by Lillian Csernica on April 18, 2016
As fond as I am of folklore and mythology, part of me is always on the alert for signs of magic or the occult in cultures I’m visiting. I was born and raised in Southern California, so I come from the land of the free and the home of the New Age.
During the summer trip to Ohio when I was thirteen, my father took me to visit his older brother, my Uncle Dean. This visit stands out in my mind for two reasons. First, Uncle Dean gave me a brick of fireworks. That’s right, a whole brick. I couldn’t believe Daddy let me accept them. Second, I met Uncle Dean’s next door neighbor, who told me she was a witch. This woman was young, pretty, had a cute little boy, and in every other way seemed to be your typical American housewife. She got her degree in witchcraft through a mail order course. Uh huh. This was thirty-seven years ago, so such a claim was more than a little bizarre. I investigated the mail order course, and it really did exist.
My travels took me to New Mexico once. I’d met some people at an SCA event, the Estrella War, and later paid them a visit at their home in Albuquerque. The Southwest is where you will find the Pueblo Indians. The occult event that happened to me had little to do with First Nations medicine. It involved a mirror and a candle. With all other lights out, I sat in front of the mirror with the candle behind me. What was I supposed to see? The record of my past lives. I saw seven faces, three male and four female. Did it work? Or was it just a matter of the power of suggestion and my overactive imagination? I’m not sure.
On my trip to Maui with Mom, I was looking forward to seeing signs of the menehune, the Little People of the Hawaiian Islands. Some people believe that when you see those cairns or pillars of stones by the side of the road, the menehune have made them. Do not disturb those, and don’t ever take any of the rocks from the Big Island. Legend has it that Pele the Volcano Goddess will hunt down such thieves and punish them. Something must be happening, because the forest rangers in charge of the national parkland there tell stories of how often they receive packages from tourists who have been to Hawaii and picked up a pebble as a souvenir.
And then there’s Santa Cruz, California, home of all the weirdness you could possibly desire. From the schizophrenic homeless people who live close to downtown to the occult supply shops just waiting to accept those tourist dollars to the amazing mixture of cultures and beliefs found within the city limits, we’ve got it all here, folks. (Santa Cruz does contain the Mystery Spot!) I know several practicing Wiccans, a few ceremonial magicians, at least one curandera, and a few of those folks who insist on taking the salad bar approach to their spirituality. Pentacles, Thor’s hammers, dream catchers, and more can be seen in the jewelry and the tattoos worn by the good people of Santa Cruz County.