudad Nueva. The fort is on the Malecón (Avenida George Washington) at the intersection of Palo Hincado. The bright white Obelisco Hembra is in the front of the fort. Be careful when crossing the Malecon. Pedestrians DO NOT have the right or way.