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Clients and Readers

To: alt.religion.orisha,alt.lucky.w,alt.magick.tyagi
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Clients and Readers (was: Re: The Matamoros Affair (was Palo Mayombe: The 'Dark Side' of Santeria?...)
Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2000 01:02:34 GMT

Lee Thompson-Herbert wrote:
> OmiJuba  wrote:
> [...]
> > I have personally had some clients, more like "tourists" rather come 
> > into my botanica, not knowing or caring the first thing about the 
> > Orisha and just wanting a "quick-fix" for something....a love spell, 
> > a mojo to keep a man, a bingo/lotto candle...So I put on a good 
> > show, sell a few candles, some baths, make a couple gris-gris bags, 
> > give them a little blessing, sell them a silly little Whippler book, 
> > that will make sense of whatever it was I just did for them, collect 
> > $150 and we are all happy. Of course I will never do this with my 
> > "real" clientele, because we all know better.

I do not think it is a wise idea to segregate your customers into first
class and second class clientele.  

Ethically, it is not honourable, but leaving ethics aside and speaking
solely in terms of pragmatic commercialism, might not your reputation
suffer if those second-class customers whom you took to be "tourists"
were wiser than you thought or if they later decided to join your
religion and realized belatedly how badly you had bullshitted them? 

> Hah. The running joke with some of the local hoodoo women is:
> "There is a dark spirit hovering over you, but do not fear,
> I can help you.  40 candles.  40 days.  40 dollars."

This is the so-called "Gypsy Candle Scam," a particular piece of patter 
that begins with the words, "there is a dark spirit hovering over
you..." or "there is a dark cloud over your left shoulder..." which is
usually introduced during a client's first cold reading in an attempt to
select out repeat customers. (In referring to this as the "Gypsy Scam,"
i want to make clear that those who work it are not always ethnically
Romany (Gypsy) people, although many of them are. Rather, the word
"Gypsy" here refers to the profession of being a "Gypsy Fortune Teller,"
a career that is mostly practiced by women.)  

The entire Gypsy cold-reading patter, including the "dark spirit
hovering over you" portion (the Candle Scam proper), was transmitted
verbatim to urban African-American root workers by contact with Gypsy
fortune tellers in the 1920s. Hoodoo workers who adopted it -- in those
days at least -- also tended to adopt some of the then-typical Gypsy
garb, such as hoop earrings and head scarves, and to call themselves
Gypsies, or "Black Gypsies" [if anyone wants some obscure 1920s-30s
blues lyrics about a "Black Gypsy," i stand ready :-)]. 

Sadly, to the extent that any group of African-American conjure workers
picked up the Gypsy fortune-telling patter, they also lost their contact
with traditional African-diaspora root-work and conjure. Today, among my
Southern clients, there is a tacit understanding that "readers" come in
two types -- "readers who do root work" and "readers who say they read
you just so they can take your money for candles." 

Some good material has been published on the subject, e.g. "The 'Gypsy'
Fortune-Telling Scam" by Nelson and Anne White and "The Gypsy Fortune
Teller and the Sucker" by Frank Armstrong. I suggest, though, that if
this subject interests you, then rather than seeking out published
sources, you simply learn the Candle Scam -- and the entire 30-minute
cold-reading patter of which it forms a portion -- by investing a few
bucks in a small tape recorder and the cost of a series of readings. 

For the past 30 years, i have paid to see the Gypsy Fortune Telling
routine "performed" in New York City. Los Angeles, San Francisco,
Chicago, and smaller cities throughout the nation, by actual Gypsies as
well as by Latinos and Afican-Americans -- and the wording of the patter
has been remarkably uniform regardless of era or place. (I last reported
on hearing it in early August of this year in Los Angeles.) My
investment in this piece of personal research so far has been less than
100 dollars all told, because i go in for the introductory reading when
it is on a half-priced special and i bail before the candle-burning
kicks in. 

By the way, your statement that the Candle Scam ends when the sum of
$40.00 is paid is not entirely accurate: The full program usually will
cost  $900.00 before the Gypsy turns the client loose. 

Even worse, if the client is perceived as unintelligent and the Gypsy is
a serious criminal, the Candle Scam can lead to true confidence game
work, such as a special Gypsy variant of the Pigeon Drop, in which the
client is told to close out her bank account and bring the money in to
be "blessed" or to have "the curse removed." As with the regular Pigeon
Drop, the envelopes are switched, leaving the client with cut-up

Well, enough of that -- but basically, anyone calling themselves a
"hoodoo root worker" who spouts the Gypsy Fortune Telling patter is just
a "Black Gypsy" and not a real root worker.  
cat ("you are a good, kind person, always helping others -- but you
never get any help in return") yronwode 

Hoodoo and Blues Lyrics ---------

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This post copyright 2000 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.

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