Susto, A Story of Shock, Fright, Souls, and Places

A Frightened Boy and His Mother

A Frightened Boy and His Mother

Who hasn’t had the experience that whether as a child or a grownup they fall and suffer shock. In Spanish we call this susto, and it is understood differently by us than in English.

It could be that even before they had the use of reason their parents might have let them fall. As a result, today they suffer from great frights that trap them. These might be a fear of heights, fear of dogs, fear of insects such as spiders, etc.

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Here in the city of Cusco we have different ways of treating this susto in order to cure children and adults. One way is to go to a curandero, a popular healer, who will use different objects to free them from susto. They often use an egg and pass it around their body in order to remove all the evil or fright they might have. For children they use wheat bread of huaro bread. These are the most traditional and are common food in the city. The curandero also takes the small breads and passes them around the child’s body to take the susto from them.

When big accidents happen and people die that place becomes a frightening and shadowy, dangerous place. It seems that accidents keep happening there. You only know about these places because of the multitude of crosses that accumulate there at the side of the road. You know from them that people have died there.

People say that the place is impregnated with the soul of the persons who have suffered. They say that it calls others so that they too might fall into the same situation. In the same way, when someone falls and enters serious fright or shock, their soul—ánimo—calls other people to the same place to fall. That is why people use salt, bread and metal. They bury it in the place where the accident or fall happened in order to undo what happened and impede that others fall there.

When I would get frightened my mother would say the following. She would put her mouth up to my ear and would say, “Brayan, here is your nipple and breast, here is your nipple and breast.” Then she would push down hard and I no longer felt fear but felt renewed. She would do this in order to call back my ánimo, my soul or whatever essence of me had stayed in the place where I fell.

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