2009.01.07 Sniff my gris-gris

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I have a little bag of voodoo in my pocket. I know it’s there; I can smell it.

Among the presents I received for Christmas this year, my gris-gris is easily the most unique. I think I can safely assume that no one else in my reading audience got gris-gris this Christmas, or maybe for any Christmas.

When we visited my daughter Rosanna in New Orleans a few weeks ago for cajun turkey, I received an e-mail from my cousin-out-law Ralph. I told him I was in New Orleans and he answered with a brief reply: “Don’t forget your gris-gris.”

I asked Rozee what my gris-gris was and learned that it’s a little voodoo thing to ward off evil spirits or bring you good luck. Or at least to have an interesting smell.

Someone told me recently that New Orleans is the only city he’s visited where he sensed evil. I went to New Orleans without the protection of gris-gris (pronounced gree-gree) but I have it now. Mine is a little flannel bag filled with herbs and seeds and oils. It emits quite a scent.

My gris-gris reminds me of the smell of oil painting. I use to mess around with oil paints in high school and sniffing the bag brings back memories of that.

Rozee was looking for a unique gift on a New Orleans website. She noticed a store with an interesting name—Between Piety and Desire—and learned that custom-made gris-gris was available there.

She went to visit the proprietor, Miss Kathy, who went to work on my voodoo on the basis of a few facts Rozee provided.

Gris-gris always has an odd number of ingredients and mine has 13. An informational card states that Miss Kathy refuses to create items for bad purposes, nor will she ever use items from someone’s body. There’s no hair or nail clippings in my bag. No body fluids. What a relief.

But here’s what I do have: some Spanish moss for the understanding of interdependence; St. John’s wort for good rest; sage for wisdom and patience; angelica for protection; grains of paradise for financial security; mustard seed for faith; and carnation for good health.

There are also four oils: orange for cheerfulness and energy; chamomile for calm and the release of anger; frankincense for divine guidance; and cypress for durability.

There’s also a bit of the gem carnelian for strength and flexibility, and a little snail shell for slowing down and appreciating the world.

Rozee told Kathy that I work a lot. Hence the cypress, carnelian and orange oil. I suppose the snail shell, too. Miss Kathy was quite pleased with her work. A note to my daughter said “This gris-gris is really good.”

I sent an e-mail to Miss Kathy asking if it was OK by her if I kept my gris-gris in the little plastic packet that it came in rather than trailing a scent of those aromatic oils.

Either way was all right by her, although she pointed out the potency of the gris-gris is more pronounced outside the plastic.

I told her I would love to untie the flannel bag and take a look, but I figured that might be against the rules. I was right. Don’t open it. She said there are historical reasons and also practical ones, such as spilling some ingredients and risking the loss of power.

Some people are probably horrified to learn that I have voodoo in my pocket. Why would I want to mess around with that stuff? Most  would simply think I’m nuts to even believe in it. Wait, I never said I believed in it, and besides, Miss Kathy explained that no belief is necessary for it to be effective. “What – you believe that?”

Look, I’m just walking around with an odd Christmas present in my pocket. Now and then I remove it to let someone take a whiff.

Eventually, she says, my gris-gris will lose its power. At that point I can return it to her and she’ll recharge it or I can destroy it. She gives instructions:

“Please don’t burn it or cut it up. The best way is to throw it in water running away from you, with a few words of thanks or farewell.”

If you ever catch me me tossing something from the south side of the Main Street bridge, you’ll know my voodoo is gone.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016