The changing of the seasons heralds a time for cleansing and decluttering in our household.

As spring was ending, and the heat of summer started rolling in, my mother did not waste a single minute, scrubbing every nook and cranny. As my mom began sorting her outdoor storage closet, she came across a strange object: a handmade sock doll. Mom followed her first instinct, and threw the doll in the trash.

The next evening, I visited my mother and during our chat, she interrupted me to ask, “Did you leave a handmade doll here?” My eyes instantly widened because I have always found dolls to be creepy (thank you, Goosebumps!), and this “handmade” doll found in our storage was no exception.  Super suspicious! I did not allow my mother another word before asking her where the doll was. Without hesitation, I ran outside, emptied our trash can, and discovered the stuffed crew sock that had stubs tied off to make what looked like arms and legs. This sinister object had two mismatched buttons sewn where eyes should be, and a brown hair-like rope tied around its neck. I instantly thought, “this is a pop-voodoo doll, or some intense form of Brujeria (witchcraft).” My mother came outside and, collecting the candles she found with the doll, proceeded to describe what she discovered in her storage closet: Behind a few boxes on a shelf, my mom found three candles that had been melted down over time, in a triangle formation, with this doll in the middle of the triangle. I instantly dropped the doll, realizing I had been touching potentially bad juju with my bare skin.

Please understand that my very traditional Mexican upbringing included experiences with people who practice energy cleansing and folk medicine.

These folk healers, who incorporate massage treatments, are known as sobadores, and along with curanderos (other folk healers who use folk remedies), address emotional, spiritual and social aspects of illness. After realizing that this might be a case of Brujeria, I called my grandmother. She put me in contact with a sobador who directed us to put the doll in a jar of salt-water, place it in the bag in which it was found, and bury it in an unfrequented area. As we buried the jar, we were to mix salt with the dirt, as salt is known as a purifier that will prevent the release of the doll’s bad energy. To cleanse ourselves, we were to trace an egg all over our bodies while saying: “I have no intentions of harming, I have intentions of healing.” After we were done with the egg, we were instructed to drive to a location we don’t typically visit, and drop the egg in the middle of a crossroad. This is supposed to symbolize confusion and misdirection for negative energy, preventing it from following us home. I do not want to portray us as a family who believes in witchcraft, bad juju, and superstitions, however, this is not our first run-in with witchcraft-related occurrences. 

Though not always the case, individuals who practice Brujeria (Latin American witchcraft) tend to do so with intentions to harm or bring bad luck to others.

Voudon, or “voodoo,” is an African-originated belief system of various stories, songs, practices, spirits and rituals. This belief system has changed over time and can vary slightly in traditional African cultures due to the effects of colonization and enslavement of Africans. In pop-culture, voodoo is often portrayed as a sinister religion with the classic example of dolls that are “versions” of another human. Doing harm to the doll will cause harm to the person it portrays. It is important to make this distinction as Voudon does not differ from mainstream religions, but its pop-culture portrayal may bring negative connotation – hence why I named the object we found a “pop-voodoo doll.”

Frankly, my parents are not very superstitious but when it comes to Brujeria, they know it’s foolish to discount or dismiss it.  We still don’t know who made the doll and, overall, the experience shook up our family, but we can now laugh at this incident, and remind ourselves of the strength of our faith. Oh, and to keep our gates locked at all times.