According to Filipino folk belief, gayuma is a love potion that is used to attract a mate. The potion's magical property is said to work best when taken by the potential partner, often mixed in a drink. As with any other mystical folk item, the effectiveness of a gayuma only works if the caster believes in its power. The use of gayuma today is usually associated with failed courtship, unrequited love, or secret admiration.
The word potion is from the Latin word potionis, meaning beverage, potion or poison in the form of consumable medicine or poison with magical properties. Love potion is a noun that means a drink or poison with magical powers that can make the one who takes it “love” the one who gave it. Philter or philtre also means love potion in Greek.
Selling and preparation
Most conservative wings of the Catholic Church in the Philippines have long been discrediting the mysterious powers of folk beliefs such as gayuma, anting-anting, and agimat. Ironically, it is beside popular Catholic churches like the ones in Quiapo and Baclaran that makeshift stalls, guised as alternative medicine shops, sell the mystic items.
Vendors and experts on gayuma mix oral rural beliefs with traditional Catholic teachings in their craft. The result is a spiritual orientation termed by some Filipino anthropologists as Folk Catholicism. Dealers of gayuma determine the exact ingredients needed for the gayuma's desired purpose; they also set the potion's dosage and frequency of use. After purchasing a gayuma, vendors are also known to issue alternative prescriptions, most of the time on scratch paper, scribbled with bizarre characters. These prescriptions supposedly grant the potion its efficacy.
During the course of preparation, special incantations, often in Latin, are whispered by the caster upon instructions from the vendor. Some instructions even require the caster to recite. Some believers of the craft equate the amount of time spent on casting to the effectiveness of the gayuma.
Widely acknowledged to have originated from animist beliefs of early Filipinos, the gayuma is almost always made out of natural and organic materials. Ingredients may vary from herbs, plant roots, animal parts, and insects, to precious stones, sea corals, and even oddly-shaped twigs. One popular gayuma recipe is composed of leaves of the Damong Maria plant boiled in rain water.
The term gayuma may also refer to spells that bring love, bind couples, snatch someone's lover, or end an affair. However, these types of spells are performed only by more experienced casters. Other than a potion or a spell, a gayuma may also take the form of a charm. The most popular charms take the form of small red bags filled with items like pebbles, hair, bones, and seeds. When worn, these charms are believed to heighten a person's attractiveness.