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Gringa Bruja
"This is where the magic happens"

What is the proper way to arrange your personal altar? What does it mean when your candles crack or break during spell work?  The classes are free, but you are welcome to make a donation if it has value to you:  www.gringabruja.com/donations.

Shannon B, Witch

Hello everyone, I am Shannon, as we can see from the name of the blog and I am sure everyone has got that by now. Also, I should maybe extend a warning before you all follow me down the rabbit hole and get stuck on the chronicles of my life:

I am absolutely insane. Run right now while you can.

Oh well, it’s too late you’re already reading. It’s all your fault. Now that that’s out of the way.

On a more serious note, I want to say thank you to my wonderful, beautiful friend Katrina for giving me the opportunity to tell my story, and to you all the audience for taking time out of your day to read this, so thank you all.

Now, let’s start off with the wonders of my life. I still don’t even understand myself.

Well anyway, I grew up all around the Bay Area and had many adventures as a kid in the 80s and 90s, and of course growing up stuck in a strict Christian household. All of my adventures were the Devil temping me, but hey you get what you get, so I am not picky. I guess the Devil’s a cool guy when all you want to do is dress like a ghost or witch or something on Halloween, but can’t because every one around you is a super Christian and told you that you would burn in hell for even thinking that. But if you are like me, you never really cared because you were only in for the free candy and dressing different. That did not make those chalk type of sticks taste any less crapy than they were, so you were happy with what you got.

Then fast forward to your rebellion stage I mean “Yeah man, it was all about Hot Topic.” The smell in there was like Great Gram’s attic boxes ,but it’s cool. You just wanted to fit into that punk style. Like you wanted to draw some upside down crosses on your head and say FTW. But of course, who am I kidding that was the Devil? So I stuck with what was the safe route. Well, more like the secretive route. I watched “Charmed” when I could (LOL), you know like a bad ass even though no one was home at my dad’s,and I had the remote glued to my hand so I could change it to some non-demonic show just in case some one walked in on all that evilness 😉 I would try and write a few spells and burn some stuff to get back at people and so on, but I got so intrigued with the world of Witchcraft and started diving in every chance I got. I had the internet at home and I started learning and taking in as much info as I could. I mean, I soaked it up and retained it all, good and bad.

Later in life, I sorted it all out between the camp stories and the real life Witchcraft. This was no longer a rebel fantasy in my head – this was life. And it still is for me and of course I am the Antichrist to my dad and I own a nifty little nickname of the “white devil” from people which I love, by the way, because it’s very flattering. I mean it, I am probably the most pale thing you’ve ever seen in your life. I could star in The Twilight Saga without stage makeup.  I just sparkle on the inside, so yeah “white devil” suits me. I worked hard for that name anyway, so I wear it like a crown.

I no longer have contact with most of my family because of so many more horrific things that have happened. I have my mom still and man, she has come a long way and accepted me for who I am now and that’s cool. We like “Charmed” together now, LOL.

I am in my 30s now and fend for myself well. My lovey husband helps, but remember I am the rebel of the story, so I am just going to stick with that plot for now . I am a full on Witch. I practice that as my full belief system. I love myself even more than I did because I practice Witchcraft. It has been such a healing outlet to me. It has taught me to learn, love, and be patient with the world around me. I have many funny stories, because when I say practicing Witchcraft, I mean “practicing.” I would love to tell you all those stories through my blog as you read until then. I just wanted introduce myself and give you all a little bit of background and again, a fair warning 😉

Can’t wait ’til next time when we all dive into my adventures as a Witch.

Always,

candle divination

When working magic using glass encased candles, it adds a whole new dimension to your process when you read the candle burns to predict how the magic will manifest. These videos explain how to read the flame (pyromancy), the wax (ceromancy), and the smoke (capnomancy), as well as the soot residue.


 

Santa Muerte

Death dance: Livin’ La Santisima Muerte

So much death in the past year or so. Not only have we lost beloved celebrities, but family members, friends, pets, jobs and relationships. It is a year of tremendous clarity and I am not surprised that even this early on, Death has come calling for me on a more personal level, especially in a year when I have changed so much about myself and put to eternal sleep parts of myself that impeded my success and happiness.

