Emilia Ortiz Is Providing Self-Care Practices — With Guidance From Her Ancestors


To read about the rest of the Culture Shifters, including TV writer Cord Jefferson and activist Mariah Moore, return to the complete list here. Emilia Ortiz’s laughter is harmonized by a joyful choir of spirits whose vitality and vibrancy cut through the background static of our interview.

The laugh was inspired by a simple question.

Simply put, Ortiz is transforming. The 2-year-old bruja and spiritual adviser is literally bursting with new life — Ortiz was entering her third trimester of pregnancy when we spoke over the phone. Appropriately, we paid a quick tribute to her growing mofonguito, calling in protection and abundance. The ancestral spirits that guide her in her ritual practices seemed to be already in sync with us. She has amassed more than 200,000 followers

on Instagram as @ethereal.1. The assemblages of her Afro-Puerto Rican lineage, no-bullshit delivery, and Brujeria create a space where she openly talks about openly explores themes like mental health, sexuality and grassroots activism, sin verguenza. Brujeria, native folk witchcraft, has historically been a powerful tool of collective survival, perseverance, and the crafting of radical new paradigms. The proud Brooklyn native has created a space without shame.

On Instagram, Ortiz provides avenues for self-care for la gente. Hoops big, nails long, skin glowing, edges set, she takes the hands of her followers. She guides them through native herbal plant support, meditation exercises, mutual aid projects, and oracle readings assisted by her pet parrot, Rico. Her lessons for the coordinated strike

a divine balance of providing hope and reminding followers to check themselves before the spirit does the job for them. Using memes, Ortiz reminds followers to honor boundaries, feel safe within their bodies, and that the government is trash. (Just look at its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she notes on Instagram.) Along the way, Ortiz never compromises on her sense of self and the tortured lineage she honors through her practice.

In Puerto Rico, an island still suffering under continued colonization, much of the spiritual practices of a medley of African, Spanish Catholicism, and indigenous Taino belief systems and rituals have been purged from collective memory. However, Ortiz’s psychic ability was recognized in her childhood and encouraged by her father, who never shied away from their African roots. Following his death, Ortiz’s family encouraged her to continue to develop her abilities and step into her power and fate. The well-established nature of her practice offered a means of preparation for the onslaught of trauma in 2020.


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