Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Book Review: American Brujeria by J. Allen Cross

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Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Oof! This book review is incredibly late. This is what happens when your life gets crazy! I actually finished American Brujeria: Modern Mexican American Folk Magic by J. Allen Cross almost 3 weeks ago, I just haven't had the chance, or the energy really, to sit down a write a review. But I am here today to do this book justice. The books of 2021 are definitely keeping with the trend of offering new and insightful literature that will take your practice to the next level, and American Brujeria is no exception.

In his book, Cross breaks down the basics of American Brujeria, which should not be confused with Mexican Brujería. He covers everything from prayers to saints to candle uses and dressing to commonly used spells and rituals to creating and maintaining an ancestral altar using stories he collected from the community. Each of these sections is easy to follow, written in large font for those that may be seeing impaired, and cohesive. However, what I enjoyed most was how accessible he made his practice. Cross is quick to address cultural appropriation and discusses how as a Mexican American, he didn't fit in with either the white or Mexican community. As a result, he was left in a liminal space, which is where American Brujeria comes in. He makes it very clear this is not traditional brujería and discusses the differences between the two, including the terms used. Americans coming to brujería are often quick to jump onto the terms brujo/a/x, which are generally not used by traditional practitioners because of the fear associated with those terms. Furthermore, the community does not view brujería as witchcraft; instead, it is an extension of their Christian faith with a mix of indigenous folklore and folk healing.

While addressing cultural appropriation, Cross sets down some ground rules for those interested in incorporating these practices into their own. First, he reminds the reader we are a guest in this tradition and if you are going to borrow anything, you have to follow tradition. This means no changing the practice to suit your own needs and skipping over the parts you don't like. You can't just slap up a statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe and call it brujería. He also makes it very clear that the titles of brujx and curandero, belong to their community, no one else, meaning you don't get to call yourself a curandero unless the community calls you that first, and that you can not actively participate in racism against the Mexican community if you plan on using their practices. That entirely defeats the purpose of trying to work with the spirits of American Brujeria! Finally, Cross states you should not profit, at least in a meaningful way, off of a culture that is not your own, nor should you take up space in the Mexican community. These are the rules you should follow regarding any tradition or practice that is not culturally yours. Heck, do it for every single one! It isn't just indigenous cultural practices being erased, but even traditionally white cultures, such as Celtic, are being erased by people changing the stories to fit their own needs. Not every goddess fits into the triple goddess thought, and trying to force them into that role is harmful. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen origin stories for gods and goddesses changed to fit someone's belief system. But I digress.

I enjoyed Cross's personal experiences, from referring to St. Michael as similar to Dean Winchester (love the Supernatural reference) to his experience with St. Torino Romo and how it helped him and others through the border crisis. This story in particular brought tears to my eyes. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I find Christian occult practices, especially those around Catholicism, incredibly fascinating and comforting at the same time. As someone who came from a Christian background, these sorts of practices resonate with me, even though I do not believe any longer. Furthermore, there is a lot of overlap between American Brujeria and Appalachian Conjure because these practices arose to meet the same needs among the marginalized communities. If you are interested in either, this book is a great primer.

The only thing I did not like about this book was the lack of history. There are, as I mentioned, personal stories and references, with a tiny mix of history, but overall very little background information. If you haven't figured it out by now I absolutely love history, especially folk history. I would have liked to see more of this in this book.

American Brujeria: Modern Mexican American Folk Magic by J. Allen Cross is available now. Whether you are interested in brujeria, looking to expand your own practice, or just learn about the culture of your area, I encourage you to check out this book. It offers practical advice and solutions that can be used to enhance your own practice. Just remember to follow the rules set down by Cross.

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  1. Thank you for this engaging book review. My eyes always light up when I spy a new one from you.

    It's brilliant that more and more books representing a broader spectrum of beliefs, forms of witchery, and Pagan traditions alike are being published these days. It benefits and, one might even say, behoves, us all to deepen our knowledge of what others in our sphere practise and believe - and to, if applicable and culturally appropriate, strength our own path in the process.

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

    1. I'm so glad you enjoy my book reviews. :) I think publishing companies are responding to the backlash they received in the past couple of years regarding the lack of authentic BIPOC authors discussing their belief systems. Likely to capitalize on the shift, but hopefully to rectify a large gap in the industry.


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