As 2019 comes to a close, so does my inventory of tools, talismans, and tchotchkes that I have in my stockpile for the year. Quite a few of them wound up being acquired and/or kept for the wrong reasons and were properly disposed of. This left me with few tools for “immediate” work.
Like an unopened bottle of Florida Water that I had completely forgotten about until I found it during the Great Clean Out. Sitting next to it was a small cobalt blue glass bottle fitting with a spray pump. Both were purchased for separate reasons. Both had been forgotten about for the year.
Both were put back in the cabinet. Florida Water was something that I had been told by many people that a wooish person should have on hand, and should I ever get to making that apotropaic spray (once I find the recipe) than I’ll have the bottle at the ready. Right?
And then suddenly, I needed both.
I was in a surprise need of a spiritual cleansing agent right now, and in need of a handy and controllable dispenser of said agent right now, and wouldn’t you know it, that unopened bottle of Florida Water was a handy four fluid ounces, and that clean and empty spray bottle would hold four fluid ounces handily. Awesome.
Except even after pouring the fluid into the spray bottle, it didn’t feel like enough. I had a strikingly blue bottle containing an intensely smelling liquid, and that would have been enough for certain folk in my family to say that it had spiritual effect, but being the person who had married the two, it had no spirit for me.
Knowing what it was to be used for, I held the bottle and prayed a Pater Noster, an Ave Maria, and a Gloria Patri before asking that the spray cleanse the room of maliciousness whether it be carnate or incarnate. And for a month or so, the room had less bullshit brought to it than it was before.
Good enough to say it’s done.
Though I’ve been quiet about it, I’ve been picking up on the ancestral work to the point where my personal homework is leading me back to a tangential involvement with various sects and hues of Christianity. Both of my parental trees feature Roman Catholicism in the recent generations, and my willingness to learn common Latin prayers has been healing a schism introduced during my parents’ and my grandparents’ generations.
Every Sunday I had gotten into the habit of making some Christian observance for the sake of my Christian ancestors and after a while, I would sometimes feel said ancestors sitting quietly behind me as if we were attending a service as a family. Once upon one such experience in an empty room, I felt someone tap me on the shoulder.
A presence leaned against my back, and without sound I heard a woman’s voice ask if I would pray the rosary on her behalf next Sunday. My father’s mother had passed before I was born, but somehow I knew this was her presence. She was known for being a devout Catholic, but also known for being unwavering when she wanted something.
I told the presence I would, and the next Sunday, I did. In English.
This… did not go over well with her. Usually my communication with spirits is via the meaning of the thing. I don’t usually “hear” words, but receive an understanding of what they are trying to convey.
Unless the spirit is Abuela in a very unhappy state of being. «Escúchame. Cuando rezas el rosario o cualquier otra oración sacerdotal para mí, rezas en latín. ¿Entiendes, mija?»
The “tone of voice” that carried those words needed no translation. It’s the same when facing an angry elder from almost any culture: Smile. Nod. Agree to do the thing and hope the cane and/or la chancla is out of immediate reach.
By the next Sunday, I had the full Latin version of the rosary at the ready. I performed my usual Sunday attentions, then explicitly invited her to attend my recitation. I waited until I felt her presence, then carefully worked my way through all the prayers involved in reciting five decades of the rosary in Latin from beginning to end.
This satisfied her. Later divination would inform that this satisfied a great number of my Catholic (and Catholic-adjacent) ancestors. It was known that Keri would not be returning to the “Church” (for whatever definitions that holds), but Keri would assist with the recognition of observances as within her reach.
Sunday Latin Rosary became a regular event.
So it should have been no surprise when I found myself dreaming of being seated in the room that needed the regular application of a cleansing spray and finding Abuela seated beside me holding the three quarter’s full blue bottle. She looked as short as I was told she was, and as stocky as I was told she was, and dressed in what I was told was her favorite dress and a unique apron worn over that dress. I recognized her immediately.
