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Spelling and format editing has occurred within these posts; some email addresses may be out of date. These posts are copyright by their respective authors as noted, and all rights are reserved. In other words, the contributions of these authors are not to be mirrored to other web sites or copied into print without the express permission of each individual author. ------------------------------------------ CHINESE RICE-PENNIES-OIL CURSE and AFRICAN-AMERICAN TONGUE-SHUTTING CURSE Date:1997/11/06 Newsgroup: alt.lucky.w David Silberberg wrote: Catherine - Thought you might be interested in the following article from today's (11/6/97) Wall Street Journal: Thank you, very much, David! This is of interest on several accounts, as you must know. It is unusual to see accounts of spell-casting reported by the Wall Street Journal, to say the least! Before anyone reads the two curses that follow, i want to note that i believe there is a fundamental error in the reporter's ascription of the beef-tongue-names-and-needles spell described below to "Santeria." This spell is used in court cases or legal matters to bind the tongues of hostile witnesses. It seems to be African in origin, but it has been collected dozens of times (e.g. by Harry Middleton Hyatt in the 1930s and by Jim Haskins in the 1970s) from the Protestant Christian, *non*-Santeria, African-American hoodoo culture. Hoodoo is essentially folk-magic and not a religion in the sense that Santeria is. I think it is safe to say that the perpetrator of that tongue spell in Lancaster, California, was more likely to be an American-born black person than an "immigrant" and i sincerely doubt that the spell was "a religious act to solicit the gods to get these people to be quiet," as theorized by the (Asian-surnamed) detective on the case. The falsity of calling Santeria "a Caribbean religion based in part on old African voodoo rites" should also be obvious to anyone who has studied Ocha, Santeria, Vodoun, or related African-diaspora religions. The same uneducated mind-set that equated hoodoo folk-magic with the Santeria religion and then with the Voodoun religion also seems to have led the writer to posit that the Chinese curse which is the basis of the story may be religious. I doubt that it is, except insofar as folk-magic and religion are entwined in most cultures. Note that the prayer to Buddha that opens the story is to REMOVE the curse. This is asking a deity for intercession. It is not the same as using a deity to curse someone. Futhermore, the reason that FOUR pennies were used in the Chinese curses described here seems not to have been understood by the reporter or the police. In Chinese, the number four is pronounced "sha" and that is the same pronunciation given to the Chinese word for "death." Chinese homonym magic -- where words that sound alike acquire identical symbolic meanings -- is very powerful, and for this reason, no Chinese person would give a gift of four objects, for it would be tantamount to giving death. Many Chinese and Chinese-American people will not accept a telephone number with a four in it or live into a house with a four in the street address. To them, "Sha is death and four is sha." That is why the pennies in this curse are so malevolent -- they are money, but only a little money, and they connote death to the one who receives them. Having taken all that in, you can now see why i archived this story, for it provides an interesting glimpse into an Asian form of "crossing" that is not too well known in America. November 6, 1997 Dueling Chinese Restaurants Accuse Each Other of Cursing By JIM CARLTON Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL REDMOND, Ore. -- Qing Wua Chan places three oranges and three cups of wine before a Buddha altar overlooking the lunch-time dining room of her empty Stockton's New China Cafe. "If I pray to Buddha, maybe he will take away the curse," she says. At dinner time two blocks away, Emily Lin sits in her half-empty Full Moon restaurant, shaking her head over business setbacks she too attributes to curses -- cast upon her, she says, by Mrs. Chan. Mrs. Lin's complaints caused Mrs. Chan to be charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief for allegedly harassing her for three years with spells. "I think it is because we make better food," Mrs. Lin says. Bad Medicine Call this a battle of the hexes. Ever since Mrs. Lin's Full Moon opened three years ago, two Chinese restaurants in this high-desert ranching town have squared off in a war of rice, pennies and cooking oil. Mrs. Lin alleges that Mrs. Chan has deposited rice and pennies on the doorstep of the Full Moon and splashed cooking oil across the windows and doors. Many Chinese believe the three items add up to bad medicine, a meager amount of rice and a few pennies signifying poor fortune. The oil just makes things worse. Mrs. Chan denies hexing Mrs. Lin, although police recently did catch her outside the Full Moon with a cup of oil. She claims Mrs. Lin has hexed her with rice and pennies. Mrs. Lin denies that, but there is no denying this: Old-time