Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Owl feathers, Juju, lemons, and the evil eye

Here's the thing: I plucked a few wing feathers from a dead owl, and bad luck has stalked me since then. I'm not, let me assure you, a grave-digger or plunderer of any sort, and I don't usually stop to inspect roadkill. But when we - my husband and I - saw a ruffled, rumpled object twitching on the side of a remote Karoo road a couple of months ago, we screeched to a halt. It was a lovely old owl - I couldn't identify it because most of its face wasn't there - and it was stone dead, squashed flat by a lorry or tractor, its wings fluttering eerily in the hot Karoo wind.

I find owls very stirring. I am hopelessly sentimental about any sort of owl, even though I'm not much of an animal person. When I visit the Johannesburg Zoo - which is a block or two away from my house - I do so just to gaze, open-mouthed, at these noble old birds. So, it seemed natural to me to suggest to my husband that we pluck out a few big wing feathers to remember this dear old soul by: 'Owl feathers are powerful voodoo and juju medicine,' I remarked. 'These feathers will bring us lots of good luck.'

I was, of course, not being serious. I'm an atheist, a passionate Darwinist, a mocker and scorner of all supernatural claims, and a dyed-in-the-wool sceptic. But I wanted the feathers because I like to collect things, especially little natural artefacts, which have a particular resonance with my view of the world - fossils, feathers, flowers, pebbles, shells, grasses, seed pods, stone tools, bones, skulls, claws, tumbleweeds, gourds, leaves, and so on.

So we took three feathers, shed a little tear for the dead owl, and continued on our way. Two feathers - cream, with a pale coffee stripe - were dangled from the rear-view mirror of my husband's car, and the remaining feather was pinned up on our family notice board.

And that was when the bad luck came streaming into our house. Of course, I didn't immediately connect the two - why would I, as some one who doesn't believe in bad luck, fate, karma, crystals, , ghosts, aliens, homeopathy, reincarnation, the easter bunny, or anything of the sort? But, one has to hedge one's bets, and so these three feathers have been relocated. I'm not telling you where I've put them, but do check under your car tomorrow morning if you have been the slightest bit mean to me at any time during the last thirty years.

Also, feeling beleaguered by a run of bad fortune over the past twelve months, I have taken another vital precaution. Last week, I popped into a restaurant in the Oriental Plaza - a buzzing shopping centre just west of Johannesburg's CBD - to pick up my usual order of the vegetable samoosas, mutton curry and chilli bites. On the counter was a small plastic dish filled with salt. On top of the bed of salt stood a lemon, and on top of that, skewered into the skin of the lemon, a fresh red chilli.

'Is that an insect repellent?' I asked the owner. 'Oh, no,' he said. 'It's because this is a successful business, and there are a lot of people out there who are very jealous, and who want to harm my business.'

'Really?' I said, intrigued. 'Do you mean that this bowl of salt with a lemon and chilli on top wards off the evil eye?'

'Exactly,' he said. 'Try it yourself, in your kitchen.'

So I did. What do I have to lose? One lemon, a chilli and a cup of salt, that's what.

But I have to say that it's been 24 hours, and so far our luck is holding.

Fiddlesticks.

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3 comments:

meggie said...

Good luck go your way.

neorider said...

i got a couple of owl feathers also, from a barred owl, which happens to be one of the 2 owls i do fear (the other is a barn owl) I havnt really had any bad luck though it seems I may have had some good luck out of it. A friend of mine also took one of the feathers, seems he had some good luck as well since the day we took the feathers. I wont say why I fear the 2 owls but it goes way back when I was a kid. Though it is said and has happened to me in the past, crossing paths with a barred owl or barn owl is a sign of a bad warning that is to come, problem is its too late to tell what the warning is till it comes. Having a bit of native indian blood in me it is soppose to be bad luck using owl feathers. I keep mine above the sun shade in the car, sort of as a reminder and a treasure on our trip we had coming across the feathers.

Unknown said...

So you are a die-hard skeptic, or as you put it, a "mocker and scorner of all things supernatural", yet you believe bad luck has affected you because of some feathers? Sounds like you're far from a skeptic.......

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