Abstract

In the early morning of Halloween in 1996, after nearly a year working intensely as an apprentice with Haydée, a bruja espiritista (Spiritist witch healer), it took me by surprise to see her wearing a golden gown and a black pointed hat as she prepared for the daily consultations at her home altar. What I saw at that time was a "real" professional Puerto Rican bruja “dressed up” as a pop-culture black-bonneted stereotypical Anglo "witch." At the center of this ethnographic essay are the exploration of the display and ritual effectiveness of the symbolic “shapeshifting” of a Puerto Rican bruja into a Halloween flying-witch, and the significance of such an iconic form of mimesis in summoning additional spiritual cosmic powers during healing and cleansing rituals. Historically, the ritual innovation of vernacular religions such as brujería illustrates the complex ways in which various seemingly unrelated and peculiar components – in this this case, colonial and postcolonial stereotypical representations of witches, home-made and mass produced ritual objects, and commodified and spiritual perceptions of the work witch healers perform – are all significantly integrated in ritual.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5111
Print ISSN
1556-8547
Pages
pp. 208-225
Launched on MUSE
2016-12-28
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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