Things that you don't understand

Posted by jdg | Monday, November 12, 2007 |

Almost every day I walk past our neighborhood witchcraft store, but it was only recently that I worked up the nerve to go in. For months I have been peeking in to see a wall of candles shaped like penises in various colors. Pink turns a friend into a lover. The black causes impotence for the man whose name is chanted when it's lit. There are also anatomically-correct vulva candles with wicks rising from the folded hoods of wax clits. Burning a red vulva candle incites passion. It is the same color as a quivering mass of maguro sashimi. According to its packaging, burning the blue vulva will promote fidelity and a harmonious home. There are skull candles and black cat candles for gamblers, candles of various colors molded in the shape of embracing lovers. There is a black candle of a nude man and a nude woman back-to-back with a wick between them; burning it is said to cause a divorce.

In the back of the store there are oils and powders. There are packages of goofer dust and graveyard dirt; oils that keep police at bay, or encourage a judge's sympathy. They sell "lavender love drops" to draw homosexuals closer, dressing oils designed to help one keep a job and "hot foot" oils to plant on unwanted guests or enemies you want to leave town. There are crystals of "Essence of Bend Over" for slipping into the laundry of those you want to control, love potion powders meant to be mixed with vaginal fluids collected while masturbating under a full moon. There are powders used in jinxes that will cause a man to stay at home. The store sells amulets that help pick winning lottery numbers, talismans that ward away gossip. There are lodestones sold alongside magnetic sand, miniature coffins, raccoon penis bones in bulk, buckeyes and badger teeth and bags of sulphur. I looked at the vials lined up behind the counter, wondering if the makings of a zombie weren't there in the century-old store.

The conjure store sells saddle-stitched grimoires, displayed on a revolving wire rack like bestsellers in a bus station: Rajah Rabo's 5-Star Mutuel Dream Book. If you have a dream about someone dancing the Charleston, Rabo's book provides winning lottery or horse numbers to pick. There is Billy Bing's Work-Out Book: Work-Outs That "Work," for numbers games, and playing the stock market. They sell Yoruba statuary and wizard robes and iron cauldrons, and aisles and aisles of glass-encased vigil candles that promise various results once elaborate instructions are followed: "Nanny Ma's Child Protector" candle will keep your child safe; an uncrossing candle will remove those jinxes placed on you by others; the "D.U.M.E. Destruction" candle comes with a blank black list for the names of five enemies. Most of the candles promise help with love, or money. Most everything is ostensibly Christian, associated with a saint or a biblical figure. The candles are expensive, and meant to be used with costly dressing oils. This is serious magic. It is not for dabblers.

There were several other shoppers, and there among all this hoodoo, I felt like the fraud. I know nothing of mysticism, conjuring, occultism, or necromancy. I was just there becuase I thought it was interesting, not because I could believe any of this was real. I ran through possible things to say should the woman behind the counter confront me, something that would sound desperate, hopeful, something real:

"My wife is pregnant. I want her and the baby to be healthy. Do you have something for that?"

People come to this store seeking a kind of control that the straight world can't provide them. It is a place to bring worries about cheating lovers, or the effects of the evil eye; a place for dice rollers, numbers players. My fellow shoppers might be women unafraid to cook with their own menstrual fluid. This was a place for people afflicted with jinxes, or those hoping to place them on others. This was a store for people with enemies. No one said anything to me. They must be accustomed to the occasional gawker, spotting frauds as easily as recognizing someone who needs a talisman to break another's love potion or someone else who needs a candle to burn before his sentencing at the courthouse a few blocks away.

I have never felt so white, so aware of the delirious dullness of my own life. And so I walked back out into the cold.