Mexican Milagros - Their Meaning and Their Use

Milagros are small religious charms, which the faithful believe are endowed with spiritual or magical powers for healing and for helping restore and preserve well-being and balance in their lives, or the lives of those whom they pray for.

The pictures below show some milagros that were hung in a chapel of a so-called "banned saint" - the "Anima Leyva" - in Ojinaga, Chihuahua.
Click on them to see larger images

The word milagro means "miracle" in Spanish. Typically, in Mexico, the use of milagros is connected with an institution known as the ďmandaĒ. This where a person will ask a favor a saint, and then, in order to repay the saint after the favor has been granted, one must make a pilgrimage to the shrine of that saint, and take a milagro and leave it there. These milagros are typically pinned to some object of devotion in the shrine, and often a small prayer of thanks is added, written of a piece of paper, typically.

People also might carry a milagro with them in order to get its benefit. For instance, a curandera - a spiritual healer - might bless a milagro and recommend that the person carry it in her pocketbook or on her person, in order to cure a physical ailment or to ward off evil, or bring about a change of fortune.

Milagros can represent specific objects, persons, or even animals, or they might represent concepts that might be symbolized by the object represented in the milagro. For instance, a head might represent a person, a personís head, the mind, the spirit, a condition such a headache, or whatever concept that the owner or that a curandero or curandera might assign to it.

Here are some typical milagros that are commonly used:

THE HEART

This can represent the human heart, and it might be connected with cares of worries over a heart condition. Or, it might represent the love that one person feels for another. It can also represent the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or the Sacred Heart of Mary.

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THE EYES

The milagro of the eyes is often connected with a popular Mexican saint - Santa Lucia - who, in her popular image, is shown with a tray with two eyes on it. People pray to her - and make mandas to her - about eye conditions. The eyes can also represent the concept of watching. One practice is to attach the milagro to the frame of the image of a deceased person, in the belief that this might represent the concept that the spirit of that person is watching over us, and helping to defend us from spirits from the land of the dead, or pleading our case before the saints and the angels.

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THE PRAYING WOMAN

This popular milagro can represent a woman, such as ones mother or wife, for instance, or any other woman who is perceived as being faithful and fervent, or it might represent the prayers of a woman, or ones own prayers or posture of prayerfulness if one is a woman. It can also represent any female saint, such as the Virgin Mary, for instance.

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THE PRAYING MAN

This milagro can represent a man, such as ones father or husband, for instance, or any other man who is perceived as being faithful and fervent, or it might represent the prayers of a man, or ones own prayers or posture of prayerfulness if one is a man. It can also represent any male saint, such as the San Isidro, for instance, who is always shown in a praying posture.

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THE WOMANíS HEAD

A milagro of womanís head might represent a woman, a womanís head, a womanís mind, a womanís spirit, a condition such a headache, or whatever concept that the owner or that a curandero or curandera might assign to it

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THE MANíS HEAD

A milagro of manís head might represent a man, a manís head, a manís mind, a manís spirit, a condition such a headache, or whatever concept that the owner or that a curandero or curandera might assign to it

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THE GIRL

This popular milagro might represent oneís female child, or a niece, a grandchild, or any other girl. It might also represent the childlike qualities in anyone, such as oneself, in the sense of nurturing ones inner child, for instance. It can also be connected with a manda to a saint, wherein one might have prayed to give birth to a baby, and as a result of these prayers, a girl child was born.

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THE BOY

This very popular milagro might represent oneís male child, or a nephew, a grandchild, or any other boy. It might also represent the childlike qualities in anyone, such as oneself, in the sense of nurturing ones inner child, for instance. It can also be connected with a manda to a saint, wherein one might have prayed to give birth to a baby, and as a result of these prayers, a boy child was born.

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THE ARM

The milagro of the arm might represent an arm itself, and some condition associated with it, such as an injury, or, say, and arthritic condition. It might also represent ones strength, ones ability to work - and hence ones job - or some related concept. It might represent an embrace, and physical demonstrations of affection that involve embracing. Any part of the arm might be the focus of the prayers or the magic, such as the hand, for instance.

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THE LEG

This milagro might represent ones leg itself, and some condition associated with it, such as an injury, or, say, and arthritic condition. It might also represent ones strength, and the concept of travel, such as, not only walking, but a journey, or even the idea that one might be safe driving back and forth from work everyday.

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THE HOUSE

This represents, normally, ones own home, and the blessings that might be had on it, and on the family that dwells there. It can also represent the hope of having oneís home when one has not yet achieved that, or it can represent someone elseís home, wherein one prays or hopes for blessings and well-being there - say, at ones parentsí home. It might also represent any other building that is like ones home away from home, if one sees such a place as being such - such as ones workplace, or school, even. When traveling, it can be a charm to insure that one will arrive safely home again, or it can establish a connection between the traveler and the loved ones at home.

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THE HEN

The hen is actually a very powerful symbol, as are all of the animal milagros. This one, like the others, might represent ones own hen, with one seeking blessings so that she might always lay good eggs. Or, it might symbolize human qualities like those of a mother hen - the concept of mothering.

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THE BULL

The bull might symbolize strength, husbanding, protection, stamina, endurance.

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THE HORSE

The horse might symbolize the qualities of a man in being a workhorse, or it might symbolize travel, and be involved in a prayer about a journey.

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THE MULE

The mule, like the horse, might symbolize the qualities of a man in being a workhorse - being able to "work like a mule" - or it might symbolize travel, and be involved in a prayer about a journey. It might also be involved in a prayer or a charm to overcome stubborness, in either in oneself or in another.

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THE SHEEP

The sheep could symbolize any of the Bible verses about sheep, such as the parable of the Good Shepherd, or the Agnus Dei - the Lamb of God. It could also symbolize the concept of togetherness, the fealty one feels for ones groups, or family. It might also be used a charm to try and erase the effects of behavior that is typically described in a negative way as being like that of a sheep - such as giving into peer pressure with negative results, or, say, the concern of a parent that her child my be involved with a harmful cult or some other group that one does not approve of.

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THE DOG

The family dog milagros could symbolize loyalty. It could also symbolize protection, such as what a sheep dog affords the herd.

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THE PIG

The pig could symbolize nourishment - "bringing home the bacon". It might also be used a charm to try and erase the effects of behavior that is typically described in a negative way as being like that of a pig, such as perceived lack of control in ones eating habits.

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