I was standing in my mother’s bathtub, naked and cold, holding two gallons of green-like water that she claimed would cleanse me of any negative energy and mal de ojo. The directions were pretty clear: take a shower, pour the baño over my head, and pray to San Miguel saying aloud my deepest desires for that year. I tried my best to do this with as much genuine effort as possible because prior to this very moment I had denied every home remedy and spiritual cleanse my brujo parents, especially my mother, ever recommended to me. This time I would be open because my life felt like it hit rock bottom and I was willing to do anything to get back up. I had just left a toxic 10-year relationship, was laid off and had to move in with my mother -- I thought a little spiritual baño couldn’t hurt at this point. I was ready and willing.
I took two deep breaths and began to pour the baño over my head. I began to say aloud everything I ever wanted, not just for that year, but in life. I wanted to get over my ex. I wanted to find a job that I loved. I wanted to finally move into my own place. I wanted to travel the world more than ever before. I wanted to find love again and start a family of my own one day. I was shocked at what I said because I didn’t realize I wanted any of it. I think I was afraid to admit to myself that I wanted these things because what if they didn’t happen?
Tears and the baño ran down my face as I began. The cold baño smelled like Agua de Florida, a cologne my father used to cure his headaches, mixed with herbs and pink flower petals. According to my mother, the bruja she went to prescribed this baño just for me, as they should be. Apparently, I was super cargada (aka weighed down by negative energy) meaning I was attracting mal de ojo like it was no one’s business and couldn’t shake it off. The bruja and my mom said I was a sponge for good and bad energy. And considering the last few months of that year, it was hard to argue with them.
After I finished praying to San Miguel, I just stood there, still cold, waiting for the baño to air dry because I wasn’t allowed to dry off with a towel. So I just stared aimlessly at the two empty gallons wondering if it worked. Asking myself if I had said everything I wanted to say. Because this would be it, I said to myself, after this baño I would be done with spiritual cleanses, talk of mal de ojo, feeling completely and utterly vulnerable standing naked covered in a green-like liquid in a bathtub. Little did I know at the time, that would be only the beginning of my spiritual journey.
I went straight to bed that evening feeling pretty bewildered and yet renewed and laid there thinking about the power of baños, and, more importantly, the power of stating intentions aloud. This felt like the Latino version of every spiritual book that crossed every book club’s path.
I immediately made an appointment with my therapist and talked to her about the baño. I wanted a psychologist’s point of view on intentions and saying things aloud. It seemed every culture had their form of “baños”. But talking about this with my Irish American therapist felt awkward (like how could she possibly understand) so then I started talking to my homegirls asking if they had done baños as well. I felt like I was asking everyone the same question: have you done a baño, did it work and do you still do them?
That was when the universe seemed to align with my mission to talk about brujeria out in the open and I found getting into this with my childhood friend Nathalie over drinks one night. And, we couldn’t stop talking about it. She told me about her bruja mother. I talked about my Peruvian parents forever trying to get me to try embrace my bruja side. That was when we got this wild idea to launch a podcast called Morado Lens, morado as in purple to represent spirituality, creativity and the feminine energy, to talk about embracing our inner bruja. I didn’t tell my parents at first. I wasn’t sure how they would feel about me talking about something so culturally private out in the open for the world to hear. But soon they found out and they loved it. We even had my mom on the show and that was when she revealed that she reads cigars, which I didn’t know until the day we recorded. We felt this need to turn such a taboo subject, like embracing brujeria, into a positive one. Because who didn’t want to be more spiritually in tune with their family and ancestors? Who wouldn’t want to have a beautiful ritual to honor their deepest desires? Who didn’t want to finally see the power of their intuition, induce self-healing and explore and own their spiritual side?
I struggled to embrace my inner bruja for many reasons. I thought it would be too late for me to embrace it and I didn’t want to come off as a phony. My father explained to me that I just wasn’t ready until now and my mother said it was always there waiting for me. I also wanted a direct route to its history and origins which wasn’t always so available, especially considering the colonization of my ancestors. I was a trained journalist looking for hard-facts. I didn’t realize I could be both a bruja and journalist. One didn’t have to undermine the other. Time, talking to other brujas, and the podcast, helped me embrace my spirituality, ancestors, and culture.
And, if you’re wondering, that first baño did work. I got a new job I absolutely loved, finally got over my ex, and am in a new healthy relationship. It’s been many baños later since then and now I’m getting ready to call my mother’s long-time bruja for a tarot reading and get a personally prescribed new year baño, but this time in the comfort of the bathtub in my very own apartment.