Which are the Witches?

Tarot card reader Nadia Lopes has been linked to esotericism since 1604. Her great aunt was the “witch” of Arruda dos Vinhos. As we approach Halloween, I decided to ask this descendant of a genuine witch about witchcraft. 

WORDS Sílvia Carvalho d’Almeida

I discovered that a witch’s credentials have little to do with what is frequently seen in Hollywood movies and cartoons for children. Nadia, who practices Clairvoyance, says, “I follow some of my great Aunt’s methods, which were given to me as a gift in childhood.”

The Witch of Arruda is a well-known legend in Portugal, famous for her spells and witchcraft. However, rather than spending her time on broomsticks, this witch spent much of her time in the church. Actually, she would be better described as a healer. She used herbs and oils, prayers, and holy water to heal headaches, stomach pains, and other human sufferings. “In that time, at the beginning of the last century, there were no medications like today so people found relief for their discomforts with people like my great Aunt,” explains Nadia.

According to tradition, a witch descends from a generation of women of the same family. Their knowledge is inherited from the Comendadoras of the Order of Santiago, wives of the knights of the same Order. Stories claim that the village of Arruda was donated to the Order of Santiago by D. Afonso Henriques in 1172 in gratitude for helping him defeat the Moors with their supernatural powers.

In a letter dated 2nd November 1934, a Dr. Tito Bourbon e Noronha described the phenomenon of the Witch of Arruda to Dr José Leite de Vasconcelos. In his letter, Dr. Bourbon e Noronha acknowledges that he knew of a woman and her daughters who were practising healing. He says their practices were “lucrative” and that they possessed an “aura.”

Nadia does not know much about her famous ancestor, who died before she was born. Some stories, however, she heard from her grandmother as a child. The witch’s sister refused to speak much about her because she once saw her performing an exorcism and found it terrifying. Nadia’s father was taught prayers and spells, as all the traditions and teachings were orally transmitted from one generation to another.

One legend about the Witch of Arruda claims that a doctor from Setúbal once sought out her services. Not knowing how to treat his daughter for a strange illness, in desperation he turned to the Bruxa d’Arruda. The witch told him that she would treat his daughter, but that he must leave the girl in her care for three days. The doctor, having no other solution, decided to entrust his daughter to the wise woman. For two days, the girl didn’t eat or drink anything. On the third day, the witch placed a bowl of milk next to the young patient’s bedside. Moments later, a snake came out of the girl’s mouth and she was cured.”

The Witch of Arruda has also been a theme for the well-known Portuguese historian Hermano José Saraiva. He featured this legend in an episode entitled, “Arruda, Verdade e a Lenda.” In this work, he explored the myth of the Witch of Arruda, a woman who was highly regarded in her community. In his research, Saraiva found reports that she could read someone’s destiny in water with olive oil. 

Nadia believes that witches and sorcerers are “people who have knowledge and the power to change determined situations.” Magic can be either beneficial or detrimental so Nadia advises people to be careful. Also, she recommends being vigilant about what you ask for because sometimes the spell may not have the effect you wanted, especially if it is not destined and the entities are unwilling to cooperate. 

She has no certainty of what happens after death, but she told me that since she was a child she has experienced, “paranormal phenomena, whether it is voices or whispers or tactile sensations.” She argues though, that in the world of magic, there is no room for certainties. “I don’t think there is a way to prove that this phenomenon exists for certain. What I am sure about is that there is something superior to us all.” 

Often people believed to have special powers were ostracised by society and even punished with death. “Being different was always scary to other people,” observes Nadia. She tells me “the best witches and sorcerers are in the Vatican, where all the knowledge is being kept.” She is making a reference to the secret archives of the Vatican, which conspiracy theorists believe to contain ancient knowledge that has been orally transmitted for centuries. “One of the requirements to pass on this knowledge is to have the gift and a good heart.”

On the Arruda dos Vinhos city hall website, there is a reference to the legend, and there are still residents who claim the tale’s character was real. “Within the popular oral tradition that arises around the Bruxa da Arruda, many stories are told, some attribute its powers to the occult and witchcraft and to things like treatments for exorcism and the evil eye. Others refer to the domain of knowledge of herbs and medicinal plants. Based on the research carried out, it is possible to associate the five daughters of Ana Loira (Lérias) – the first Bruxa da Arruda, resident of Casal das Neves.” 

Nadia’s Aunt was one of these daughters, so if you are inclined to explore the supernatural, you can book an online consultation with Nadia who will act as your medium into another realm.


Did you know…

The origins of Halloween are related to the Celts, who inhabited the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France. On 1 November, they celebrated their new year with the Samhain Festival. On that day, people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. These traditions were lost with the occupation of the region by the Roman Empire. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated 1 November as a time to honour all the saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.

Nowadays, and due in large part to the cultural influence of the United States of America, Halloween has acquired its current traditions of trick or treating and haunted houses. Nevertheless, it is in fact the product of many European traditions carried out by the various people who inhabited these territories across the centuries.


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