I’m especially excited, as a member of the Labyrinth Lost Street Team and #RWFSquad (Resting Witch Face, it’s a thing) to have this Q&A Post from the amazing Zoraida Córdova.
1) Did any of the political unrest in Latin American countries influence the conflict present in Los Lagos?
The conflict of Los Lagos was not intended to reflect the political aspects of all the Latin American countries. However, now that the book is out there, it isn’t up to me to tell people what to see in it. What I can say is that Alex’s journey is a struggle of good and evil within herself and her community. I didn’t want to write a magic that was black and white because life is full of gray areas. Witchcraft and magic has too often been painted as absolutes. The other realm of Los Lagos struggles with that imbalance, just as Alex does. In that way, Los Lagos can represent the disparity of power that’s happening in the United States, and other countries.
2) Are any of the rituals in the book derived from your own formative experiences?
No. The Deathday ceremony in Labyrinth Lost is a magical coming of age of my own creation. Like a Bat Mizvah or a Sweet 16, but for brujas and brujos. It is a time when a family gets together and wakes the dead spirits of their ancestors. The ancestors then give their blessing to the brujx. With the blessing, the magic can grow and reach full potential. Without the blessing, well, bad things can happen. Like many traditions, they grow and become modernized. In Alex’s time, Deathdays are lined up with birthdays for extra festivities. Even though the Deathday ceremony was created for the world of Labyrinth Lost, aspects of it are inspired by the Day of the Dead and Santeria.
El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday that celebrates and honors deceased family members through food and festivities. Altars are filled with photographs, flowers, food, and candles. The celebrations are then taken to the cemeteries where people play games, sing, and even leave shots of mezcal for the adult spirits. The unity of death and family is what drew me to it, and one of the things I wanted to include in Alex’s life. One of the best books I’ve read on the subject was The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico by Elizabeth Carmichael.
Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion that syncretizes Yoruba beliefs and aspects of Catholicism. It developed when slaves from Western Africa were taken to Cuba and other Caribbean Islands against their will. Slaves were forced to convert, but held on to their religion in secrecy, and used Catholic saints as parallels to their Orishas. Those who don’t understand it often see Santeria as a secretive and underground religion. Like some Santeros, the brujas of Labyrinth Lost use animal sacrifice, possession, and connect directly to their gods. The Santeria Orishas, however, are not gods, but parts of the Supreme God. For further information, a starting point is Santeria: the Religion: Faith, Rites, Magic by Migene González-Wippler.
THAT BEING SAID… When I was a teen, I practiced my own personal form of Wicca. There was something that I wanted to connect to, but couldn’t. It wasn’t until my 20s that I realized that Wicca’s roots are too European for me to connect with. I want to make it clean that didn’t grow up practicing real life Brujeria, and the brujeria in Labyrinth Lost is made up because I didn’t want to offend true life practitioners. I don’t know what I believe in, but I still keep to my own personal blend of magic.
3) What is your interpretation of the eye/eyesight in the novel and how does that attribute to it being a strength/weakness?
If you’re referring to Alex’s sister Rose who has “the Sight,” then I’d say it’s like all the other powers the brujxs are blessed with. There is a blessing and curse that comes with strong powers like the Mortiz sisters have. Their power is strong, stronger than other brujxs of their community. But, when they use their power it comes at great personal cost and injury to them. Power has a price.
4) What other cultures played a role in the creation of the mythology of the novel?
The pantheon of gods in Labyrinth Lost has structural similarities with Greek and pagan mythologies. There is a male and female parental duo, and the children that they created to interact with humans.
5) Did you intentionally create the Brujeria belief system to be almost as oppressive/repressive to Alex as Catholicism is to some Latinx people?
This is tricky for me. I grew up Catholic, but always questioned the power of the church. I was baptized and had a communion. After that, I chose not to have a confirmation. It wasn’t for me. Alex makes the decision to not have her Deathday. Because of the magical rules of Labyrinth Lost, her actions have a serious repercussion. Alex’s community is small. They’ve been hunted for centuries. The need to preserve their magic is intensified because there are so few brujxs with powers left in the modern world. I tried as hard as I could to keep Catholicism out of this book, but because my witches are from a Spanish/Latin American background, it’s ingrained in the book. I’m not making a statement about Catholicism. My focus was on the colonization of brujas and their powers, their assimilation to modern society, and the way the hide out of fear.
Thank you so much for these important questions.
Zoraida Córdova is the author of The Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and Labyrinth Lost. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. She is a New Yorker at heart and is currently working on her next novel. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro
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