If you were lucky enough to have a loving, doting abuela who looked after you while your parents worked overtime, you may have faint memories of her doing strange things around the house. She may have placed a cup of water behind the door, propped a broom upside down in a corner, or shooed everyone out the house so she could clean. No ordinary cleaning, it could be that on those Sunday mornings full of loud music and earthy aromas, your abuela was cleansing the house of negative energy. Feelings of unending exhaustion, illness, frustration, stress, or worry are signs that your home could use a limpieza too.
When I was a child, I would accompany my gold-toothed grandmother to Newark Avenue on Saturday afternoons. She would put curtains on layaway at Woolworth’s, and stop by the meat market and the fish market. Some Saturdays, our last stop before heading home was at la botanica. More than a magic shop, this was a place to procure spiritual elements from statues of Catholic saints to potions guaranteeing love and money. My grandmother would move nimbly about the shop selecting Indian Spirit money spray, incense, frankincense, and myrrh. Pretty biblical, right? I recall watching Sunday morning cartoons as she cleaned the apartment from back to front, windows open, a ritual concluding with her swinging her tiny cast iron cauldron, resin smoldering inside, while wearing an iconic bata. You know the one!
If you asked Abuela, she wouldn’t say this was Santería or Brujería of any sort.
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Latinidad is abstract in the way it allows a constellation of diaspora to take cultural practices from here and there, creating our own interpretations according to our needs and resources.
While energy-cleansing rituals can be extremely complicated; like the one where you buy a coconut, bathe it in Florida Water, and gently kick it around your entire home while smudging sage then kicking the coconut of your house, picking it up with your left hand, walking far away from your house and throwing the coconut over your head, making sure it splits, otherwise you will need to start the ritual again with a new coconut.
If you’re short on coconuts and time, but would like to try simple ways of cleansing your home of negative energy, here are a few simple suggestions inspired by Abuela.
It all begins by cleaning your home.
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De-clutter, organize, and arrange items neatly. The science behind cleaning shows your space is a reflection of your mind. Marie Kondo your situation to clear away bad energy, calling forth peace of mind and calming spirit. A real-deal abuela would advise you to clean your floors with La Bomba, a spiritual floor cleaner. Mop from the back of your home to the front door, and throw away the mop head. You probably won’t find La Bomba in Target. Check online botanica retailers, and look for all-purpose La Bomba solutions that can be used to clean your car and other spaces where you may have experienced a bout of bad luck.
Channel the elements: earth, air, fire, and water in your energy cleansing enterprise, like Earth.
Credit: elementsofsage / Instagram
Boasting benefits like curing insomnia, boosting your mood, and neutralizing ions, smudging sage has been widely attributed to Native American tradition. Sage sticks, and smudge kits are widely available, but if you are into drying your own sage, consider adding dried roses, lavender, palo santo, and rosemary. If nothing else, it looks pretty and your home will smell lovely.
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Open the window. It’s as simple as that. Release stale air to remove negative energy, and in the spirit of my own abuela, take down your curtains, give them a wash while you put up beautiful new curtains. Maybe you don’t believe in negative energy, but you can’t deny the uplifting effect of getting some fresh air.
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Burn bay leaves. Also known as laurel, the practice of burning bay leaves dates back to Ancient Greece. Write down all the things you want to release directly on the leaves, burn the leaves in a fireproof bowl, and safely discard the ashes.
Lighting candles is a large part of the cleansing process for abuelas too. Light candles of your favorite saint, or cruise your botanica for some highly specific candles promising to banish the evil eye—if that’s your thing.
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Like my abuela, place a glass of water behind a door, or place a glass of water under your bed, which is said to absorb negative energy.
Bathing, a literal cleansing, can also serve to clear bad energy. Abuela would advise you to bathe in your favorite flowers, perfume, milk, and honey, an ancient tradition found around the world. Light a candle, turn the lights down and ask for the things you want to receive as you luxuriate in your bath.
Last, but not least—Florida Water! Wipe some across your forehead when you have a headache. Add it to your La Bomba floor cleaner. Pour some in your bath. Use it to wipe down your altars, doorways, and wash your hands with it after meeting with people who harbor negative energy. Or, quite simply, dab it on mosquito bites.
