I'm standing in a dark room, watching a voodoo priest spit water on the floor. When he is done, a person named Goldie* wails and says what I can only assume is a prayer. The room is cold: even though we're inside, I'm still wearing my hat, scarf, and puffy jacket. The table in front of me is adorned with candles of varying shapes and sizes, cups filled with elixirs, plastic beads, and one stuffed rainbow-colored unicorn.
No, this isn't the start of an animal sacrifice; and no, I'm not on a hallucinogenic trip. I'm at a pagan love and sex ceremony... in New York City.
I don't really even know what this means; but when I heard about the event (held at a metaphysical boutique and event space in Brooklyn), I had to go. All things otherworldly intrigue me. I meditate and visualize on the reg, and I've even seen crazy and wild things manifest -- like coming into $10,000 when I needed it, and scoring free passes to a Foo Fighters concert. Still, I'd never cast a spell, didn't bother with the rituals of traditional religions, and certainly hadn't messed around with collecting the eye of a frog, or two bushels of thyme, or whatever.
The event was described as "an intimate and sensual exploration of romance, seduction, witchcraft, and more;" and attendees were instructed to prepare for an evening of meditation, immersive ritual... and "tempting elixirs." Sexy witch pajamas were also encouraged -- though not required. Like cheesy fries to a starving college student at White Castle, I was sold.
The prep work of pagan ritual
My sexy witch pajamas were at the dry cleaner, so I opted for leather pants and a blue leopard-print sweater. Sufficiently witchified, I headed over to Flushing Ave and wandered into the shop. I was greeted by a person calling herself Goldie who was dressed in a sort of nouveau-Stevie Nicks getup, orange-and-black zigzag makeup, glasses, and a bob haircut. She let me know the originally scheduled teacher couldn't make it. The class was delayed as Goldie and a voodoo priestess called Isis set up in an adjacent room.
The room was ready an hour later. No one else had shown for the class, so the bookstore's owner offered to accompany me. An electrical glitch had plunged the classroom into freezing temperatures. A small space heater was hooked up, to little effect.
Isis and Goldie kicked things off by giving us their backgrounds. Isis came from a long line of voodoo priests and priestesses of the Haitian/Creole tradition. Goldie was a trans woman who had escaped a fundamentalist Christian cult and sought refuge in Nordic pagan traditions. Disparate histories, brought together for a common good: to help me cast a love spell.
The casting of my sexy spell
First up, pagan ritual calls for a consecration of the circle and prayer offering to each of the four directions. There was chanting, singing, and musical instrumentation -- along with the aforementioned wailing and water-spitting. We were then asked to write our intentions onto pieces of paper, which would be lit on fire in two candles within the circle.
I have a knack for attracting successful, smart, funny, caring, and fundamentally unhappy men -- so I opted to visualize meeting someone happy who was ready to embrace life. I tried not to visualize the guy I'd been dating, who I was considering leaving. Then I wrote all that jazz down on my paper and put it into the flame of one of the candles. Isis asked us to hold our right palms out so he could pour honey into them as an offering, and told us to lick it off. I hesitated, counting carbs in my head, and went ahead with the exercise.
Intentions sent out into the universe, we were led through a typical meditation: white light bathing us in its energy, stairs, forests... you get the drill. Eventually we were led to imagine a door that opened up into a big field. I had a hard time concentrating on Goldie's words, so I just thought more about the relationship I was hoping to manifest. Instead of fields and light, I pictured my dream home with my perfect happy, supportive, grounded guy. I focused on the feeling of holding hands, the smell of his cologne, and even the music playing in the background ("Mint Car" by The Cure). Finally, it was all over and I was free to run back into the warm bosom of my car.
Was it all just a love-potion placebo?
What on Earth had just happened? Where the eff were the elixirs I was promised?! I wanted to drink elixirs! And the seduction? Where was Henry Cavill in a pair of boxer shorts reading me poems? What about a bath with rose petals? Goldie and Isis seemed nice enough, but I just couldn't get down with nonsensical chanting and water-spitting. If I wanted to observe random traditions that make no sense to me, I might just as well stick to the Hinduism I was raised on.
I felt disoriented; like I'd just been dropped off from an alien abduction. I have had many spiritually transformative moments in my life. This was not one of them. From now on, if I want to manifest something or talk to the almighty, I’ll be doing it myself.
*All names have been changed
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Rachel Khona is a freelance writer and enjoys eating cheesy fries while watching Bewitched. Follow her on Twitter: @rachelkhona.