NEW YEAR’S EVE, somewhere in Florida. My host has finally slipped into his mushroom trip, meaning the tribal drums are being brought out. A fire the height of my hat rages in the center of the circle as we swap sacred stories in-between shots of whiskey and bottles of beer. Calls, shouts, we make as much noise as possible to draw the spirits to us. The first hands hit the skins and I keep time with my harmonica, alternating between a climbing beat and a freight-train wail. The ball is beginning to drop but no one is watching, some strange energy pouring down from the sky and spreading its tendrils into our souls. My vision splits, prayers in an unknown tongue slip from my host’s lips, and my wife breaks into sporadic dance. 5, 4, 3, 2…
The alarm goes off on my phone. I groan, slapping the vicious machine that has torn me from what little sleep I managed to get. I am thrust back into the world of the living, the grey world of working stiffs. Still half-drunk I drag my corpse into the shower, hot steam reminding me I fell asleep with my bandanna still on.
Not hours before I had reveled in spirits both liquid and etheric with a backdrop of flames, music, and prayer; now I would spend the next eleven of them shoulder to shoulder with people who went to sleep at 8pm every night and got “toasted” off two “hard” sodas.
“Mother-of-God….” I mutter.
In 15 minutes I slam coffee made the night before, a crude attempt to pacify the voice in my head demanding more sleep and more rest, a liquid riot cop beating the piss out of my circadian rhythm and forcing me to adapt to a world set by someone else’s clocks.
How had I wound up here, I wondered, how had I managed to wake up before the sun even rose over the fucking horizon to sell my labor to those that didn’t deserve it?
Why couldn’t I be like Mario, my manager, a greasy rich-man who boasted of paying nothing in taxes and blowing ten thousand dollars on a two-day blackjack binge?
“The key to blackjack,” he’d often muse, “is all in the bankroll. If you lose, double down. Let’s say you lose $20, bet $40. $40? Bet $80. Keep doing that until your cards start to come up. One time I was eight grand behind at a table, won it all back and then some. You gotta have balls and bills to play blackjack, and I got both!”
With the same breath in stories like these, as he parades around the sales floor like some peacock promenanding, he’ll bemoan how much the poor abuse the system, how anybody that sells food stamps should be thrown in jail, and that the problem with this country is that people don’t want to work hard anymore.
I slink home at 5pm, collapse into bed and let my aching legs compel me to sleep. My mind fried, I’ll slip in and out of hypnogogic states, sometimes learning spells or speaking with spirits who can’t wait till my next ritual. Often I hear and see stories, epic dramas or tall tales alike, packed with hidden wisdom and lessons for the wise, characters I’ve never heard of and a few I make up teaching me things I have no way of knowing.
These dreams, smuggled and stolen from a world not so unlike our own, bring me joy and strength; carefully analyzed they often show practical occult means to fight a guerrilla war against those that live vampirically above us.
On days like this where the power of the Ruling Class is so naked, where the reality of just how much your life is owned by somebody else stinks like a dead pelican in the middle of August, these tales of rebellion and witchcraft come strongest. As my bones ache and my mind reels, sweating on thrift-store blankets in clothes that reek of grease, spirits come and offer tips to change fates and defy the odds….
SARAH HAD always thought of herself as a good employee: she was kind, courteous, and always on time. She went above and beyond for her customers and took great pride in the mom-and-pop deli she’d worked at for 10 years. But things changed when the Pop flew the coop and left the Mom for a younger woman. The divorce left the deli in Mom’s hands and she treated her female employees with nothing but contempt. She assumed all of them had made passes at her now ex-husband, and interrogated them on just how and why they’d been hired. She was merciless in her micro-managing, screamed at the slightest mistake, and threatened to fire everybody and close shop out of spite.
Sarah knew she was in pain and could understand her plight, could even feel bad for the woman. But with two young mouths to feed and no support to fall back on she couldn’t afford to have her hours and job security dictated by the storms of a battered heart.
She sought out a Root Doctor and found one at a local park, hidden behind some trees and dispensing wisdom as he drained a six-pack of beer.
“You don’t seem interested in putting the hurt on this woman, so you’ll need a softer approach,” he said, lifting up his bandanna and draining another can. “What you need is to become the apple of her eye, someone she feels she can trust and care for. Now do as I say and you won’t have any problems keeping your job and sweetening your boss.“
“Buy 4 railroad ties online and pee on them at home. Under dark of night while the moon is growing stick each one in the dirt at a corner of the building, plaza, whatever. You’re marking your territory and nailing yourself in, see? Make sure to do this in a clockwise motion while calling out and praying that no man, woman, devil, angel, or spirit from heaven to hell will remove you from that business. You do this and you’re locked in. She won’t be able to get rid of you.
