Camping With Witches
By Jack Kutz
SEPTEMBER 27, 1999: Sleeping out in a dark and lonely forest has always been one of life's creepiest experiences. Fear of what may be lurking unseen in the darkness beyond the tent flap runs deep in the human psyche. And now, with the advent of this season's scariest and most popular horror film, The Blair Witch Project, we've been shown that those fears may not be unfounded after all. There may very well be something utterly evil out there in the blackness, and that something may just happen to be a witch.
But what about here in New Mexico? Should we too be worried about this threat to our own state's happy campers? Well, only a newcomer to the Land of Enchantment would even have to ask that question. We old-timers certainly know the answer. Of course there are dangerous witches in New Mexico. Always have been, always will be, and, I might add, always should be. New Mexico just wouldn't be New Mexico without its witches.
Southwestern folklore is rich with supernatural threats. First of all, this is the home turf of a truly world-class ghost-witch -- the one and only La Llorona. This night-walking, ditchbank-prowling, black-robed phantom has sent countless generations of New Mexican children diving under the covers when she howls and wails outside their bedroom window.
And she certainly is not alone. There are scores of others just like her hovering in the darkened woods, patiently waiting for you to unzip your tent and ask, "Wh-who's out there?"
So what are we New Mexicans to do when faced with such a menace? Should we simply give up backpacking altogether? Fortunately, the solution to the problem need not be that drastic; there are a number of effective, timeworn precautions that can be taken before bedding down in witch country. Just as all wise campers learn to protect themselves from skunks, mosquitoes and other hazards, they can teach themselves how to fend off evil witches as well.
If only the three young stars of Blair Witch had known a few simple tricks, their story would have had a much different ending. For example -- do you remember the scene in which Heather stitches up Josh's torn pants? Little did she know that the beam of her mouth-held flashlight was illuminating the very things she needed to save everyone's lives. She had her sewing needles!
According to long-standing New Mexico tradition, one of the best ways to keep a witch from your doorstep is to place a pair of crossed needles on the threshold. No witch will dare to step over them.
Another good way of protecting yourself is to turn your clothes inside out. Nobody knows why, but for some reason witches will never attack anyone wearing their clothes inside out or backwards.
Calabazilla gourds are also excellent witch repellents. You've probably seen their leafy vines sprawled along the edges of country roads, and perhaps you've noticed they have a nasty, armpit-like smell. Witches find that odor unpleasant and prefer to steer clear of it. A sprinkling of mustard seed also works well, and there are those who say burning chile seeds in your campfire always keeps witches at a distance.
Let's think for a moment now about the worst case scenario. Let's say you forgot to perform all of the aforementioned rituals before crawling into your sleeping bag, and you awaken next morning to find a witch bundle outside your tent.
Whatever you do, don't touch the darn thing!
In New Mexico, it probably contains nothing more than shredded rattlesnakes and coyote fur, but, as you know from the film, there could be something in there you really don't want to see. The best thing to do is move your tent, not the bundle. Then carefully lay a crucifix on it and quickly back away. You may want to consider car-camping the next night.
Hopefully, these are helpful tips which, if followed faithfully, will ensure your safety when camping in this eternally haunted state of ours. They really do work; you can believe me on that. In all my years of camping in New Mexico, I have never once been bothered by witches.
Jack Kutz is the author of Mysteries & Miracles of New Mexico and its forthcoming sequel, More Mysteries & Miracles of New Mexico (Rhombus Publishing).
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