Witchcraft has been around in one form or another across cultures since time unremembered. In Spanish speaking cultures, witchcraft is often called “Brujería,” with practitioners called brujas (witches) if they are women, and brujos if they are men. While this is a legitimate spiritual practice, just as with witchcraft in other cultures throughout the world there has always been an element of dark tales of black magic and evil witches attached to it, and Spanish speaking countries are no different. In many of these sinister tales the Bruja are depicted as diabolical shape changers with vast powers of magic at their fingertips, and in many rural areas they are greatly feared. There have been many cases of these brujas terrorizing the populace, and such reports have continued on well into modern times.

One very terrifying recent such account comes from the country of Venezuela in the late 1990s, where the Mendoza family lived in a rural backwater town called Rubio, nestled deep within the rugged Andes mountains. The Mendoza family had lived in the historic little village for generations and although not extremely wealthy still had a rather nice, colonial style abode that housed the extended family. The Mendozas had long known nothing but peace and tranquility here, that is until one of the family allegedly angered one of the nefarious brujas. The youngest uncle of the family was a man named Juan, who had quite the reputation as an unrepentant ladies’ man. The trouble supposedly started when in 1997 Juan set his sights on a chaste young woman who also just happened to be a devout Catholic, unwilling to do much under her vow of chastity until marriage. The incorrigible scoundrel Juan supposedly still managed to manipulate and trick her, promising her that they would indeed get married, but this was just a ploy just to get in her pants, so to speak. The two slept together and Juan ended up dumping her to move on to the next one, leaving the woman shamed and having broken her religious promise. It did not help at all that she had also been deeply in love with him, and the whole betrayal left her desolate and destroyed.

This was all tragic enough as it was, but it was made even worse by the fact that in such a devoutly religious family and in such a small town word got around fast, and pretty soon people were whispering about how she had slept around and broken her vows. Her chances of meeting a serious husband withered up, and even worse the church that she had given her life to now considered her a sinner. This was of course devastating to the young woman, but soon her sadness gave way to anger, and then fury, her cold loneliness melted away by a new desire to get her revenge. According to the Mendozas, this was when the young woman would turn away from the church to embrace what she once feared in order to gain the power to make Juan pay, falling into the power of black magic. To this end the young woman turned to her long estranged grandmother, who was said to be a black magic practitioner and a bruja, once outcast by the family for her arcane ways but now approached by her granddaughter, her mind twisted by heartbreak and betrayal, and hell-bent on revenge. If the reports are to be believed she would have it. Considering that these powers are believed to run in the family, it may come as no surprise that the once devout Catholic found herself very adept at the dark arts, and after disappearing for some time to the dim wilderness to study with her grandmother she would come back changed, and perhaps not exactly human anymore.

The Mendoza family first noticed this arrival with strange sounds at night, such as bangs or thuds on the walls or roof, as well as what sounded like a heavy object being dragged and sometimes a sound like scratching, scrabbling claws. The whole family heard these eerie noises, and after several nights of this the sounds would be joined by an overpowering metallic, rotting smell. It soon got to the point where the setting of the sun brought fear with it at the Mendoza home, and they mostly just locked the house up and hoped for the best. One evening Juan’s own sister, Rita, gathered her husband and two of her sisters, as well as their bravery, to confront whatever it was that had been spooking them, and they went out in the night to see what the mysterious intruder was. As they crept out towards the unknown source of the anomalous noises, they probably all hoped that it was just some roaming animal, although they knew it was not, but what they actually saw would prove to be even more terrifying than they could have imagined at the time.

They saw through the gloom what looked to be some vast bird sitting upon the courtyard roof, seemingly observing them, and as they crept closer they could see that it looked to be an enormous vulture. As creepy as this was, closer inspection would show that this “vulture” had clawed hands upon the tips of its wings, and most horrifying of all the twisted head of a human and the face of what had once been Juan’s lover, features now animalistic and contorted, but still recognizable. This was a potent expression of her newfound dark powers, a testament to her sacrifice of all that she had once held dear and the remainder of her inherit goodness for, and in her terrifying new form she had shucked off her former beauty, encompassing her fall from grace and striking a deep fear into those who now gazed upon her. Had it been worth it? She smiled, sharp fangs exposed.