In my life, I have worn many hats. I was a childbirth instructor for almost twenty years. I was a HAZMAT specialist for McClellan Air Force Base. I was a librarian. I worked for NASA at Edwards Air Base on a top secret fighter jet. As an author, I have written more than 30 books since I published my first book in 2012. These are just a tiny representation of the jobs I have had since I entered the work force at 16. Of all of the something-over-twenty jobs I have had, my favorite is my current primary job. I do three others (author, life coach, web designer), but this one is my defining act of the week. I run a botánica on the weekends.

What is a botánica?

As the name implies for those who know Greek roots, a botánica is involved with plant matter, particularly in the making of oils, washes, baths, incenses and burnables that help people. The last part of that sentence is what really defines a botánica, however and that is helping people. In the Hispanic culture, it is known that a botánica is a place where you can go for help when all other attempts fail.

The beliefs that surround the botánica culture are rich and intense, largely drawn from Catholicism with folk magic included. I have studied Conjure tradition (HooDoo), Appalachian Folk Magic, and Pennsylvania Dutch PowWow techniques, so for me, those also come into play in my work.

Some of our clients come by just to purchase candles or incense, but others need more help. Some days, my husband and I spent hours working through a line of people, all of whom have very real and troubling problems. One person has a neighbor who is harassing her. Another has a spouse in jail and is raising children alone. Another is desperately lonely and wants to find a husband. Another has a teenager who is out of control. It goes on and on.

Doing what I do, it is vital to suspend all judgment of anyone who walks in the door. Each client is just as important as the next one, whether they are old or young, rich or poor, educated or illiterate. Each one of them has a story.

Who is La Santa Muerte?

I learned so much from a venerated figure in the Hispanic culture called La Santa Muerte (The Holy Death) or La Santísima Muerte (The Holiest Death). She appears as the Grim Reaper, because the belief is that a woman brings you into life, so a woman escorts you out of it. What is interesting is that when we look at a depiction of the Grim Reaper, even though all we see is a cloak, bones and a scythe, most people presume it to be male. Why, when there is nothing we see that indicates male over female?

There are La Santa Muerte temples throughout the Southwestern US and Mexico, often with nondescript doors where you have to know where you are going to even look for it. Followers of La Santa Muerte span all social classes, but because of her complete lack of judgment, she is popular among gang members, drug cartels, prostitutes, addicts, alcoholics and other people on the outer fringe of society.

La Santa Muerte knows she is the ultimate end. She is the darkest thing that can ever happen to a person, so anything else pales in comparison. Our faults as minor compared to what she does.

She does not forgive, because to be forgiven, one must do something wrong. To her, we do no wrong. We just cycle through uninteresting combinations of human behaviors. She is there for us at the end and she is the one who closes our eyes on the world for the final time.

When I began studying her, I knew I should fear her but I did not. I felt comforted and strong in her presence. I knew I could be myself and if I brought my worst self before her, she would neither resist nor reject me.

She is not a loving figure, unlike some of the comforting, mothering female deities. She is objectively observant and knows that when someone calls on her, they have first exhausted all other resources and now must call Death into the mix. It can be death of a relationship, a way of life, a habit that does not serve us, or even a physical death.

She knows well the scents of devastation, desperation and tremendous fear. They do not offend her and are part of her world. She does not demand or even expect perfection. She holds no one to any code of ethics ascribed by society. She knows that when she comes for you, it matters not whether you were a holy man or a beggar, a thief or a philanthropist. Either way, she will lay you down to eternal sleep in the same way.

How Death helped me

As a Virgo, I am a judgmental bitch by nature. I can be harsh and sometimes, unkind. I have fought against that my whole life because it is not the person I wish to be. Some of the religious paths I explored before encouraged elitism. To be holier than another person was a desirable trait. To look down on and pity those who struggled with morality was the norm. Disassociating oneself from people who believed differently was expected.

I find that I like myself as a person a great deal more when I walk with Lady Death. Piety is a heavy load to carry.

This weekend, a woman who runs a botánica not far from mine honored me with the gift of a beautiful La Santa Muerte statue, which you see in the main image of this column. She and I shared an emotional conversation about La Santa Muerte that caused us both to tear up a bit. I was deeply touched by her generosity.

I never thought I would  become a better person by welcoming Death into my life, but the peace I feel in that acceptance is as cool and tranquil as the grave.