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The Susto Set: Latino Hope, Healing, and Rituals

Submitted by on January 4, 2012 – 9:14 am16 Comments

Folkloric Beliefs for Susto and Other Ailments

By Angela Fregoso

Let me curar you of “Susto.”

Hay mi’ja tiendes “Susto!”

Is Susto some kind of a disease? No, this is a comment you often heard from your grandmother or a great aunt if you grew up in a Latino family, and which I especially heard all the time growing up in the Botanica my grandmother opened more than 60 years ago.

So, for Susto — which is described by a soul or spirit rocked by a shocking event — then came the egg, pierda de alumbre, calming tea, the candles and incense to cleanse you of the shock and anxiety that you had just experienced.

These days, you can actually purchase a Susto Set with complete ritual instructions to reverse anxiety symptoms caused by shock — any kind of shock. (Susto, by the way, also is known as “espanto.”)

The Susto Set includes a Guardian Angel candle, dressing oil, an ojo de venado, (mint marigold) also as known as Yerbaniz tea, and complete ritual instructions — if you don’t have an abuela or Tia to do it for you.

The Ritual to Reverse el Susto

susto setThe first step of the ritual is to light the Guardian Angel, place three drops of dressing oil inside the candle followed by a meditation session of your petition. The Guardian Angel is one of the patron Angels assigned to protect and guide a particular person and can be traced to the 5th century.

After you light your candle and spend time meditating on your petition, the next step is to burn the Pierda de Alumbre (Alum Crystal) in a pan. While the rock melts an image will form and will reveal the event that caused the “Susto.”

Now you can start focusing on a solution. The Susto Set also instructs you to carry the ojo de venado for protection from negative energy.

Another common belief in the Latino culture is that some individuals’ negative energy is so strong that their penetrating eyes can cast bad luck and give you mal de ojo or, in English, Evil Eye Disease.

If you feel your dilemma needs an extra strength approach, you can go to a Spiritual Reader, a Healer or Curandero who will pray over you and cure your symptoms with an egg. It is spirit cleansing.

Finally, the Susto ritual requires you drink Yerbaniz tea for nine days before you go to bed.

The Healing Rituals of Latino Culture

The Susto Set Ritual is one of many rituals that have been passed down by word of mouth in the Latino culture. But, there also are candle rituals for love, luck, money and protection. Whatever you need

And then there also is the drinking of teas for ailments. Latinos have been drinking teas as a form of traditional medicine for centuries.

A very popular herb at the moment is the Nopal tea. This tea is extracted from the cactus plant and is sold in many forms and also mixed in with other herbs and teas like green tea, Milk Thistle and Pau D’Arco. It supports healthy sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure already in normal range and supports a healthy bone structure.

There’s also Chaya tea, a common tea traditionally used in Mexico. This tea is packed with vitamins and minerals and thought to be especially good for diabetes

Now, the use of traditional folk medicine has become a billion dollar industry. There are hundreds of herbs commonly used as preventive medicine But, what tea formula was brewed in your kitchen growing?

Practicing Rituals Before it Was Trendy

I truly believe Latinos are way ahead of their time. Long before the popular Yoga and meditation classes, Latinos were performing rituals to calm their anxieties and to find a sense of purpose.

Long before the modern expansion of the all natural approach use as preventative medicine, Latinos were commonly using herbs as a form of healing.

Long before self help coaching seminars, we were going to Curaderos for words of wisdom and long before the feminist movement, we were turning to the strong women in our lives for guidance and direction.

Embrace your herbal remedies, continue your rituals, listen to wise man or woman in the neighborhood and honor the strong women in your life.

As yes, I still carry an “ ojo de venado” in my purse.

Y Tu?

What traditional folkloric beliefs did you grow up with?

Were you ever despojada? Did you ever get treated for Susto, or know someone who did?

What rituals and remedies do you still practice?

Angela Fregoso’s grandmother opened her first Botanica more than 60 years ago and eventually operated more than 13 grocery stores. Angela, a licensed attorney and business consultant in the Houston area, is the national marketing director for the family business, called Tex-Mex Curios, which operates in Corpus Christi and online. 



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  • Despojos with water, Violetas and flower petals were a regular occurrence in my house. I grew up around botanicas and kind of miss their magic and the smell of them. We’d stop in every few weeks but I can’t remember for what, candles a lot of the time but trinkets I can’t recall these days. Loved this piece!

