Mystery herbs, an unbroken egg and a telltale chime

I stand barefoot before the woman. A white hat protects her from my negative energy. She gives me a stinging whack with a bouquet of mystery herbs and flowers.

I was about 20 minutes into my limpia — spiritual cleansing. The bouquet was doused in lotions and the smell clung to me with every slap.

A red flower tumbled to the flower and the woman looked at me (ominously, it seemed). She asked whether I knew what kind of flower it was. I had no idea.

The falling flower meant I was having love problems. That was no lie.

"Step on the bouquet and say all of the negative things you want to be rid of," the woman said.

To my surprise, I started to stomp on the herbs and flowers, leaving green leaves stuck to my feet. The woman recited prayers and I repeated my name, as she instructed. She asked that I be protected from jealousy and a bunch of other bad things. As I collected the bouquet from the floor, I felt better.

Maybe because a ceremony that also involved having an unbroken egg rubbed all over my head and body was over. (That egg told the woman that someone was jealous of me but that people were protecting me.)

Later, she tapped what looked like a hand-held metal chime and moved it from head to toe, in front and behind me, to test my energy. If she could make it from head to toe and then back again with the chime still sounding, I had good energy, she said.

The chime seemed to pause momentarily on the way back up toward my head, but it made it all the way to the top without stopping ringing. You have good energy, the woman reassured me.

The cleansing over, she told me not to wear dark shirts and not to cross my arms for the next seven days. That was easy, I thought, as I began to cross my arms — stopping in the nick of time.

Oh, and don't shower for the rest of the day, she added as a final note. So much for feeling cleansed.

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