residents, many of them farmers and ranchers whose families have lived here in the shadows of the Cascade Mountains for generations, are baffled and alarmed. "This is our version of the Chinatown gang wars," says Police Chief Jim Carlton, with a sigh. Across the country, casting spells seems to be on the rise. Anthropologists cite as a reason immigration from parts of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean where casting spells is sometimes part of everyday religious practice. In Lancaster, Calif., last month, someone left an herb-covered cow's tongue outside the local welfare office. The names of 14 workers there were pinned to the tongue. "It was a religious act to solicit the gods to get these people to be quiet," theorizes detective Brian Moriguchi. No arrests were made, but police believe the incident was related to Santeria, a Caribbean religion based in part on old African voodoo rites. From Tucson to Tampa Other hexes are more serious. In Tucson, Ariz., police recently arrested Ecuadorian immigrant Deborah Vollmer and her roommate, Christina Ramirez, in an alleged murder-for-hire plot against another woman that also included black magic. The supposed victim, tipped off, called the police. Witnesses told police the women had burned a cardboard voodoo doll with the name of the intended victim written on it, after soaking it in snake oil. The women, charged with conspiracy to commit murder, have pleaded not guilty. In Redmond, nobody can recall anything like the hex war, though a local hotel is said to be haunted. It began in early 1994, when Mrs. Lin, newly arrived in the U.S. from China's Guangzhou region, formerly known as Canton, opened the Full Moon. At the time, Mrs. Chan's Stockton's was thriving, in competition with only one other Chinese restaurant across town. "It was so nice then, no trouble," recalls Mrs. Chan, 42 years old, a fellow Cantonese who came to the U.S. in the early 1980s. She and Mrs. Lin are among a handful of Chinese among Redmond's 11,178 inhabitants. According to Mrs. Chan, she was running Stockton's with her husband and four children when the first bowl of rice appeared mysteriously on her back doorstep. On the rice, she says, were four pennies. Mrs. Chan says rice and pennies were left at Stockton's on at least 10 subsequent occasions, sometimes with cooking oil spattered on her window. She suspected her new rival but didn't have proof. Her 12-year-old son, Chiu, says he saw Mrs. Lin hurrying away from the Stockton's back door after one of these deliveries. Business Is Off Mrs. Lin denies she did it. Indeed, she says, she has found rice and pennies at her back door. Both women say their businesses, already suffering, will collapse if the hexes aren't lifted. According to Arthur Wolf, a Stanford University China specialist, the Redmond incidents appear to be a version of a generic Chinese curse. Leaving any sort of offering on an enemy's back steps does the trick, he says. It invites supernatural "bandits and beggars," instead of ancestors and friendly gods. Some locals believe that business would be off at both restaurants regardless of hexes because the town's other Chinese restaurant, Chan's (no connection to Mrs. Chan), has better food. But Mrs. Lin, 34, doesn't buy that, and she filed the first hexing complaint with police in January 1994. When she filed a second the following November, saying that hexers were leaving rice-and-penny curses nightly and accusing Mrs. Chan, officer Tom Jones noted in his report: "Guess it's time to have a chat with Stockton's owner." When police notified Mrs. Chan of the accusations, she dialed 911 to complain about the charges and requested that police round up her accuser, according to police reports. Soon, Mrs. Lin reported an escalation in the spells, with wet toilet paper and sand added to the rice and pennies. In Possession of Oil A break came this year, on April 24. According to police reports, Mrs. Lin's mother reported she had seen Mrs. Chan "throw dirty water" and saw her "spitting" on the front window and door of the Full Moon. Mrs. Chanwas then cited for criminal mischief and was told by police to stay away from the Full Moon. But shortly after midnight on Sept. 18, Officer Jones spotted Mrs. Chan in the alley behind the Full Moon. Although she explained that she was out for a walk, the patrolman said he found a fresh coating of oil on the Full Moon's back door, and a cup of oil in Mrs. Chan's jacket. The police report says she admitted to dousing the door. But Mrs. Chan now maintains the oil was merely a Chinese herbal remedy she had prepared for her husband and that she was there waiting for him to leave a tavern. "In China, women aren't allowed in bars," she says. Charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief, Mrs. Chan awaits a court hearing set for Nov. 13. The town seems divided over who is at fault. But people agree on one thing: They would like all the cursing to stop. © 1997 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. commentary © 1997 catherine yronwode (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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