The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Places: A witch’s Travel Guide
Siquijor Island is located between the large Visayan Islands of Mindanao and Negros in the Philippines and may be reached via ferry. Siquijor, described as the “Island of Sorcerers,” is feared by many Filipinos as a source of malevolent, evil magic.
Two opposing viewpoints exist regarding Siquijor Island, depending upon one’s spiritual perspective. Either it is home to a sophisticated, magical system deeply rooted in indigenous pre-Colonial traditions, or it is the home of evil practices and malevolent magic.
Attitudes toward the magical traditions of Siquijor and its practitioners are comparable to attitudes toward Hoodoo and New Orleans Voodoo in the United States. However, many Siquijor witchcraft activities are reminiscent of Sweden’s Easter witches and Russian witchcraft.
Similar to Swedish Easter witches, the primary witchcraft activity on Siquijor occurs on the Eve of Good Friday. Healers, practitioners, shamans, and witches allegedly gather botanicals during Holy Week before converging on San Antonio Mountain, the highest peak on the island on Good Friday Eve. The mananambals (indigenous shamans and healers) craft their brews on their sacred mountain on Good Friday Eve: ingredients are added to a large cauldron or kawa. While it brews, the night is devoted to spiritual and magical rituals; then the brew is apportioned to the various practitioners.
Holy Week evolves into an unofficial “Witches’ Festival” during which practitioners and healers from various parts of the Phillipines and elsewhere converge on Siquijor Island. Russian witches travel to Bald Mountain to gather herbs on Midsummer’s Eve: allegedly botanicals picked at this time in this place possess maximum magical power. Likewise, practitioners journey to Siquijor during this time to gather botanicals, especially healing medicinal plants. (Allegedly some plants are only available on Siquijor.)
Powerful shamanic and botanical healing traditions survive in Siquijor. Botanical potions are bottled in oil, reminiscent of Hoodoo preparations, themselves reminiscent of magical concoctions from ancient Egypt. For instance, haplos, a healing ointment, is crafted from over 100 herbs steeped in coconut oil in large empty liquor bottles.
Siquijor witches allegedly cast hexes and turn tricks, not dissimilar in style from those of the Southern United States. Malevolent spells are cast using intimate items belonging to the spell’s target (pieces of clothing, hair, fingernail clippings, and the like). The concept of “live things” introduced into a victim’s body by a malevolent practitioner also exists, although the techniques used are allegedly different. (See MAGICAL ARTS: Healing.)
Some villagers boast of the island’s witches and perceive its reputation for witchcraft as beneficial, crediting Siquijor’s low crime rate to fear of witches; others deny their existence, claiming these stories are all innuendo and superstition. Others acknowledge that historically there were witches but all have since been killed. (An elderly couple was killed in the 1960s when their house was dynamited. Allegedly neighbors feared the couple’s relationship with spirits.) Still others suggest that the witches still exist, living quietly and discreetly in mountain caves.