“It’s Going To Be A Long, Hot, Deadly Summer.”
“It’s going to be a long, hot, deadly summer.”
As the moon rises above the palm trees loud grunts of a pig frog break up the otherwise secret meeting. The shifting eyes move along with hushed tones under oak trees and spanish moss. Cicadas sing loud enough to muffle the voices. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. The occasional car goes by and the shadows sweat in the darkness, talking of magic and insurrection.
“These people are under a spell, that’s what makes me nervous. First they claim nobody is being separated at the border.” The new voice coughed then continued. “Trump then says they are being separated but that it’s actually Obama’s program. Republicans then argue that things aren’t that bad, that there’s nothing to fix. Trump does a 180, claims the separations are bad, and decides he’ll keep families together–provided he can detain them indefinitely.”
“There’s a very weird game being played here.” Another voice lights a cigarette, the red dot looking like a rolling eye. She clicks her teeth and adjusts her hat. “Intentionally false statements are being made then they pretty much wait to see if people will believe it. And they do. We’re talking about a good chunk of the country just believing anything, defending anything, as long as it comes from the halls of power. That’s not going away. So where does it go instead? What does it do?”
“We know where it goes.” The shadowed heads bob along. Lines of sweat trace raised and pointed eyebrows in this abandoned lot serving as church, temple, and school. Someone spits on the ground and picks up where another left off.
“History is a story, see? When we tell a story we already know the ending so we get confused. We begin to think the people in the story are aware of the ending like we are. Nuh-uh. This species has chronic amnesia. A Wizard’s gift is to see the lines of probability and chance moving the dice rolls, shifting the cards. The natural world has ‘tells’ like any other gambler. It’s our job to study those and bring them into our radicalism.”
There were grunts of agreement as a small wind rubbed palmetto branches together. The speaker slapped a mosquito and carried on. “You want to know what’s coming? What Anarchists need to worry about? I’ll tell you exactly what’s going to happen between June 27th and August 27th, but I want to tell you a story first. Keep it in mind because I sure as shit know it changed the way I think about my own sense of agency…”
Storytelling in the Southern Night
The wizard started his story on State Road US1, the glint of the sun bouncing off of the ever-dented automobiles that roam Florida’s highways. Like mutated porpoises they weave and bob in between lanes, turning signals now useless appendages of an earlier evolutionary ancestor. He made it clear he was looking for something, something he’d never heard of until his wife woke up that very morning and mentioned it.
McKee Gardens, once boasting eighty acres of tropical plants from all over the world, is where he arrives. Of the original eighty all that remains are eighteen acres, ten thousand native and tropical plants, and one of the area’s largest collections of waterlilies. As hot as it is they have the place to themselves. Deep in the jungle he remarks its hot enough “to pass for a sweat lodge.”
Strange plants stain his hands and new ideas arise.
“Are there any botanicas around here?” he asks.
His wife looks puzzled. Most of what he does relies on grocery stores instead of magical storefronts. Still he persists, and after a quick search on their phone they find one in nearby Malabar. They leave McKee Gardens with prayers to the soul beneath their feet.
Malabar isn’t far, and is a town in only the loosest sense.
“Malabar got its name and first official post office back in 1883,” he says as if speaking of a lost paradise. “In those days a boat would sail down the Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville twice a week to deliver mail to a palmetto shack along the riverbank.” Right at the end of Malabar’s city limits he finds an older structure painted in yellow, orange, and blue. Sharing space with a sub shop and used tire store, “Botanica Mi Santa Barbara” makes no attempt to draw attention to itself. The sign is in spanish and online it lists itself merely as a “spiritist center.”
Stepping inside the unassuming store front he notices the massive and lovingly cared for statue of St. Barbara. She is surrounded by red candles, red roses, and offerings of food. Not far from her stands La Madama, also dressed in red and holding a platter of fruit. Chants and drums pouring from an unseen speaker flow over row after row of oils, waters, soaps, and tools. This is a place of power in plain sight.
Though geared for a tradition not his own he sees plenty of items he can make use of. Rose Water can be slipped into food to strengthen loving bonds while Violet Water could be sprinkled around the house to stop someone from breaking them. Just Judge could help you in court and The Most Powerful Hand could keep you safe. Oils of every type waited for willing fingers to break and distort the laws of chance.
Traditions appear to overlap so he asks for a Hoodoo staple.
“Do you have John the Conqueror Oil?”
“John the Conqueror?” He looks confused. The storyteller begins to think it’s probably something he doesn’t carry.
“My english is no that good.” He reaches for a pen and paper, and as he does, an image lights up behind the eyes of our wizard of an armored Spaniard. He is carrying a sword and has a feather in his helmet.
The wizard speaks a new phrase. “Juan El Conquistador?”
“Oh! Sí, sí!” The man comes from behind the counter, grabs a glass bottle of purple liquid, and passes it to him. On the label is the same image he saw in his mind: a spanish conquistador.
Grabbing some incense he decides to get a few candles, purple ones oddly enough. He feels like he needs them. This feeling will carry him immediately after to a grocery store where he will buy a purple bandanna. Only at home does he realize the day is the summer solstice, a day of magical significance. His wife calmly says since he has no plans he should drop acid and do magic just to see what will happen.
He sets up the altar before things start to kick off, using all the items he seemingly bought at random. Before the ritual begins he makes offerings to a small shrine in the hallway.
