Rachel, best-loved of Biblical patriarch Jacob’s wives, is also the most beloved matriarch in Jewish folk religion, although she is controversial. When Jacob and his family return to Canaan following his sojourn with Rachel’s brother Laban, it’s Rachel who secretly absconds with the mysterious teraphim, much to her brother’s dismay and displeasure, possibly drawing down his curse. (The identity of the teraphim remains mysterious: they may be divination devices, idols, fetishes containing ancestral spirits, some or all of the above.)

Rachel died tragically young. After suffering from infertility for years, she died in childbirth. Rachel is the mother-defender of the Jewish people, envisioned weeping for their travails. Although she may be petitioned and invoked for anything because of her own personal circumstances, her specialties are fertility and safe childbirth.

Rachel the weeping, wailing mother who is unable to hide or protect her children may be among La Llorona’s secret identities. This theory is not far-fetched. Spanish law prohibited anyone suspected of being a potential agent of religious heresy from settling in Mexico. The Inquisition in Mexico was extremely aggressive. From 1528 until 1659, a substantial number of convicted Crypto-Jews were burned in a series of public auto-da-fés in Mexico City. It was unsafe for hidden sympathizers to invoke Rachel, who is too obviously Jewish. Instead, weeping, heartbroken Rachel may hide behind the mask of a weeping, heartbroken Aztec goddess.


Exiles, infertile women, women in travail, motherless children


A sixteenth-century French card game identifies the Queen of Diamonds as Rachel. The playing card may be used to represent her.

Creature: Sheep

Sacred site:

Rachel died some three thousand years ago on the road to Efrat near Bethlehem and was immediately buried by Jacob and her family. She is buried alone, the only one of the patriarchs and matriarchs not buried in the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron.

Ritual: The red Rachel cords worn as bracelets are now so popular that not only devotees wear them. Those unfamiliar with the concept of amulets may see these bracelets as fashion or mere lucky charms. However, threads imbued with the blessings and baraka (“personal power”) of holy people are ancient, treasured Jewish talismans. Although Rachel’s red thread is most famous, this technique may be used to tap into any shrine’s power:

1. Wind a red cotton string around Rachel’s tomb while praying, petitioning, invoking her blessings, and/or chanting Psalms.

2. Wrap it around your left wrist to receive Rachel’s blessings of protection and fertility.

3. Once created, this thread will retain its power and may be given to another.

4. In addition to being worn as a bracelet, Rachel’s thread is tied around sickbeds to transmit healing. It may be tied around the belly to ensure marriage or fertility (take it off once pregnant and wrap it around the wrist instead).

The most powerful amulets, hands down, are those made at Rachel’s tomb. Provided you can make the journey, the amulet itself is inexpensive: all it requires is red string, prayer, and petition. In the wake of popular Kabbalah, red cord bracelets are readily commercially available, but their provenance is not always known. (In other words, is it a genuine amulet or just an overpriced red string?) There is a traditional method of creating one’s own Rachel amulet without making the pilgrimage:


1. Light a candle for Rachel’s soul and invoke her blessings. Tell her what you need.

2. Wrap a red cotton string around your left wrist seven times, tying it with a knot.

3. Repeat Psalm 33 and then the second-century mystical Kabbalistic poem “Ana B’Koach.”


Personal invocations of Rachel or pilgrimages to her tomb may be made at any time but are considered especially beneficial during new moons, the Hebrew month of Elul (last month of the Jewish year), and the anniversary of her death, the eleventh day of Cheshvan (corresponding in time to the zodiac sign Scorpio).




Candles, oil lamps, kind deeds, charitable donations, donations toward upkeep of her shrine, pilgrimage


Cihuacoatl; Llorona, La


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.