This is that story.
The first spell I ever learned was to bring good luck. Making pancakes. Use whole grains to ask the mother planet for her assistance. Request her bounty as you measure the ingredients. Add eggs. That’s the power of Saturn, the great shit disturber, the planet of change, but make sure to grind in a bit of sea salt to neutralize his ego, because it’s enormous. Add vanilla, a little aromatic alcohol to appease the other gods, not too much because you want them sober. Cook them in an iron skillet for its tempered strength. Use honey or syrup to make the sweet luck stick.
My Mama was a mix of Native American, emancipated slave, and Irish. Her grandma was born on the Cherokee Reservation in Tennessee. She married an Irish train man and they raised a clan in North Dakota. My Mama made gri-gri bags. She had dolls with pins stuck in them. Some wore human hair and had fingernail clippings inside. Those even felt unkind.
A former lady of the evening, a friend of Mama’s, told me that she was often hired by gamblers to bring them luck. She said it was because she was as black as midnight. They’d rub her afro, and sometimes they’d rub their heads up high between her thighs, all for luck. They say that luck is a little sprite who sits upon your shoulder whispering in your ear, or is that genius?
Mama sent me to a convent boarding school when I was 8 to learn the myths and legends to be had about that belief. Water into wine, bread metamorphosed as flesh, saints and miracles, women are chattel.
Girls from around the world were sent to the convent to learn English and Western manners. I learned about arranged marriages and blood on the sheets, about the isms, racism, classism, and sexism, and about sin, original and not. Mama threw me into that dragon’s lair with intention. She expected me to learn how to breathe fire, or at the very least to learn its alchemical properties.
I make decisions based on omens. A deer at my window, owls out in daylight, signs, old wives’ tales, witchcraft. Witch, from the ancient Anglo-Saxon ‘wicce,’ German ‘wissen,’ ‘to know’ and ‘wikken,’ to divine’. I see with my hawk eyes a world composed of differences -- beliefs, skin tones -- and samenesses -- love and pain, birth and death.
I flick salt over my left shoulder. I think it’s to keep some kind of demon at bay. I eat black-eyed peas at New Year. Always use an old broom to sweep a new house. Horseshoes should be upturned. Never buy opals for yourself. Horoscopes, astrology, psychics, crossed fingers, and wishing on stars. I don’t think that time is kept in clocks, nor that god is confined to religions. Mercury the sign of communication is currently retrograde in Aquarius, the sign of freedom and originality, associated with revolutions, social progress, the new age, and oddly with ankles. Superstitious? Me? Very. It’s the only way I know to believe in belief.