Magalí Martínez knew something was wrong: the seemingly invincible soccer star Lionel Messi was tussling on the soccer field. To them, it appeared as if he was being afflicted by a supernatural curse that has roots in various cultures throughout history, the “evil eye.”
So Martínez, a self-proclaimed witch and part-time babysitter, got to work. Focusing intensely on Messi, she began to repeat a prayer and dribble some oil into a bowl of water. If the oil stayed spread, he was safe. If it pooled in the middle, he was cursed.
“It came together like a magnet,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t heal him alone.”
She took to Twitter and called her fellow witches across Argentina. “Evil Eye Healing Sisters, Messi is very upset,” she said. “I need your help.”
A thousand people shared her tweet, with many saying they too are witches and working to protect Argentina’s golden boys.
Argentina haven’t lost since then.
The accountants have set their odds, players have placed their bets and the pundits have made their picks for Sunday’s World Cup final between Argentina and France, but their analysis of the encounter – which only focuses on the 22 players on the field – is up possibly not to be considered a joker: Argentina’s witch army.
In recent weeks, hundreds if not thousands of Argentinian women who call themselves “Brujas,” or witches, have taken up arms — in the form of prayers, altars, candles, amulets and burning sage — to protect their country’s beloved soccer team his quest for a third world title and first in 36 years.
“We see ourselves as agents who can take care of us out of love, protect us and sow good fortune,” said Rocío Cabral Menna, 27, a witch and high school teacher in Messi’s hometown of Rosario, who burns a laurel leaf inscribed with her predicted outcome in a ceremony before every game. Players compete on the field, she said, and at home “the witches take care of them.”
The trend ignited after Argentina’s shock defeat by Saudi Arabia in the opening game, prompting Argentines to look for ways to help the team this nation of 47 million has pinned their hopes on.
After this game, several witches created a WhatsApp group to teach other witches how to help the national team. They called it the Argentine Witches Association, or La Brujineta, a game of “Bruja” and “La Scaloneta”, Argentina’s nickname for its national team.
“I figured it would be 10 people at most,” said the group’s founder, Antonella Spadafora, 23, a witch who runs a grocery store in a town in northwestern Argentina. Within days, more than 300 people joined the group. There was so much demand last week that they opened a Twitter account. In seven days, it gained 25,000 followers.
“We’re sick of being witches in the closet,” said Andrea Maciel, 28, a witch and graphic designer in Buenos Aires who now helps run the group.
The witches said their main focus is using rituals to absorb negative energy from Argentina’s players and exchange it with good energy. However, this leaves her exhausted.
“Headache, dizziness, vomiting, muscle aches,” Spadafora said. “We absorb all the bad vibes,” she added. “It wears you down a lot because these are very public figures who have so much negative energy from other people.”
To spread the load, the group leaders now divided the witches into groups before each game, each focused on protecting a specific player.
While many of the witches said they take care of Messi and his teammates, others try to cast spells on opposing players, especially the goalkeepers. One ritual involves freezing a piece of paper with a player’s name on it, casting a curse, and then burning the frozen paper just before the game.
But the Brujineta group warned that trying to curse France could backfire, particularly because of the team’s star striker Kylian Mbappé.
“We do not recommend freezing France as their players are protected by dark entities and energy can ricochet!!” The group announced this on Twitter on Wednesday. “We saw very dark things in the French team and in particular in Mbappé. Please share!!!”
The witches concentrating on the World Cup represent a wide variety of occult disciplines, more New Age than ancient and indigenous. Practices include black magic, white magic, wicca, reiki, tarot, astrology, and healers of the evil eye and other ailments.
Some women said they were born with special skills, while others said they developed their skills through study. Several said they began practicing witchcraft as part of a growing feminist movement in Argentina that began fighting for legal abortion in 2018.
“I think we all have magic in us,” Cabral Menna said.
But the witches are far from the only Argentines trying to help their team in the supernatural realm. On matchdays, many other Argentines have practiced some kind of Kabbalah or superstition to avoid bad luck for their team. At the Cábalas, people often stick to the same routine when the team wins, including where to watch the game, with whom, in what clothes, at what volume, and on what channel.
The practice is so widespread that millions of Argentines likely practice some form of Kabbalah, a word derived from Kabbalah, a Jewish mystical tradition. Cábalas were particularly prominent this year after Argentina’s defeat in the opening game.
Adrián Coria, Messi’s childhood coach in Rosario and later with the national team, said that he watched the first defeat with his family in his living room. Then his wife and daughter sent him to a small cabin in the backyard for the second match. “Alone,” he said. He has since followed the rest of the World Cup from there.
Cabral Menna, the witch from Rosario, said she and her mother watched Argentina’s first victory in her mother’s bedroom. “It’s the only part of the house without air conditioning,” she said. “It’s very hot. But we won’t move.”
And Sergio Duri, the owner of a restaurant in Rosario with Messi’s signature on the wall, said he now looks at the matches in his kitchen with one dachshund, Omar, while his wife looks at them in their bedroom with the other dachshund, Dulce. watch. “When that comes out, everyone will know that we’re all completely insane,” he said. “But these are cabalas, you know?”
Players also practice cabalas. Alejandro Gómez, Leandro Paredes and Rodrigo de Paul, three midfielders, have made it a point to chew candy an hour before kick-off, a tradition they started last year when Argentina won the Copa America, South America’s premier football tournament .
So now the question for the witches: what happens on Sunday?
“We don’t want to give any information like we have the absolute last word,” Spadafora said. “But obviously we’ve started work and obviously we’ve checked most of the tools at our disposal – esoteric tools, for example pendulums, tarot, all divination methods – and it indicates that Argentina will win.”
Azucena Aguero Blanch, a 72-year-old professional fortune teller who was once consulted by former President Carlos Menem, has also said she works with magic stones to ensure an Argentina victory. “A lot of people who are pushing for Argentina to win have asked me to work on it,” she told an Argentine newspaper.
On Friday night, Martínez was at her candlelit home in Buenos Aires, wearing a tiger-covered robe and lighting candles at an altar containing burnt sandalwood; Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god; and a photo of Diego Maradona, the late Argentine football star who is something of a deity to many in this country.
Martínez said she has a number of methods to protect the national team, including a practice of swinging a pendulum or wooden cylinder on a string over a player’s shirt number and then burning cotton doused with a mistletoe tincture. She said she follows the news for updates on player complaints and then uses the pendulum to ease them. “The pendulum is the most powerful tool I have,” she explained.
She said she also had mental moments during the games. During Argentina’s December 3 game against Australia, she said she had a vision of Argentina striker Julián Álvarez celebrating a goal.
At 5:13 p.m., she tweeted: “Julian Alvarez, I want your goal 🕯👁🕯👁🕯.”
Álvarez scored four minutes later.
Natalie Alcoba contributed to the coverage.