The altar, dedicated to The Crossroads Man, begins to shift, revealing itself to be a face. Four eyes and black, tight skin were wrapped in flames. A toothy grin smiles and confirms someone heard his petition.
He loses control of his body. He is under total possession. He is trapped in his head and watching his hands move like he’s in a horror movie.
The Holy Spirit is brought down onto the altar. He feels it settle like a buzzard on fresh roadkill. Three John the Conqueror roots are prayed over, rubbed in oil, and blessed with his rattle. They will go into the oil he bought with prayers he’s never done before.
He is called to evoke the spirit of Juan the Conquistador. The spirit takes residence in his body, the plate armor cutting his stomach and bringing him pain.
Carefully rubbing the candle he brings the spirit out of his throat with the rattle and into the oil. “I was given a signature that I was to use in any further oils devoted to him,” he said. “I was shown new ways to bless oils and to call down spirits. It seemed to go on for hours but the clock had barely moved. Petition papers, prayers, altar layouts, an entirely new force was teaching me step-by-step occult techniques that struck me as ingenious. It would make use of my body and then let go, giving me a chance to repeat whatever operations it had shown me, before reestablishing control.”
Before the ritual ended he was shown how many crumbs had been laid in his path. His wife’s desire to go to the botanical garden, was this not a moment of purification, the archetypal time in the wilderness? Had he not been compelled to go to the botanica, a place until today he was totally unaware of? The bandanna, the candles, why was he drawn to them? Even the acid, bought nearly two weeks before and kept out of mind, only floated back into conversation on an astrologically significant day he had no awareness of in the first place.
“I walk with great power now but I am troubled.” He runs his hands through his hair and tears well in his eyes. “I can never again sleep soundly because I don’t know where else I’m being led.”
Space Weather and Heat From the Heavens
The assembled shook and called out like they were watching a football game, though the night had become so dark they simply blended in with the trees. Exclamations and a short philosophical conversation passed between these rough, rural wizards. The storyteller made space for it but redirected focus.
“What I’m trying to point out here is you never real know if you’re in the middle of something till you come out of it. I was being pushed and pulled towards something and I never knew it. Today all this shit looks like random events, just bopping along, when a few more years on it might look like one solid line. The Civil War, the rise of Hitler, people stood right in the middle of those things and couldn’t see what was coming.”
“Were they inevitable though?”
“Maybe not, but they certainly were inclined to violence and bloodshed. Look at it from a betting perspective: would you drop $100 on Germany going to war in the 30’s or staying peaceful with its neighbors? I believe in chance plenty but I know luck moves in waves.”
“The summer’ll be a weird one.”
“I know. I was talking to Arthur Lipp-Bonewits-“
“-A New York motherfucker. An astrologer. Well he was pointing out to me we’re going to be seeing alot of stories in the news about anger and separation coming. High chances for violence. Rage of the marginalized and against the marginalized. Won’t be that harsh for everybody, but shit is certainly coming to a head.”
“Why?” The others look confused.
“Mars, the planet of blood and combat, is going retrograde from June 27th to August 27th. We’ll even have a full lunar eclipse right in the middle. Astrologically we’re looking at the same conditions we had in the 30’s. I’m not saying we are destined to repeat history. I’m merely making everyone here aware the gambling odds for outbreaks of violence, fights, rage, and hatred are damn good.“
The red glowing eye laughed. “You saying a spinning rock in space is going to make us angry?”
“No…but maybe it’s a sign. The Amish plant crops and watch seasons depending on insects. The insects don’t change the seasons but they remind them when it’s happening. Maybe the planets moving are our bandannas, our candles, our ritual items coming together to mark significant changes in seasons and compulsions we can barely perceive.”
Murmurs of disagreement mingled with the shadows. There was a long pause as a small rain began to break through the trees.
The water was far from cooling and merely increased the humidity, an invisible pressure all could feel but not see. It made the temperature climb and the wizards became irritable. Many would never admit it but such a force from the heavens could also make them kill.
Analysis of 384 law-enforcement agencies found that major offenses went up by 10 percent between June and August, some of the hottest months, compared to the rest of the year. Laboratory experiments, field experiments, correlational studies, and even archival studies of violent crimes indicate that hotter temperatures are associated with higher levels of aggression. Even if some of the wizards doubted the power of the planets it was clear environmental factors were capable of controlling human behavior. Whether due to Mars, high temperatures, or social tension it would benefit all to stay sharp and dress light this summer.
The wizards had no intention of getting wet and decided to go home. Some were angry though they couldn’t explain why.
Before they reached the edge of the field one wizard, heading in the opposite direction, checked her phone and cleared her throat.
“Hey uh…ain’t today the 27th?”
“Germany just got eliminated from the World Cup.” The shadows stood for a moment, puzzling over what such a thing might mean.
They didn’t wait long.
“Last time that happened in the group stage was…1938.”
Nobody moved for a good five minutes, save for the exchange of glaces and the dripping of sweat. Finally there was a muffled laugh and a deep sigh.
“It’s going to be a long, hot, deadly summer.” And this time they all agreed.
Dr. Bones is a Hoodoo-slingin’ Florida native and Egoist-Communist spitting pure vitriol and sorcerous wisdom at a world gone mad. He lives with his loving wife, a herd of cats, and a house full of spirits.
His poltergasmic politics and gonzo journalism can be found at Gods & Radicals and The Conjure House. He can be reached by email, twitter, or facebook. Want to do him a favor? Help keep him alive for as little as $4.99 a month.