Imported Afro-Cuban Magic

This past fall, I stumbled upon a very unusual shop at 5757 St. Hubert with a sign that read Botanica, Los Orichas. From the street I could see the back of a large mannequin in a long white cape and yellow and pink cap with three little dogs and a basket for change at his feet. This creepy valley mannequin was a replica of Lazarus, the begging saint. About 10 years ago, I came across a Botanica in a strip mall in Miami and was intrigued by the beautiful candles with black saints on them. I learned from a Floridian that Botanicas can be found wherever there is a large Cuban population. Apparently, when the Spanish brought slaves from West Africa to Cuba, they forced them to convert to Catholicism. The slaves pretended to worship the Catholic saints using orishas from their own religion that most resembled the Catholic saints. For instance, Lazarus was worshipped as the Yoruba deity Babalu Aye. This fusion of Catholicism and Yoruba, the African religion, is known as Santeria and is still widely practised in Cuba today.

I visited this tiny store last week on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Unsure of what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to see a gathering of 10 young people in their 20s and 30s having fun at the back of the store. The botanica sells Afro-Cuban religious statues, amulets, oils, herbs, candles and books on Santeria, spells and incantations. And if you ever have to get rid of an evil eye, this is the place for you. It was also emphasized that this was white magic and not the black variety, as practised on some other Caribbean islands.

The young shopkeepers were very helpful and took their time explaining the various religious icons and uses for the herbs imported from Cuba. I decided I would take an envelope of the herbs to eliminate bad energy, not because I had spent too much time with negative people, but because I liked the envelope. Double click on the picture to read the instructions at the bottom. I highly recommend this shop for an entertaining 15 minutes. BTW, they even sell love potions and spells.


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