Finding peace in your home is imperative to your wellbeing.
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash
Experimenting with energy cleansing practices can take you down a winding cultural, and traditional path that can prove to be effective in your life. It can also bring a sense of closeness with an abuela who is no longer with you. Even if energy cleansing is not your thing, actively taking steps toward peace of mind is great thing, and I’m sure your abuela would love nothing more than to see you at peace.
Abuelas are universally loved by all Latinos lucky enough to grow up with them. Virtually all of them make the most delicious food we’ve ever tasted. They all kiss you on the cheek and call you gordita as you walk in the door, and if you try and reject your second helping of food, they call you flaquita and give you more. Of course, our abuelas offer so much more than just food. They likely left their generations-long home country to give their descendants a different start in life. They’re trailblazers and all so unique.
Pero, like, when it comes to desayuno, one thing is certain: they will cook up a feast. Here’s how the stars have influenced their breakfast of choice. See if we guessed right.
Aries (March 21 – April 19)
@LCHurtado / Twitter
There’s no recipe for this one. It’s just a straight mixto de cositas leftover and somehow, your Abuela makes it work. It’s the talent of the Aries to go with the flow and make casamiento out of nothing (air).
Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
@ccsham_34 / Twitter
Mama, you’re having whatever it is your abuelita has had for breakfast every day for the last half century. Taurus’ abuelas are all about security and comfort, and they make that feeling contagious with Huevos Rancheros.
Gemini (May 21 – June 20)
@thechef414 / Instagram
We bet your abuela is either a genius in the kitchen or just plain wrong. Gemini’s are known for being on the pulse of trends and creative. Your abuela probably thinks she invented the Jibarito.
Cancer (June 21 – July 22)
@solopacolombianos / Instagram
Cancers are super nostalgic and probably have the deepest emotional connection to food out of any of the other signs in the zodiac. Your abuela makes you what her abuela made her for breakfast, and she tells you that every single time. ❤️The answer to this depends on your abuela’s nationality, but we’re going to guess some kind of yucca (or plantain) with frijoles and leftover pegao. Maybe an egg if you’re lucky.
Leo (July 23 – August 22)
@fer_sefit / Instagram
Leos make for very fun, generous abuelas. We bet your abuela actually asks you what you want for breakfast, and will actually make you pancakes if you ask. Claro, she’s using Bisquick [beez-kwhick], and adding diced mangos, but you love her for it.
Virgo (August 23 – September 22)
@heartmyplate808 / Instagram
Our reliable Virgo abuelas love a neat egg-in-the-hole. Is there any other name for it? It’s the best way to use stale bread while making a super satisfying breakfast cada vez.
Libra (September 23 – October 22)
@orlandoneurocoach / Instagram
Resourceful Nana’s are going to make you the most simple and pure breakfasts of all time: Huevo con Arroz Blanca. It’s the cheapest meal to make using anoche’s leftover rice and a runny egg, and it satisfies.
Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)
@lowcarberista / Instagram
Scorpio abuelas are so meta, they would make their nenas an egg-in-the-hole jamón style. At the very least, she’s making these for her grandsons because they’re growing boys. Us granddaughters might be stuck with the buttery bread version and it’s patriachy’s loss.
Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)
@dominicanfts2.0 / Instagram
Sagittarius abuelas are a rarity because the sign breeds folks who are here for a good time, not a long time. Your abuela has stories and she’s going to tell you every single one of them as she mashes together some mangú.
Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
@kiwilimon / Instagram
Capricorn abuelas want to adore you with a masterpiece of thrifty ingredients made rico with love and care. Molletes: it’s what’s for breakfast. 🤤
Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)
@LauraNeuzeth / Twitter
Your Aquarius abuela is in her most evolved state when she feels she’s tapped into the world around her. She might be trying to make substitute classic mantequilla with a non-dairy butter, or try out soyrizo. We’re not mad about it.
Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
@thiagomonrroy / Twitter
Honey, there’s no telling what your Pisces abuela is going to do this morning. She might just skip breakfast to go tend to her garden, or meet with her new social club. You’re taking her out para desayunar. 😂
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