Witches of Galicia
In our previous blog post I shared with you the story of “La Santa Compaña” and how it was witnessed by my mother’s uncle Daniel.
Revisiting this old tale with her, we started talking about the story I’d like to share with you today. I’m glad we did, because I was under the impression that the following tale featured uncle Daniel, but my mother corrected my misunderstanding: it was uncle Manuel, one of the other brothers of her mother. My family had an encounter with one of the witches of Galicia…
Before I get to the story of uncle Manuel, let me first tell you something about witches and why they are such an important concept in Galicia and why, in general, magic is so interlaced with our culture.
Galicia is pure magic. The first time I walked through the ancient forests, walking part of the Camino de Santiago, is the moment I felt closest to believing in magic. I finally discovered where the elves were living, I thought to myself! The ancient pagan heritage still influences every corner of this magical land.
Some people believe that the Camino to Santiago was actually there long before Christianity changed it to what it is now: a route you follow to eventually get to the cathedral where you can visit the remains of a saint.
Some people believe that the route, following the way of the stars, was already there in times where people believed in multiple gods, usually related to nature and its phenomena. Monuments were created by those cultures in specific locations. Locations that had a certain energy or cosmic alignment. A route of lay lines and water veins for souls to follow until the end of the world; Finisterre.
Christianity may have built new monuments to cover the pagan ones, but the locations and their energy if you believe in that, are still the same. Maybe this is the reason why walking the Camino is a totally different experience than walking any other hiking trail? Galicia has been considered ‘magical’ all throughout history and maybe that’s the reason why walking the Camino in Galicia is totally different feeling from roaming other parts of the route?
Whatever you believe, it is a fact that the Celtic roots left a permanent magical veal around Galicia and you can see and feel it while roaming the Galician highlands. While you’re in Galicia, you should not miss any of these 8 top reasons to experience my country: Spain’s Northern Gem: Why You Should Visit Galicia.
The word for ‘witch’ in Spanish is ‘Bruja’. In Galicia they refer to it as ‘Meiga’. There’s an old Galician saying: “Eu non creo nas meigas, mais habelas, hainas” which translates to: “I don’t believe in witches, but they do exist”.
The Witch and my great-uncle Manuel
My grandmother Maria lived with her family in a tiny village called Banga, in Galicia. Like a lot of women in those days she crafted all clothes for her family by hand. She was lucky enough to have a sewing machine though.
At a certain point in time, the machine stopped working. She left the house to get it fixed but, once arrived at the mechanic’s place, the machine miraculously seemed to be working just perfectly. My grandma returned home, desperate to get her sewing chores finished, but once again, the sewing machine was completely dead. She went back and forth a couple of times but each time the same thing happened: broken at home, nothing wrong at the mechanic’s place, and back to completely unresponsive at home.
The Great Beating
She commented this strange situation to her brother Manuel. He said: “It’s that witch from further down the street I’m telling you”. “This is all too typical to be a mechanical problem, but don’t worry, I’ll fix this for you: she will be sorry she ever tried to cast you the evil eye”. Off he went into the woods.
Within a couple of minutes he returned, his hands grasping what seemed to be all sorts of dry herbs. He spread the herbs on the ground, grabbed a big wooden stick and started beating the shit out of the pile of herbs. He kept hitting and bashing them as if his life depended from it. He must have looked completely insane.
When he was done beating, the pile of herbs was nothing more than a handful of dust.
He returned home and told his sister to get the sewing machine and try it out. That’s exactly what my grandmother did and you can guess what happened: the machine worked like a charm!
The epilogue to this story features my mom as a witness. The day after the herb beating, she walked by the house of the alleged witch and found her two daughters wandering around in the garden. She noticed their mom was not sitting on the stairs of the house like she used to in the afternoons. Her toad (and I’m not making this up), that always used to follow her around was also nowhere to be seen.
“Where is your mother”? my mom asked. “She is not feeling well and is staying in bed today; it’s horrible, she has all these dark marks all over her body” her daughters replied in agony.
As of that day, my mother was never allowed to go home taking the usual path, since that path passed by the witch’s house.
I don’t believe in witches, but they do exist, in Galicia at least…
How to protect yourself from ‘O Mal de Ollo’ (The Evil Eye)
If you are walking the Camino in Galicia, you might want to be prepared on how to protect yourself from any witch wanting to cast the evil eye on you.
The last post in this Halloween Series will do just that. Stay tuned on Samhain night for our Halloween Final where I will be teaching you the most effective Galician incantation and the brewing recipe for the famous “A Queimada”!
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