Though I tried to speak Spanish in the dream, my mouth just would not work. After several hilarious attempts that had me frustrated and her giggling, I fell back on using English as the carrier and hoped the understanding carried through.
«Hello, Mija.» She held up the blue glass bottle and shook it. «How is this working for you?»
“Ah, well… It smells nice, at least. But, it’s a placebo and I know it. I haven’t done anything but give the Florida Water a more durable container.”
She nodded in that way that elders nod when they know a lot more than what they are telling and they want you to know that you don’t know shit.
«Sí, sí, es verdad. But then again, you can only work what you know, and all you know are tricks, no?»
I wanted to be angry at the extreme accusation, but I also recognized she wasn’t mocking me. I needed to be at a place of naked truth.
I pointed at the bottle. “When it comes to that stuff, yea, all I know are tricks. Some of them work better than others, but they work on people that don’t know it’s a trick. I can help people get out of their own way, but I can’t fool myself.”
She nodded again as she held the bottle up to the ceiling light. «Why did you pray the rosary for me in Latin? It’s not your way, Mija. It’s not what you were taught by your parents.»
The question surprised me. “Because you asked me to. Because it’s your way. And it didn’t bind or oath me to anything. So why not? It was very easy to look up, and I had forgotten I already had the text in some of my books, so your request gave me the chance for a good refresher in some things. So it worked out for both of us.”
«Mija. ¿Tienes la fe?»
“That’s a trick question, and you know it.”
She smiled and put the blue bottle on the desk in front of me. «A trick for a trick, then. Get your rosary. The one you made, the one you used to pray for me, the one you should use to pray for yourself. Put it in your hand.»
“Okay…” I know I’m dreaming so I don’t move from the chair. I just hold out my empty hand, look away from my hand, and close my hand around the familiar beads. “Here. I have it in my hand.”
«Place the loop of the beads around the bottle. You don’t need it to be a perfect circle, because of what you are going to do next. But you do need the bottle to be surrounded by the rosary no matter what.»
I moved the bottle closer to me so I could drape the loop around the bottle but still have enough slack to manipulate the beads if needed. I held the rosary by the lead beads and looked at her. “Okay.”
«Ahora rezas el rosario, completamente en latín. El mismo que lo rezas para mí.»
I wasn’t surprised at her instruction, but I was dismayed by it. “Abuela, I haven’t memorized the Latin version, yet.”
She pinched my cheeks. Her fingers were colder than ice but not cold enough to distract me from how hard she was pinching. «At least you remembered how to pray for me! Okay. When you wake up, when you are back in this room again, when you have this bottle again, do as I have shown you. If you have faith, if not in El Señor, then in my faith in Him, then know that when you pray the rosary in full and in Latin as it should be, anything within the loop of beads you are praying on is held in the hands of la Virgen María and she will hold what you cannot. ¿Entiendes? She holds blessings, Mija. Blessings even you can receive, but you have to put it in her hands first. Okay?»
Her instruction made sense but I accredited that to dream logic at the time. “Okay. I’ll do that.” I prepared myself to exit the dream.
«Un momento, before we go. I hear that you are a writer.»
Uh-oh. “I won’t be writing about this. I don’t write like I used to. It’s a different time now.”
«¿Sí es verdad? I think you are hurting and are afraid to heal. You did something for me that you were once afraid of, now do something for yourself that you have become afraid of. Escribas lo que pasó aquí.»
«No es una petición.»
Oh. She had that tone again. “I’ll try.”
She lifted the rosary loop from around the bottle and wrapped it around my hand. «Aquí hay ayuda. Buenas noches, Mija.»
The dream ended so softly and quietly, I didn’t realize it was over until the moment I woke up.
It took a week of reflection and a half-assed attempt elsewhere, but it’s written. Mostly because I don’t want to find out the hard way what manifestation her chancla is going to take if I didn’t get it done at all.
“How to Pray the Rosary and Get Results” by Brother Armatus Divino Auxilio (Brother A.D.A.)
“We Pray the Rosary With Prayers in Latin and English” by Brother ADA