“But what’s being there and being in hell? Once you get locked in grab something of hers: a cigarette butt, a hair, a piece of paper with her signature, anything that really touched her, was a part of her. Get you a little jar and a 2 of Clubs. Yes, from a playing card deck. Take that 2 of Clubs and write your name on the top club and hers on the bottom. In the center write “so-and-so you are a boss that bends over to please me.” Hell, make it look like a contract, whatever. Now take that card and that personal concern of hers and jam it in the jar. Add cloves, sugar, and licorice root. Fill the thing with corn syrup, close it up, and keep it hidden. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday burn a blue candle on that fucker rubbed in Boss Fix oil if you can get it or powdered sugar if you can’t. Do that and you’ll have no trouble.”
He motioned for her to pass him another beer.
“Now, sweet jars take time, so don’t tell Ole’ Bonesy nothing hasn’t happened after three days. Ya gotta have FAITH and keep those candles on her.”
Sarah, now the manager of the deli she loved, would often think back on that day. It took some work but slowly Mom’s temper towards her seemed to disappear, even when the main cooler went down and she’d lost all the product. Mom tried to mouth the words to fire her but they just wouldn’t come out, and with a candle on the jar every day that week she acted like it was no big deal. With Mom’s ear firmly in her hand Sarah was able to keep the other employees safe from the unemployment line, give them all more hours, and even convince Mom healthcare should be provided as well as full-time.
And all without adding to her pain.
It didn’t matter what sales floor Mark “The Shark” hit, he was always on top. Nissan, Toyota, Ford, GMC, didn’t matter. Wherever Mark went, not only did he sell but he ran the fucking show. With his slick-backed hair, ever-present toothpick, and wide, eerie smile, he acted like he owned the place wherever he went.
Because he did.
Take for instance his first day of any new job. He walks in calm, cool, and collected. He has powdered echinacea in his shoes, a whole nutmeg rubbed with Van Van oil in his pocket, and his clothes have been smoked with licorice root he’s burned over coals. Before he even asks to join the team he’s found out the boss’s name and birthday (facebook is a miracle), wrote it all down on a King of Diamonds card, and put it in the shoe of his dominant foot for over a week. When he asked to be hired, a pinch of gravel root now next to the Nutmeg, the manager practically melted at his feet.
But that’s not what made him a force to be reckoned with. He clashed freely with the owner of this particular car-lot and always walked away a winner, to the amazement of his peers. That’s because he dominated his employers.
Mark usually bought two Ken dolls that just so happened to look like whatever boss and the owner of whatever car-lot he might be working at. He’d capture the footprint of each of their shoes in a brown paper bag and tie it to each doll’s waist as well as a piece of paper they’d signed the first time Mark got written up. He’d also tied each doll’s hands behind its back and put a blindfold wrapped around each of their heads. With his daily dressed card, shoes, and clothes, he always seemed to have the upper hand in getting his clients deals and making sure the manager did everything he asked.
Every time his manager gave him lip, or the owner seemed to question his actions, Mark would take both dolls outside when he got home and beat them viciously with the same belt he wore everyday to work, screaming and cursing the dolls like an abusive father with a whole handle of whiskey pumping through his veins. Sure enough, the next day Mark could touch that belt as he spoke to his employers and see them wince in pain.
It wasn’t long before both of them usually developed issues at home, began to flinch at loud noises, and cowed at the mere sight of anybody raising their voice. Once one had even started to pee himself. Mark of course said nothing, winding up merely hinting at problems and watching them be fixed in an effort to please him nobody could quite explain.
At which point Mark would move onto the next car-lot, content to leave his former workplace to the mercy of his fellow salesmen…
IT WAS DANGEROUS enough being a bartender in a rougher part of town, even more so as a transwoman in a state where the Bible was still considered law. Kandy had been behind the counter of this particular dive for a few weeks and already earned her stripes. She’d gotten used to the questions, used to the innuendo. She’d had plenty of practice all her life. Her razor sharp wit and acidic tongue had turned any would-be bigot into a blubbering pile of embarrassment. Sure, some of the rougher crowd didn’t take too kindly to being put down, or the hammer and sickle tattoo proudly displayed on her arm. For those folks Kandy would calmly flash her Taurus Judge, a 7-inch gleaming revolver capable of shooting .45 caliber rounds as well as shotgun shells, and quietly remind them there were “other ways to make people get awfully quiet real permanent-like.”
