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Bizarre beliefs of 1888: New Mexican Witches

The terror of the People-How to catch one Oar witchology is full, detailed and graphic, writes a St. Louis Globe correspondent from New Mexico. Every paleano can tell you their strange habits, their marvelous powers and their baleful deeds. They never injure the dumb animals, but woe to the human being who incurs their displeasure! Few, indeed are bold enough to brave their wrath. If a witch asks for food, wood, clothing, or anything else, none dare say nay. Nor dare any one eat what a witch proffers; for, if he do, some animal, alive and gnawing, will form in his stomach. By day the witches wear their familiar form, but at night dressed in strange animals shape, they fly abroad to hold witch meetings in the mountains to wreak their evil wills. In a dark night you may see them flying through the sky like so many balls of fire, and there are comparatively few mexicans in the territory who have not seen this weird sight. For these nocturnal sallies the witches wear their own bodies, but take the legs and eyes of a coyote or other animal leaving their own at home. Juan Peres, a male witch, who died in San Mateo some months ago, met with a strange misfortune in this wise; he had gone off with the eyes of a cat, and during his absence a dog knocked over the table and ate up Juan’s eyes; so the unfortunate witch had to wear cat’s eyes all the rest of his life.

Before they can fly, witches are obliged to cry out; “Sin Dios, sin Santa Maria!” (“Without God and without the Holy Virgin.”) Whereupon the mount up into the air without difficulty. If you are on good terms with a witch you may persuade her to carry you on her back from here to New York in a second. She blindfolds you and enjoins strict silence. If you utter a word you find yourself alone om so,e vast wilderness, and if you cry “God save me!” you fall from a fearful height to the ground-but are luckily never killed by the fall. There are several courageous people in the territory who have made journeys thus upon the backs of the witches. At least they are ready to swear so, and they find 10,000 believers in one skeptic. One striking peculiarity about New Mexico witches is that any one named Juan or Juna (john or Jane) can catch them, and that no one else can except a priest with holly water. To catch a witch, Juan draws a nine-foot circle on the ground, turns his shirt in side out, and cries: “Vedga, buria!” (“come,witch”) whereup the witch has to fall inside the circle, and Juan has her completely to his power. This ability to catch witches, however, is seldom exercised , for let Juan once catch a witch and all the other witches in the country join hands and whip him to death.

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