Maybe you’ve heard about Gamarra market, the enormous, sprawling labyrinth of clothes vendors and factories on every corner. But did you also know that just around the corner from this, you can find the Lima witches market…a very interesting place to visit after you’ve bargained yourself silly all morning buying t-shirts.
But first, I don’t like the English word ‘witch’ (although this is the direct translation of Mago/Maga from Spanish). In English, this word conjures up images of someone inherently evil or tricksters (although maybe Harry Potter has gone some way to changing this generalisation). In Peru, witches are much more common and acceptable by the people, so it’s important to remember this if you do want to visit one here, you can leave your prejudices at the door. Maybe the word shaman is better, although there is a difference between witches and shamans here. But let’s not get too muddled over terms.
There are a range of different products that you can buy from Peruvian witches, which include good-luck charms and evil repellants. Particularly popular are tokens of desire, such as money notes, contained within bottles which will bring luck to the owner. There is a noticeable pattern with these kinds of items, in that they are frequently foreign. For example, the money notes tend to be dollars and not soles. In ritual offering-packages (‘despachos’) you can see items such as coca-cola and camel cigarettes, which are symbols from the United States (pictured below). With a little observation, you can really start to see the widespread desire to emigrate elsewhere, and the part that witches may play in helping people achieve this goal.
However, my personal favorite was the One Direction dolls (pictured below), which can be used in rituals to bring girls love with a foreign man. Maybe not Harry Styles himself, but a handsome Englishman nonetheless (I didn’t bother, I’m a Zayn fan and he’s already taken).
Which leads me onto another thing. What was the most common product/ritual available? Amulets for love and sex, unsurprisingly. Apart from the boyband dolls for example, there are numerous candles that you can buy to call a lover to you, keep a couple together, encourage a marriage proposal or repel someone who is interfering in your relationship. If you don’t want to light a candle yourself you can also do a little ritual. One of the more saucy rituals involves male/female dolls (pictured below), and it doesn’t take much imagination to guess that these are more geared towards sex and passion than romantic love per se. There’s even an S&M option, if that’s your kind of thing.
What to make of all this? Well, judging by what witches offer most frequently, we can ascertain what people desire the most. Love, sex, travel to another country…all three at once. You can of course find amulets for other things such as health and prosperity, as well as undertake rituals with the witches to cleanse auras and get rid of bad spirits. But that’s not quite as fun as a penis candle. What would you buy in a visit to the witches market?
Beckie is a volunteer with the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.