They usually got the hint.
Everything was fine, fine as it could be one supposes. One night, right after closing, the owner called her into the back office. The squat, balding man informed her that not only would she not be allowed to carry her gun into the bar, not only would she stop “sassing” customers, but she’d also be fired unless she stopped wearing makeup, wigs, and women’s clothing.
“But this is how I dress. This IS who I am.”
“Well,” the owner leaned back in his chair, “that’s yet to be seen.”
“Ya see,” he whispered, “youse’ act like a woman, sho’, but I ain’t seen ya do any womanely things. Now I know the boys round her like ya plenty and yet get good tips, and you’d be driving nearly 43 miles everyday to get to any roadhouse doing business like we do here. So…maybe we work something out.”
A cold chill rushed down Kandy’s spine and her stomach dropped like a neglected roller-coaster at some two-bit rural carnival.
“I-I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
“You dumb or somethin’?” He leaned across the desk now, his breath reeking of cheap gin and knockoff cigars. “You wanna stay hur’, do like you do, you gunna earn your female status. With me.”
Kandy grabbed him by the collar and slammed his face into the desk. As the little man grabbed his nose to keep blood from gushing everywhere, Kandy unhooked her gun and pistol whipped him, telling him if she ever saw him again she’d kill him. She grabbed a paper towel and wiped up the pooling blood on the desk, took whatever was in the register, and sped on home.
No charges were filed, no arrest warrants made. Kandy knew the man’s pride would keep him from seeking reprisal. She had won.
But Kandy didn’t just want to win. She wanted a reckoning.
Kandy figured the next woman that got in that place would go through the same treatment she had that night, and no telling what dark and insidious deeds had taken place in that closet of an office before she’d gotten there. She decided that this man would pay with his life and that the bar would be wiped off the map.
At 4am every Saturday, and as long as the moon was winding down, Kandy would ride by and throw War Water at the roadhouse, cursing its occupants and demanding the spirits of the land allow it to fall into ruin. When the moon was growing she’d make dolls filled with Valerian root and point them towards the bar, whispering the name of the man that’d wronged her, hanging them in nearby trees or placing them right alongside the building.
At home her altar always had a “Most Powerful Hand” novena candle burning on top of the paper towel with the man’s blood dried on it, the candle itself dressed with red pepper, black pepper, and Valerian root. Every night she’d focus her rage and hatred on her target and read Psalm 109.
“Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;
For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.
For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer.
And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.
When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.
Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor.
Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.
Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.
Because that he remembered not to show mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.
As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.
As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.
Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.
Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD, and of them that speak evil against my soul.
But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name’s sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust.
My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shook their heads.
Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy:
that they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it.
Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice.
Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame; and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.”
It wasn’t long until Kandy, now working a bar far outside of town and closer to the city, heard that there’d been a shootout at her former workplace from a wandering patron. Massacre was the word used, so shot to pieces it was set to be demolished.
Kandy smiled when she learned the man she’d been working on had unfortunately been killed during the incident. She poured two gin cocktails and offered a toast for the fallen man.
“Blessed be the Lord, my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.”
8PM. Awake for the second time. I’m free to sip my coffee now, side by side with a beer, and analyze what readings and orders I’ll need to finish before my body is rented out again. I feel refreshed, nourished, as if my soul has wandered back from some ethereal hot-springs hidden betwixt the land of the Living and the Dead.
I write down the dreams I had, these very dreams you’ve read, because they can help you fight Capitalism right where you are.
Maybe you can’t strike, maybe you can’t riot, maybe because of the people that depend on you you’ll have to put up with levels of bullshit that make your spine and spirit scream like Syrian mothers. You know everyday you get a little bit older, a little bit slower, and that you’re selling your very existence for nickels and dimes at a time.
Magic can change all that, can be the hidden weapon brought from the Otherworld and slyly placed in the palm of your hand. With a new year upon us perhaps it’s time to take a break from theory, put down the historical texts, and begin to plan just what kind of spell work might free you from the shackles of wage slavery.
Dr. Bones is a conjurer, card-reader and egoist-communist who believes “true individuality can only flourish when the means of existence are shared by all.” A Florida native and Hoodoo practitioner, he summons pure vitriol, straight narrative, and sorcerous wisdom into a potent blend of poltergasmic politics and gonzo journalism. He lives with his loving wife, a herd of cats, and a house full of spirits.
Dr. Bone’s essay, “Fear & Loathing At The Crossroads,” is available exclusively in A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred.
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