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Behind Argentina’s World Cup Magic, an Army of Witches

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Magalí Martínez knew something was off: The seemingly invincible soccer star Lionel Messi was scuffling on the soccer pitch. To her, it looked like he was afflicted with a supernatural curse that has roots in numerous cultures across history, the “evil eye.”

So Martínez, a self-proclaimed witch and part-time babysitter, started working. She focused intensely on Messi, began repeating a prayer and drizzled a little bit of oil right into a bowl of water. If the oil remained dispersed, he was secure. If it collected in the center, he was cursed.

“It got here together like a magnet,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t give you the chance to cure him alone.”

She went to Twitter and called on her fellow witches across Argentina. “Evil-eye healing sisters, Messi could be very affected,” she said. “I want your help.”

A thousand people shared her tweet, with many saying they, too, were witches and would work to guard Argentina’s golden boy.

Argentina has not lost since.

The bookkeepers have set their odds, gamblers have placed their bets and the experts have made their picks for Sunday’s World Cup final between Argentina and France, but their evaluation of the matchup — focused on just the 22 players on the sector — won’t be considering a wild card: Argentina’s army of witches.

In recent weeks, lots of, if not hundreds of Argentine women who call themselves “brujas,” or witches, have taken up arms — in the shape of prayers, altars, candles, amulets and burning sage — to guard their nation’s beloved soccer team in its quest to secure a 3rd World Cup title and its first in 36 years.

“We expect of ourselves as agents that, from love, can take care, protect and sow happiness,” said Rocío Cabral Menna, 27, a witch and high-school teacher in Messi’s hometown, Rosario, who burns a bay leaf inscribed together with her predicted rating in a ceremony before each match. The players are competing on the sector, she said, and at home, “the witches are caring for them.”

The trend caught fire after Argentina’s shocking loss to Saudi Arabia within the opening match, causing Argentines to look for any approach to help the team on which this nation of 47 million has pitted its hopes.

After that match, several witches began a WhatsApp group to instruct other witches on methods to help the national team. They called it the Argentine Association of Witches, or La Brujineta, a play on “bruja” and “La Scaloneta,” Argentina’s nickname for its national team.

“I assumed there have been going to be 10 people at most,” said the group’s founder, Antonella Spadafora, 23, a witch who runs a convenience store in a city in northwest Argentina. Inside days, greater than 300 people had joined the group. Last week, there was a lot demand that they began a Twitter account. It has gained 25,000 followers in seven days.

“We got uninterested in being closet witches,” said Andrea Maciel, 28, a witch and graphic designer in Buenos Aires who now helps manage the group.

The witches said their principal focus is to make use of rituals to soak up negative energy from Argentina’s players and exchange it with good energy. That, nonetheless, leaves them exhausted.

“Headaches, dizziness, vomiting, muscle pain,” Spadafora said. “We’re absorbing all of the bad vibes,” she added. “It wears you down loads, because these are very public figures who’ve a lot negative energy from other people.”

So, to divide the burden, the group leaders now split the witches into groups before every match, each focused on protecting a certain player.

While most of the witches said they’re working to take care of Messi and his teammates, others are trying to forged spells on opposing players, particularly the goalkeepers. One ritual involves freezing a slip of paper with the name of a player on it, saying a curse after which burning the frozen paper just before the match.

However the Brujineta group warned that attempting to curse France could backfire, particularly due to team’s star forward, Kylian Mbappé.

“We don’t recommend freezing France, as their players are protected by dark entities and the energy can bounce back!!” the group announced on Twitter on Wednesday. “We saw very dark things within the French team and particularly in Mbappé. Please share!!!”

The witches focused on the World Cup represent a wide selection of occult disciplines, more Latest 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 abilities, while others said they developed their skills through study. Several said they began practicing witchcraft as a part of a growing feminist movement in Argentina that began in 2018 with the fight for legal abortion.

“I believe all of us have magic inside,” said Cabral Menna.

However the witches are removed from the one Argentines attempting to help their team within the supernatural realm. On game days, many more Argentines have been practicing some type of cábala, or superstition designed to avoid causing any bad luck to their team. The cábalas often involve people sticking to the very same routine if the team is winning, including where they watch the sport, with whom, in what clothes, at what volume and on which channel.

The practice is so mainstream that hundreds of thousands of Argentines likely practice some type of cábala, a word that derives from kabbalah, a Jewish mystical tradition. Cábalas have been especially pronounced this 12 months after Argentina’s loss in its opening match.

Adrián Coria, Messi’s childhood coach in Rosario and in a while the national team, said that he watched the primary loss together with his family in his front room. Then his wife and daughter sent him to a small cabin within the backyard for the second match. “Alone,” he said. He has since watched the remainder of the World Cup 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 one a part of the home without air-con,” she said. “It’s extremely popular. But we’re not going to maneuver.”

And Sergio Duri, the owner of a restaurant in Rosario with Messi’s signature on the wall, said he now watches the matches in his kitchen with one dachshund, Omar, while his wife watches them of their bedroom with the opposite dachshund, Dulce. “If this comes out, everybody will know that we’re all completely crazy,” he said. “But these are cábalas, you understand?”

The players are also practicing cábalas. Alejandro Gómez, Leandro Paredes and Rodrigo de Paul, three midfielders, have taken to walking across the pitch an hour before kickoff while chewing candy, a convention they began last 12 months when Argentina won the Copa América, South America’s premier soccer tournament.

So now the query for the witches is: What’s going to occur on Sunday?

“We don’t want to provide information as if we’ve got absolutely the last word,” Spadafora said. “But obviously we’ve got began working, and clearly we’ve got checked with many of the means at our disposal — esoteric means, for instance, pendulums, Tarot, all of the divination methods — and it indicates that Argentina goes to win.”

Azucena Agüero Blanch, a 72-year old skilled fortune-teller once consulted by former President Carlos Menem, has also explained that she is working with magical stones to make sure an Argentina victory. “Many people who find themselves pushing for Argentina to win have called on me to work on this,” she told an Argentine newspaper.

On Friday night, Martínez was in her candlelit home in Buenos Aires wearing a robe covered in tigers and lighting candles at an altar that included burned sandalwood; Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god; and a photograph of Diego Maradona, the late Argentine soccer star who’s something like a deity to many on this country.

Martínez said she has a series of methods to guard the national team, including a practice that involves swinging a pendulum, or a picket cylinder on a string, above a player’s jersey number after which burning cotton doused with a mistletoe tincture. She said she follows the news for updates about players’ ailments after which uses the pendulum to assist alleviate them. “The pendulum is probably the most powerful tool I even have,” she explained.

She said she has also had psychic moments during matches. During Argentina’s match against Australia on Dec. 3, she said she had a vision of the Argentine forward Julián Álvarez celebrating a goal.

At 5:13 p.m., she tweeted: “Julian Alvarez I need your goal 🕯👁🕯👁🕯.”

4 minutes later, Álvarez scored.

Natalie Alcoba contributed reporting.

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