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Mexican Herbal Magic

Date: Sun, 07 Jul 2002 17:35:49 -0000
From: "bryanth798" (
Subject: Mexican Herbal Magic

Mexico has a tradition of herbal lore that is very rich indeed. It 
has, basically, three different historic roots. One is traditional 
herbalism imported from 16th century Europe, which was based mainly 
in traditions of the Mediterranean region. The second is the 
tradition from Andalucia, the Moorish kingdom, which roots go back to 
all parts of the Southern Mediterranean and the Near East, including 
the very ancient traditions of Mesopotamia, Palestine, and especially 
Egypt. And the third is that tradition that comes from Mesoamerica. 
It is interesting to note that at the time of the Spanish conquest of 
Mexico, the Aztecs (Mexica) had an herbal pharmacopoeia consisting of 
some 10,000 separate medicinal plants. It is estimated that today 
that number has shrunk to some 3,000 or so species, although the 
tradition was augmented also by those traditions imported from the 
Old World. Mexico is full of hierberIas, which are herbal shops. 
These hierberIas also carry oils, soaps, and lotions, which are used 
for a lot of purposes, including those that have to do with health, 
and also with magic. These serve, in some respects, as sort of 
magician's supply houses, for brujas (witches), curanderas (healers 
and practitioners of "white magic"), and hechiceros (wizards or 
sorcerers). Generally speaking, no one bothers making their own soaps 
or oils, or lotions, since they are readily available in the 
hierberIas. People just buy the products, along with charms, amulets, 
prayers, herbal books, and "grimorios" (magical instruction books).

One thing about Mexican magic is that, like its counterpart in Spain, 
which, in many aspects, is indistinguishable from the Mexican 
practice, it is inextricably tied up with the Catholic faith, either 
positively or negatively. Some practices that are particular to 
certain Indian tribes involve the conjuring of old Indian gods, but 
these rites are not accessible to non-initiates, and there are not 
any initiates who are not actually members of these tribes, such that 
this has no bearing on the general population and their popular 
traditions. (Another thing I should not is this: the Mexicans are not 
interested in learning the practices of the Indians, but the Indians 
are interested in those of the Mexicans, as the Indians consider 
Mexican practitioners to be more powerful.)  On the other hand, there 
is plenty of syncretism, which is to say, the fact of Indian 
traditions - those of their gods - being mixed in with those of the 
Europeans conquerors.

In this sense, someone with an open mind and feeling for Cabalistic 
mysteries might imagine that the trappings of Catholic ritual overlay 
traditions that are more ancient, but that, inasmuch as these are the 
traditions that are alive today and they certainly get results, that 
it would be pointless to look to do something different. Thus, I have 
found that, by professing the Catholic faith, I have had doors open 
to me that would have been solidly closed if I had not done so, and I 
would not know even a tenth part of what I do about this excellent 
and intriguing system of magic, which I think is the most profound 
and alive strain in the world today. I personally believe that all of 
the Catholic saints to whom people pray in Curanderismo, Santeria, 
and Macumba are actually old pagan deities that come from - in the 
case of Macumba and Santeria, Africa; and in the case of 
Curanderismo, Egypt and Mesoamerica, mainly. The use of the cross is 
like a catalyst, I think. The cross was used extensively by 
Mesoamerican Indians, especially the Maya, as a symbol of the `here 
and now', as it represents the intersection of time and space. Time 
is phallic and space is yonic, so that the symbol is actually 
a "lingam". In that sense, it invokes the power of the kundalini, and 
thus is catalyzes the magical act or the cure.

The prototype, or the archetype of these practices, I should say, is 
San Cipriano, who was at the same time a Bishop and Sorcerer, and 
whose martyrdom was his being burned at the stake as a witch, and 
later exonerated, probably at the behest of some later pope or bishop 
who was a sorcerer also. I am not sure how all that came about, but I 
intend to find out. The most famous grimorio of them all, the "Libro 
de San Cipriano", also known as the "Tesoro del Hechicero", is 
alleged to have been written by him, but it was actually produced by 
way of automatic writing at the hand of a German monk named Jones 
Sulfurino in the year 1000 AD. Most of this was the recreation of a 
book or set of books that Cipriano had penned and then had later 
burned, during his lifetime. The spirits who operated the hand of 
Jones Sulfurino retrieved it and reproduced it in this way. The best 
know edition was printed in Spain in the 16th century, and original 
copies still exist, that have been passed down for generations in 
families throughout the Spanish speaking world, including here in 
Mexico. I have a friend who has an original copy. I have a couple of 
books that have reprinted sections of this.

The cult of San Cipriano is on the rise today, as he is the is patron 
saint of magicians. I am totally fascinated with him, myself.

If people are interested, I can dig up more information on popular 
Mexican soaps, oils, and lotions, and their uses.


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