Ifugao Love Potions And Charms

Monday May 12, 2014 ()

Ifugao Love Potions And Charms

LOVE charms have been believed in among all peoples, and are believed in today. Especially prevalent is this belief among the Orientals. The Ifugaos of the Mountain Province are no exception, and their love potions and charms are most curious and interesting.

The Ifugaos are a superstitious people. It is to be noted, however, that among the supposedly enlightened ancients, belief in love charms was also prevalent. Ovid made mention of them. And the Roman Lucullus was said to have been a victim of a concoction which was, besides being highly aphrodisiac, poisonous.

Ifugao Love Potions And Charms

The Ifugaos are no experts in the preparation of potions, but they do have many charms. A certain tribe called the Ahins, people of the Ifugao type living in the high mountains of the sub-province bordering on Benguet, know of a preparation, not of laurel branch, toad brain, and dove's heart, as the Romans made it, but of leaves of tiny, fern-like plants growing in the steep mountainsides of their locality.

The preparation of this charm is not easy, and only a few old men are in possession of the art. When one desires to have such a charm, he goes along the precipices and watches perhaps for several days for certain red birds which feed, on particular "holy" days, on these fern-like plants. The birds do not touch these herbs except during the mating season, but this season is not definite. It is the old men, the priests and guardians of tradition, who declare when the season opens, usually during full moon just after the rains. And the gallants of the village then go out to watch for the birds and to gather the herb.

The plants are brought to one of the old men, who merely looks at it, declares it to be "the herb", and then enjoins the young man to keep his find a secret and, to prepare the necessary fowls for sacrifice: one hen or two ducks, and a chick. On the day of sacrifice both the young man and the old go to some isolated place, and kill the fowls, the old man making his incantations meanwhile. As the birds are being cooked by the young man, the old one continues to pray and recite the baki (recitation of the traditional stories about the gods and spirits of dead ancestors) invoking the good graces of the gods and their help in making the love charm truly potent and capable of bringing happiness to the young possessor. He cuts the herbs, folds them in accordance with a definite pattern, and then carefully binds them together with cotton string, including also two or three of the chick's feathers, the chick's burial being the last part of the ceremony. (In other places the chick is not buried but placed above the fireplace to dry and rot). The old man then eats the fowl while the young gallant looks on. He must not touch the cooked thing. After the old man has regaled himself, he declares the charm to have been blessed, and gives it to the young man for safe-keeping.

The charm is thereafter kept at the waist of the possessor, either tied to his G-string or kept in his pouch. It is believed that he henceforth easily draws the attention and love of the young maidens. The women look with favor on any man who is reputed to have such a charm, for they believe that such men are passionate and virile.

The most potent of love charms are believed to be able even to quiet any dog and make it friendly at first sight. Sometimes the charm is put in a small bottle filled with coconut oil. A little of the oil is surreptitiously put on the hair or hand of the desired girl.

Of love potions the Ifugaos have a preparation composed of the sexual gland of the crocodile dipped in a mixture of kingfisher's brain, coconut oil, and the juice of a number of different herbs. The gland is then dried. It is used by cutting off a tiny portion and mixing it with the food or betel-nut of the woman whose love is craved. It is believed a woman who has eaten this without her knowledge of course falls passionately in love. The man who himself eats of it becomes a satyrist, it is believed, but they never do this.

Another love charm, in which the Kiangan Ifugaos have a strong belief, is made of the tiny lizards that live under the stones near springs where women are wont to take a bath. It is said that these lizards gather the fallen hair of the women and make a sleeping place or nest of it. Such a lizard is caught, carefully killed without any part being dismembered, dried with some herbaceous preparation, prayed over by one of the old men, and is then kept in the a small bamboo tube carried in the pinun-na (a pouch for keeping tobacco or anything of immediate necessity, carried by the men at their waist). The hair gathered by the same lizard must also be kept if found, for this makes the charm more powerful. It is believed that a man who owns such a charm is, besides a favorite among the women, an expert in catching fish. When he goes fishing he merely ties a hair from the lizard's nest on the tip of his fishing rod. The fish are believed to be also charmed and easily caught.

In order to win the love of a married woman, the superstitious Ifugao gazes upon the beloved object through a ring made of long yellow reeds in which a snake has left his skin. The ring must contain a portion of this skin. The charmed ring, before it may be effectively used, must have been blessed by an old man who recites a certain prayer for the purpose.

For this service, the old man is given a chicken or a small pig to eat, like for all the divers services performed by such people who keep the traditions and pagan rites from disappearing. They are what we may term the Brahmin class of the Ifugaos. In Kiangan, such old men are fast disappearing due to the active missionary work of the Belgian priests and nuns. There are no successors to the remaining three or four reputed experts in the baki.

Against the effects of such love charms and potions as have been mentioned and numerous others believed in by Ifugaos of the outlying districts, there are certain remedies or means to ward off their effects. The women, especially the married ones, carry with them, carefully hidden in the waist-fold of their short skirt, whenever they go out of their houses, pieces of ginger. It is believed that the ginger strengthens their resistance to the effects especially of love potions, of which they are very much afraid. The unmarried women are not worried a whit about charms, and generally have no feeling against them.

As previously stated, the Ifugaos are no experts in the making of love potions. Such as they know about and have were acquired from the Gaddangs of the Cagayan Valley, who are reputed to be expert poison makers. Superstition aside, however, some of the old men, the "pagan priests", know of the aphrodisiac qualities of certain plants, and make concoctions for such as care to pay the price of the ceremony. As can be easily surmised, such aphrodisiacs are not infrequently poisonous. And those bought from the Gaddangs are more often poisons than aphrodisiacs. The Ifugaos, who have a deep aversion for impotence, sometimes resort to these preparations to remedy such a misfortune, and often the effects are fatal.


  1. Alberto Crespillo, Philippine Magazine, Volume 34, Number 7, July 1937


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