The witnesses immediately retreated back to their home and locked every door, knowing full well that the lover had become a powerful shape-shifting bruja, also knowing that their doors and windows would be little help in offering protction against her, but hoping that she was just after Juan. In a sense this was correct, as the witch would continue to appear whenever Juan was around, but this would soon spread to encompass the whole family. The bruja at first would just sit ominously in the dark, perched just close enough for them to know she was there and see her hideous countenance staring at them, seeming to revel in the fear the invoked, but this would not be enough for her.

Before long the bruja became more aggressive, swooping down upon Juan and any of his family members she managed to catch walking outside at night, sometimes merely screeching at them and at other times striking or clawing at them. Soon even locking themselves inside did little good, as the witch would batter the doors to send splinters flying and leave vicious claw marks upon the wood. During these ferocious assaults she did not always take her vulture form, on some occasions appearing as a hunched over hag with glowing eyes, wicked long talons, and filthy rags for clothes, but in every form she was terrifying, far from the beautiful woman she had once been.

These nighttime attacks became so vicious that it got to the point where none of the family dared step foot outside at night, with the Bruja obviously now wanting the blood she had come for, and so the Mendozas in desperation turned to a priest. At first the priest did not want to get involved in any of this, partly because he did not want the powerful Bruja to turn her sights on him, and partly because he felt Juan was getting what he deserved, but he was convinced when he heard that the evil entity had been targeting the entire family, including the children. The priest went about blessing the home and dousing it with holy water, unsure if any of this would be enough to ward off the powerful witch, and they waited with great apprehension for the sun to go down and the night to sweep in along with their evil tormentor. As expected the bruja came flying out of the darkness to circle for a moment before taking up her usual perch above the courtyard, but this time she was unable to, pushed aside by an invisible force. Infuriated, she then charged the house but was unable to get near it, all the while screaming and shrieking in a raging fury. The blessing had apparently worked, and one can only imagine that the family then let out a collective sigh of relief.

Despite being kept away by the blessing and holy water, the bruja nevertheless continued to lurk there just beyond this unseen barrier, refusing to give up her mission of revenge. This presented a problem for the Mendozas because they could still not venture out beyond this barrier of protection, and they soon realized that priests and blessings alone were not going to completely save them. After talking long and hard about what to do, the family out of desperation decided to fight fire with fire.

A persistent rumor was that out in the mountains there lived a bruja who was said to be not only one of the most powerful of them all, but also to have on occasion done battle with other brujas. It was thought that this hermit could perhaps be convinced to help them in their plight, and so Juan took it upon himself to find her. According to the tale, Juan trekked out into the remote wilderness, keenly aware that he only had until nightfall to achieve his goal before the witch would be out on the hunt again, and managed to not only find the legendary bruja, but also somehow enlist her aid, quite probably having some help with the large amounts of money he had brought with him. Their secret weapon in this case was a talon that had broken off of the bruja's hand during one of her nightly attacks, and this was the focus of an arcane ritual to forge the talon into a talisman that could fight off the very witch it had come from. The thankful Juan took the talon and headed back to the home with his new weapon, hanging it above the front door as had been instructed, and once again they waited for the sun to fall.

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The Andes in Venezuela

When night came so too did the witch, and she went to her typical position just outside the zone of protection to leer at them, but this time her scowl changed into a look of surprise as her wings failed her and she crashed to the ground. The bruja’s body allegedly began to transform until where there had been that horrific vulture thing there was now merely a shivering, naked woman, now stripped of her powers. She ran off into the night in a panic, but incredibly would return again and again for several weeks straight, now just a normal woman, but still undaunted, angry, and defiant. The family at this point almost took pity on her out there shivering in the dark, looking very weak and pathetic compared to the intimidating monster she had been, and after a while the defeated bruja stopped coming altogether. The Mendoza was finally safe, although whether Juan learned his lesson or not is unknown.

The whole story is so dramatic and spectacular that one might take it to be some old folk tale if it weren’t for the fact that this happened in the late 1990s and the Mendoza family has continued to insist that it all really happened. Is there anything to this tale of love lost and demonic witches bent on revenge? There is no way to really be sure, but it does give one something to think about the next time one of you fellows tries to break a woman's heart. You just never know how that is going to turn out.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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