In Mexican and Mexican-American cultures, limpias
(ritual cleansings) are instrumental in not only curing what ails us spiritually but also clearing the path toward better things. People also perform limpias to get rid of bad luck.
These remedies are often performed by a curandero or a curandera—specially trained folk healers found all throughout Latin America. While curanderos and curanderas do exist in the United States, many Mexican Americans take the art of cleansing into their own hands.
Can Anyone Do a Limpia?
Nowadays we are increasingly concerned with the issue of cultural sensitivity and appropriation. While this is an important issue to be mindful of, it creates quite a bit of confusion as far as what is acceptable and what is not.
Can non-Latino folks do limpias for themselves or their loved ones? The answer is yes! There is no reason you can’t perform these cleansings on yourself or your immediate family members if the situation calls for it. Where you may run into trouble is if you decide to open a business doing this work or begin to call yourself a curandero or a curandera without proper training.
[Read: “Embracing Earth Medicine: An Interview With Curandera Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz.”]
That being said, there is no reason you can’t utilize these tried-and-true techniques on yourself or a loved one when necessary. So, let’s begin!
3 Limpias for Reversing Bad Luck
Method One: Sweeping
For this you’ll need:
- Red string
- A bundle of fresh herbs (see below
- Holy water or floral water (see below)
There are many different types of limpia, and one of the most common is known as a barrida, which translates to “sweep.” Here, a specially selected item is swept down a person’s body to collect and clear away negative, dense, or unhealthy energies in and around it. For this barrida,
I recommend using aromatic herbs such as holy basil, chamomile, lemon balm, or a combination of all three. Bundle them together into a bouquet using the red string and set them aside.
Next, take some more red string and wrap it around your dominant hand so that it crosses over your palm. This will prevent any negative energy from reentering the body through your hand. Once you’re done, sprinkle the herbs with your chosen water. This may be holy water that you’ve picked up from a church, or a floral water such as rose water.
Now you’re ready for the exciting part! You may sit or stand, whichever is most comfortable for you. Hold the plants and either say a prayer or state your intention, asking that all good luck remains and all bad luck is removed by the plants. Then, starting at the top of your head, sweep yourself in a downward fashion from head to toe. Be sure to pay extra attention to your head, neck, and shoulder area. Once you feel you’ve done a thorough enough job, say a quick thank-you to the plants, drop them into a plastic or paper bag, and promptly take the bundle to a garbage can outside of your home and wash your hands.
Method Two: Candle Magic
For this you’ll need:
- A new and clean white candle
- Lemongrass essential oil
- Red string
- A small white plate
This process is a variation of the sweeping method. First, begin by wrapping the red string around your hand to prevent any unhelpful energy from reentering your body. Then take the white candle (or a “seven-day” saint candle), and say a prayer or an intention asking that your bad luck be cleansed away, leaving behind any and all good luck.
Carefully take the unlit candle and sweep it down your body, starting at the top of your head and going down to your feet. Pay special attention to the head, neck, and shoulders. As you do this, either focus on or visualize the candle absorbing all dark, dense, or heavy energy around you.
When you’re done, anoint it gently with the lemongrass essential oil and affix it to the plate by melting the bottom of the candle just a little bit and sticking it to the center of the dish. Light the candle and say a prayer or state the intentions for all the bad luck to be cleared away and your good luck to flourish! Burn the candle all the way down and keep the plate to use again in another limpia.
Method Three: Limes to Cleanse the Home
For this you’ll need:
- One white plate
- Salt (preferably coarse sea salt)
- An odd number of limes (3, 5, 7, or 9)
- Whole cloves
- A knife
This is an old traditional method of cleansing the home in Mexican and Mexican-American folk magic. Begin by washing the limes and setting them aside to dry. Add a generous helping of salt to the plate, enough that you can nestle the limes down into it.
Next, take the knife and slice each lime once lengthwise and once across the middle. Don’t cut all the way through though! Be sure to only cut most of the way through, the limes should still hold together.
Next, add three whole cloves to each lime by pressing them into the soft inner flesh of the fruit. Once that is done, nestle them into the salt on the plate, with the open side facing up, and add more salt over the top, making sure to get it down into the openings. Once that is done, say a prayer or state an intention over them, asking that they absorb all the negative energy in the home.
Place the plate in a prominent or central place in the home for one week.
If your home has very little or no negative energy to collect, the limes will simply dry up but remain relatively preserved. If, however, your home has a lot of nasty energy in it, the limes may turn brown or black, rot, or begin to smell. If this happens, especially if it happens quickly, you may want to perform the other two limpias listed above.
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For more information on limpias and Mexican/Mexican-American folk magic, please check out my book American Brujeria: Modern Mexican American Folk Magic and the work of Erika Buenaflor, particularly her book Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo.