Folkloric Beliefs for Susto and Other Ailments
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
The 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.
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.