The Witch’s Hand

February 4, 2009

I´ve just had my fortune told by a professional witch. And it was unsettling. Diriombo´s witches date back to precolonial times, having surprisingly survived and remained a tradition of which the town is proud. I came to this part of Nicaragua specifically to seek them out, curious about what a practitioner with such a history behind her could offer. It´s not every day such an opportunity presents itself.

Although I don´t exactly believe in witchcraft, I knew that whatever she said would affect me. I have always wanted to believe in the occult, while I remain sceptical of it, out of fear. Now I have had my fortune told, I feel even more confused.

Volcan Masaya, which billows toxic gases near Diriombo

Volcan Masaya, which billows toxic gases near Diriombo

I found Andrea Peña through a woman whose name I have already forgotten. I went deliberately up to her as she stood at her house door so I could find my destination quickly and escape the pricking midday heat. She let me, a complete and weird stranger, into her cool house as we followed a haltig conversation which ended with her leading me to the bruja´s home. She was curious to know what problem I wanted solving and guessed it was something to do with love. I myself didn´t realise what I wanted the bent of my fortune prediction to be until after this conversation and I was sitting in the witch´s chair. It made sense that I should have a romantic prediction then, as sex and love are things I think about constantly: they, along with gender, form my lifelong obsessions. And I am always wondering whether I will, one day, fall in love (Yet, on reflection, only I can know the answer to these questions). Of course, Andrea Peña´s training didn´t include the possibility that one of her clients be lesbian, and her prediction in that area was a bit dodgy. She told me that a tall, handsome mam with long, smooth hair is already in love with me. Even stretching this description to include female friends I can´t think of anyone I´ve noticed pining after me. If you´re reading this post and this describes you, please let me know. After all, you are my true love.

Volcano Masaya is, for locals, also the mouth of Hell

Volcano Masaya is, for locals, also the mouth of Hell

For the card reading, the woman who brought me there waited outside (another example of the kindness of strangers). I followed the witch into a little, dark room behind a red curtain. I would have thought that the dimness was for atmosphere, conviction, but she explained that there had just been a power cut. She asked what the nature of our investigation would be and I said, I didn´t really know. When she seemed unsatisfied, that she wouldn´t continue without a better effort from me, I said love.

She took out a set of browned red and white cards from a drawer and asked me to cut them three thrice. She then laid them in four rows, seven near me, then six, five, four face down cards next to her. We had already agreed that this matter would be a game of cards. As I turned them over I relished the opportunity to touch them, to take part in my own fortune. The content of the cards was impossible for me to decipher. I looked for ones I had heard of, such as The Tower, The Skeleton, The Lovers, but I only recognised The Scales and was intrigued by a rainbow-coloured instrument, rounded at the bottom and tapering up to a hole. Rather banally, the witch told me that everything was good in the House, in Money, Career and Love. I imagine that I got the tourist reading. Or maybe my cards happened to fall that way. Throughout the reading she didn’t smile, which made me take her more seriously as she no doubt intended. I wonder what she thinks of wandering gringos who pay for her services? I imagine her local clients are far more believing. She offered me a perfume or a herbal bath to attract a specific lover, or a powder to sprinkle on my hand for an unknown new lover. But, having no one in mind, no house, and most of all not being willing to invest in something so occult, to rely on and have it as an excuse to explain away so many things, I declined. Towards the end there was an embarrassing exchange where Doña Andrea misunderstood one of responses – my Spanish isn’t good enough for this kind of thing – and in general I didn’t grasp the nuances of what she said. Perhaps her general message that everything is well resulted from her giving up on telling my real fortune in the face of my imcomprehension.

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My vague dappling in something I don’t understand has left me feeling odd, a feeling accentuated by my knowledge that I am in the home of Nicaraguan witches, in the scorching heat, under the gaze of locals and a gothic church which very much suits this witchy place. All I need now is some chicha bruja, that home brewed liquor.

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