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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Mojácar, City of Witches
28 October 2020 @ 12:23

From an essay by Miguel Ángel Urralde, from Almería Hoy here (2015)

The old fellow called el Tío Frasquito El Campechano swore that he saw them swooping down from El Picacho (where the radio masts are above the pueblo), every evening, at nightfall, and fly over the church tower with their brooms. His wife rebuked him saying that he was confusing witches with swifts or maybe the bats that, at those hours, went out to hunt mosquitoes. She herself knew more than one witch, but she certainly didn’t believe they were capable of flying on a broom. In the bars and taverns of Mojácar the people sang:

More than four hundred witches left Mojácar,
They went walking to Andujar,
Along the way they gave birth
To an army of scoundrels.
According to Don Ginés Carrillo, a post-war Mojaquero doctor and the influence behind the city's amateur theatre El Aquelarre (which means ‘the witches coven’), this romance has spread by word of mouth since time immemorial in Mojácar. There are those who say that the content of the verse is dedicated to the large group of Mojacar and Turre Moors who, having been expelled from the area in the early 16th century, marched through Andujar on their way north to La Mancha. The Christian settlers of the time, when they 'acquired' the lands and animals of the Moors, held their consciences calmer by calling them witches, because in addition, many of the Moorish women knew the healing properties of native herbs and plants, and this left the Christian women looking bad before their husbands when they needed some folk medicine on a sprained ankle or swollen knee.
Over time, as needs must, the Mojaquera women learned about the herbs and memorized the spells, and since many did not marry or perhaps they soon became widows, they had time to learn to recite healing prayers and to know secrets about love affairs that they could secretly sell for a fee.
Don Ginés, who as a doctor had free entry to all the houses of the town and who also loved the secrets of spiritualism, knew many witches in the town and therefore, as he owned the theatre which was located in front of the church, he called it El Aquelarre, that is to say, 'The Coven'. Now Don Ginés, not knowing any Basque, few people did in those days, could not know that in that language aker means goat and larre means countryside, so he actually called his theatre something like "the gathering of bastards where the yokels live".
But then again, perhaps he knew exactly what he wanted to say, because on some issues D. Ginés played his cards close to his chest and the local people, although it might be difficult to imagine, were even more uneducated than they are today. We will never be able to know for sure if his effort to highlight the presence of witches in the town was due to the unfair competition that they gave him as a doctor or to the trust in their powers that the town held for them.
The post-war Mojaquera witches were not socially frowned upon, and they came to help in childbirth, as well as to cure a disease or a simple syndrome, such as frigidity, the ache from a sprain, anaemia or the evil eye or whatever. They were specialists in curing boils, the shingles and easing bad moods, and above all they had developed psychological knowledge and sagacity. If their prayers did not always heal, there is also no record that they ever did any wrong to the sick. The lack of culture made them necessary and poverty made them numerous. They always took care to heal in the name of God and imploring the saints, just in case.
The most famous of the Mojaquera witches, who maintained a loyal clientèle until the arrival of tourism, was Tía Rosa La Cachocha. She was the one that was most recognized in the making of pichirichis.
The pichirichis were powders that she would prepare, to be taken, dissolved in liquid, by a specific male, chosen beforehand by an unattached woman and, following the spell, he would become 'hooked' on her. In short, a marriage potion.  
Many young Mojaquero men were understandably concerned about Aunty Cachocha's potions for years, and they were warned that they should not consume any type of drinks in the houses where a young woman lived. Of course, there were always those who suspected that one didn’t need a witch’s help to hook up, and when there was enough evidence of this, about the time the foreigners began to arrive, trade in the powders plummeted. Thereafter, the brooms that were used for flying were no longer in demand and the broom factory in Turre closed.
The old Tío Frasquito El Campechano would continue to look out at night towards the El Picacho convinced that if he did not see the witches fly over the hill, it was simply because there were too many new houses that spoiled the view.
I knew a few of the stories from my early years in Mojácar. The fuente, the hippies would say, was (is) located on the conjunction of two ley lines, which of course meant powerful juju.  Certainly there were several curanderos, faith healers, but they were quite common in rural Spain. Some would charge a coin (black) and some would do it for free (white). I remember the story of a young Dutch woman who was one day accosted by an old Mojaquera sternly dressed in black. 'You're pregnant' said the old woman. 'No I'm not', said the Dutch lady sadly, 'I'm barren'.
The old lady in black was right though. 
Comer to think of it, that's maybe why Carlos Almendros called his book 'Mojácar, Rincón de Embrujo' - Corner of Enchantment.  

Like 3


marelison said:
31 October 2020 @ 13:36

Good article, thank you.

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