An Invitation

Goddess Heritage

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Bruja, espiritista, or psychologist


“Are you a bruja (witch)?” I asked Abuela Petra on a hot summer day in New York.  I wanted to know more about her fortune telling business.

Abuela stared at me with a distant gaze.  I felt drops of sweat glistening on my forehead as I remembered Abuela’s devotion to the Virgin Mary.  In a tremulous voice I asked: “Did I insult you?”  

 Abuela removed a handkerchief from her apron and gently dried my forehead. I breathed deeply to absorb the scent of her favorite perfume - Maja Myrurgia - wafting from her handkerchief.  Then her enigmatic smile: “I channel energy.”

“Are you an espiritista (Puerto Rican medium)?”  As I asked the question I was transported back to my childhood in Puerto Rico, when I walked past Doña Blanca’s home on my way to school.  I knew Doña Blanca was an espiritista because it was a well-known fact that espiritistas place a white flag on their balconies, announcing their craft like a barber shop pole.  Doña Blanca’s white flag ripped and danced in the soft breeze, inviting me to come into her home. I was curious, but never entered...  

Abuela’s voice broke into my thoughts: “I give my clients the wisdom I receive.” 

“Well, are you an espiritista or a bruja?

“What’s in a name?”  Abuela asked, looking away.

“Self-naming is empowering,” I said with a feminist bravado. 

“No need to be loud, Mija,” Abuela said.   “Let’s have some coffee.”   

I followed Abuela to the kitchen and watched as she prepared coffee the traditional way.  She boiled water and placed Yaucono ground coffee into a coffee sock.  She poured the boiling water into the coffee sock.  Like an ancient magic, the fresh coffee smell filled the apartment and relaxed me. Abuela poured the coffee into two cups.  

After I finished my coffee, I cleared my throat and asked: “Is there something wrong with being a bruja or espiritista?” 

“Why do you need to know?”

“I’m working with espiritistas at a clinic for my clinical psychology practicum.” 

“Are the espiritistas healing people at the clinic?”

“No,” I clarified.  “They are patients in a group therapy.”

“Even if espiritistas are patients, they are always healers.”

“Can you explain what the espiritista patients told me?”

Abuela leaned forward and said: “That you are one of them.”

“How do you know what they said?” I gasped.

“I know it because espiritistas can tell who you are.” 

“What do you mean?” 

Abuela looked into my eyes: “Be who you really are.” 

She studied my face and paused. “Remember when you were a child and I taught you how to tell fortune with La Baraja Española?”

I grinned.  Of course I remembered. “I loved telling the future with the Spanish cards.”  

“You were very good!”

“But you didn’t answer my question,” I nearly whispered.  

“Let’s talk about what brujas do,” Abuela replied.  She walked slowly towards the living room and motioned for me to follow her to the sofa. Patting the cushion “Come, sit near me.”

         Abuela held my hands in hers and explained: “Brujas foresee, help, and heal.”

“Do they have special powers?

“No, they are regular human beings, just like you and me.”

“So, everyone is a bruja?”

“Yes, everyone has the potential to be a bruja,” Abuela said.

“How can I increase my potential?”

A strange expression crossed Abuela’s face.   In a sweet and very soft voice she said: “For it is in giving that we receive.” 

“What does the Prayer of Saint Francis have to do with brujas?” 

Abuela kept silent for a while. Then, she stood up and walked slowly to the kitchen.  My chest tightened. I remained seated.  Minutes later Abuela returned to the living room carrying a demitasse.  

Abuela sat down next to me: “I want you to have this taza.”

I took the demitasse and smiled, wondering at the taza’s floral designs.  

 “It belonged to my mother,” Abuela whispered.  

Decades later, long after Abuela’s death, I established my own psychological practice. Armed with research on evidence-based therapies, I forgot Abuela’s wisdom. I saw myself as a psychologist healing with scientific methods. However, my vision was challenged when several of my Latinx patients called me bruja.  When I asked my patients to explain, they replied that I was a bruja because I healed them with energy.   

How could a scientist psychologist be a bruja? I thought back to that hot New York day with Abuela.  I decided to learn more about healing with energy, which reawakened my earlier curiosity about brujas and espiritistas.

I learned that the Iberian colonizers denounced Indigenous and African spiritual practices as black magic, labeling many women of color brujas.  

Fortunately, a radical change in the perception of the term bruja has recently emerged.  Contemporary feminist Latinxs of color are reclaiming the name bruja as a means to connect with their ancestral wisdom, decolonize, and celebrate who they really are.  Brujas find home when they retrieve their ancestral power, use their facultad (intuition), nurture their creativity, and express their sexuality.  They heal bodies, minds, and spirits through energy, prophecy, truth telling, and social justice activism.  

Elated, I decided to meditate on my research findings. My contemplation transported me to a beautiful beach in Puerto Rico. 


Walking barefoot on the sand, I felt the warm sun kissing my face and gentle waves caressing my feet.  Suddenly, Atabeyra, the supreme Taíno goddess, appeared before me.  

Somehow the air vibrated with a melodious voice. “Follow me home” Atabeyra coaxed..  

My body buzzed with excitement.  I walked behind the goddess as she led me to the mouth of a cave. 


 Atabeyra gazed into my eyes, inviting me to join her inside the cave where a subtle scent of Maja Myrurgia hung in the air.  At that moment, a soft, sweet voice seemed to waft through the cave: “For it is in giving that we receive.” 

After completing the meditation, I went to my kitchen and prepared coffee, pouring the espresso into Abuela's taza.  With the first sip, I realized who I am. 


 Photography: Frederick M. Jacobsen


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As a psychologist, healer, and writer Lillian Comas is interested in spirituality, feminism, and multiculturalism.


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