I Swear I’m Not a Witch!

Lily Shaffer - Ecuador


November 15, 2010

I had spent the last 24 hours running between my bedroom and the bathroom, being force-fed oregano tea and chicken broth, and battling between “finding the light” in the situation and being thoroughly bummed out I wasn’t at my first day of my apprenticeship.  After a day of this, I was starved, and Mamá and I sat down for a bit of soup and some rice.  Let’s just say that I wasn’t quite ready to eat.

After losing a few more pounds, I went into Mamá’s room, forcing a smile.  I opened my mouth to tell her it was just something I ate and not to worry, but she got to talking first.

“Lily, crees en energías malas?” (Lily, do you believe in bad energies?)

“Sure,” I said. I mean, I believe in Karma and good and bad energy, but I’d never really thought about becoming physically ill because someone’s bad energy had entered my body.

“Bueno. Esperame un rato.” (Good. I’ll be right back.)

Cris, my little brother, was in the other room cracking up as Mamá ran out to la tienda across the street. For a split second, I thought she was going to buy a cuy, or guinea pig, to cure me, like the indigenous healers I’d read about.  Much to my relief, she only came back with an egg and a cigarette.

“Get in bed and lie down,” she commanded.  When Cris tried to come into my room to watch, she hastily kicked him out, saying she wanted as few people in the room as possible so that she could force the energy out of me.  I was at wit’s end, feeling weak and exhausted, so I obeyed without thinking twice.

Mamá lit the cigarette and started puffing with a pained look on her face.  I could tell she hated the taste and was smoking entirely out of love, which may have been the primary healing factor.  Just as she took the egg out of her pocket, she looked at me, quite seriously, and said, “Lily, no soy una bruja” (Lily, I am not a witch).  I just started cracking up, and she started rubbing me down with the egg, wisps of cigarette smoke settling over my body.  My stomach, where the bad energies were nesting, is incredibly ticklish, which did not help with the laughing, nor did Cris’s suppressed snickers from outside the door.  And the whole time, my mamá keeps saying, “I swear I’m not a witch! Lily, please don’t think I’m a witch!”

After about ten minutes, she told me I was more relaxed—and I was. The scent of tobacco mixed with the peppermint oil I’d been using for headaches was oddly calming, and my muscles no longer felt achy, my head remarkably clear.  I was quickly settling into sleep as Mamá mummified me with several wool blankets so I’d sweat out a fever.

I woke up on Friday morning slowly and peacefully.  Cautiously, as I sat up, I realized that I’d slept the soundest I’d slept in more than a week.  And as I stood up, I was shocked by how quiet my room was without the constant grumble of my stomach. Elated, I ran into the kitchen.

“Mamá, I’m cured!” She looked up from her coffee, unimpressed. “Well, obviously you’re cured. You just had a bad energy.  It was from the cemetery and I just needed to get it out of you.” (She was referring to our visit to the cemetery two days earlier for Dia de los Difuntos.)

Maybe it was the ritual, or the love she blew on me as she painfully puffed the cigarette, or perhaps it was just that there was no more of whatever made me sick in me on Friday morning, but regardless, I showed up to work on time with a smile on my face and excitement for my first day at work.

Lily Shaffer