  • My parents didn’t go for this type of thing (very a typical Cubans) but boy did the rest of the family follow this! Te de manzanilla, belas para todo, asking el cura to bless our houses and businesses- ’cause really, the Catholic religion does incorporate lots of these things too, all this was part of my history. Should say IS part of my history- I still drink the teas, light the candles and use incense to carry out my petitions and any bad vibes.

    I do believe. Besides- like the old Cuban saying “Si bien no te hace, mal tampoco.”

  • I’ve seen less and less botanicas in New York City. What about in your town?
    Mercedes @BeChicMag´s last [fabulousness] ..#BeChicTuesday Recap: New Year’s Eve Edition

  • I remember listening a lot about el susto when I was a small child. thanks God I never got it haha , but I truly believe that nature has all that we need to heal ourselves and that our grandmothers did know a lot more about taking care of others without using medications. Going back to the past, sometimes I feel than being a worker mother is not ideal, because you don’t have all the time you need to take care of your children’s problems in more natural ways, but I think this is how life evolves and now is easier to run to the doctor, specially in my case that I don’t have family around and I am not lucky to have mi mama o mi abuelita :(:)

  • Alexandra says:

    The memories you bring back, Iv’e said it before.

    Yes, “se me dio susto!”

  • I love this post. In Peru, the cure for susto or Evil Eye is with eggs. Or cuy (guinea pig). They say that some people can look at you with such strength and bad vibes that makes you sick. Agua de azahar to soothe the nerves, or camomile.
    My Nicaraguan grandmother used to reccomend camomile tea with cinnamon and… RUM!!! lol.

  • En Colombia tenemos múltiples “dichos”. Sobre todo personas de edad que salen a la calle con la cara totalmente cubierta en medio de su bufanda, que lo único que se ve son los ojos, para evitar el “chiflón” (vientecido, brisa fría al salir a la calle).

  • In Mexico, the curanderas wave an egg, a big rock salt and sprinkle holly water with big leafy branches. The egg is then cracked open and i’s either black or bloody. Very disturbing. I’ve seen it done.

  • Suneiry says:

    I’ve actually never heard of Susto but I grew up hearing about the dreaded mal de ojo. I dont recall any traditions to rid of the mal de ojo, aside from saying Dios lo Bendiga whenever complimenting a baby lol.

  • [...] Tiki Tiki blog wants to know: What’s your cure for “el susto”? How about “mal de [...]

  • Eva Smith says:

    Our traditions growing up was to sprinkle Holy Water on everything. I once saw someone praying for someone and touching their forehead and pushing them to the ground. That was disturbing.

  • vianney says:

    I grew up hearing about susto y mal de ojo. I have also heard that if your child has el ojo you rub them down with the father’s shirt to rid them of the evil. So glad you featured Angela I live very close to Corpus Christi and have been many times to Tex-Mex Curios, they were the first little shop to carry cascarones for Easter.
    vianney´s last [fabulousness] ..Giveaway!!! Giveaway!!!

  • Lisa Renata says:

    It is so true that way before all these “naturalistic” ways of healing were introduced in the US, people from around Latinoamerica where already healing naturally.

  • We have El Susto here in Mexico, too! Apparently getting scared, spooked or frightened can be very bad for you, so whenever it happens to you, someone will offer un pan or un dulce “para el susto”! :P

  • Li says:

    I’ve never heard of susto, but I should try that! LOL

    Boy do we have home remedies with teas, prayers and candles. I hope I don’t sound insulting but since my grandmother is not reading this I guess its ok… she is Catholic but will fly off the handle if I remind her this is all part of Santeria (which uses Catholicism, etc.).

    I think it is so engrained in our Culture that the lines get blurred. I’m more of a spiritual person, though I too am Catholic. But you better believe that I turned to my grandparents for help when it came to dream interpretation, lighting the candles, using special alcolado for muscle pain (Sebo Flande, hierba buena, agua florida, rubbing alcohol…etc), blessing the house and burning sage to rid of bad energies, and growing herbs for all kinds of teas.

    As for mal de ojo there is the Dios Te Bendiga and the children getting bracelets with little fists or the shape of an eye. I love these aspects of our culture – we find ways to fix whatever is going on… we turn to each other for reassurance and guidance.

    THanks for sharing this beautiful post!

  • We always heard about brujería and how some women whose men were straying put burundanga in their drinks to lure them back. It was important to have curanderas on call, in case there was a brujería ER. Totally fascinated as a young girl and found it kind of funny.

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