Launch event on October 24th, 2011 in NYC.
Launch event on October 24th, 2011 in NYC.
Like my character, Fina, I too had a crush on a musician that led me to try a spell—or a fufú—that went in a weird direction.
Weird but ultimately enlightening.
Unlike Fina, I did actually date my musician. But it was one of those situations—we’ve all been in them—where he didn’t like me quite as much as I liked him.
Gabriel, my crush, wasn’t QUITE as cute as Chico, the musician in the novel.
Gabriel was from Argentina. When we spoke in Spanish, I found his Italiante Argentinian accent super cool and seductive. “Cheee… Chiamame luego…” That was one thing.
Then, he had such thick dark hair on his head. It fell over his eyes but also was wiry and bushy. It looked like an inky blue-black storm-cloud. It was very Lord Byron-esque.
He was a romantic—when Gabriel played his sax he seemed to fall into a dreamy musical mist of his own making.
When we went out on dates his dark eyes were hard to read under the stormy busy hair.
At the time, I was crushing on Gabriel, I was also reading about Afro-Caribbean spiritual systems, and still had not gone further than reading.
I read The Santeria Experience, a great, heart-warming book by Migene González Wippler.
In the back of the book, Migene listed spells. There were lots of spells for love. Most of them involved using a photograph of the love object as part of the spell.
But when I saw the coconut spell for love, I knew I had to try it.
You see, in Puerto Rico when I was growing up, people used the word “coco” to refer to the head or the mind. “No te rompas el coco,” people would say. It meant, “Don’t worry.” Don’t “break your head.”
In Afro-Caribbean religions the head of the person is what spirits visit to claim as their own. The head is the seat of one’s spiritual will.
I didn’t know this just yet. All I knew is that somehow the coconut represented the love object’s head.
The spell: you break a coconut in half, and drain the water. Or drink it—coconut water is delicious! Then take your crush’s pic and put it into the hollowed out coconut. Cover it with honey, 5 perfumes and 5 liquors for 5 is Oshun’s number.
I covered Gabriel’s pic with Must de Cartier (my favorite perfume at the time), Florida water (if you’re from the Caribbean, you’ve been using this forever), Jean Nate, Anais Anais and L’Eau d’Issey.
A smelly floral puddle, right?
And then rum, whiskey, beer, port, red wine…
The thing had me drunk just from smelling it.
Okay, it was a mess, a really messy spell. The liquid poured from the sides of the coconut, but some stayed in and made a squishy sound, deliciously squishy.
It sounded alive inside that brew in the coconut. That coconut represented Gabriel’s head!
Then I tied yellow yarn around the coconut. Yellow, after all is Oshun’s color.
I put the whole mess on top of the name, then tied the coconut up with yellow yarn (yellow is Oshun’s color).
According to Migene, the spell would only work once the coconut was thrown into a river, as rivers are also consecrated to Oshun (and Mama Chola).
I put the coconut inside a plain cloth bag embroidered and I walked to the Charles river, which separates Cambridge from Boston, and crouched down on the shore.
A couple walked by me on the grass. I thought I could feel their eyes boring into my back, but when I looked back at them, they were kissing. On that lucky note, I quickly pulled out the coconut and threw it in the river…
My book’s main character, Fina Mata, starts out as an ambivalent witch. She practices spells in her hood, but it’s mostly for show; she doesn’t fully believe in these spells. It’s not that she’s dishonest. She likes using plants and herbs, honey, blood and gunpowder, because these things all have an elemental, earthy power that thrill her. But she also always holds herself back—to a certain extent—from fully believing in her spells.
Yeah, you got it—the spells are a metaphor for her belief in herself. And since she can’t completely embrace who she is, yet, as a worker of spells, well, Fina is not feeling completely fulfilled when the novel opens up.
Then one day, she falls for the hot musician upstairs—Chico is his name and his hard chayote ass is almost as fine as his trumpet playing. Fina takes her heart throb’s pic and puts it away in a drawer. Her husband finds the pic, and burns it. After this happens, Chico comes down with a high fever, and collapses onstage while playing with the Tito Puente orchestra. Then he gets overrun and pounced on by a hundred rabid female fans. He is half-dead and has to be taken to the hospital. Fina is horrified and dismayed. What the hell happened here?
Then Chico comes home from the hospital and she bounds—bounds because Fina, who has a big heart, is also big girl—she bounds up the stairs to take Chico some recovery vittles and soup.
In his recovery, Chico and Fina bond, and Fina is happy about the product of her “accidental fufú.” But then, even as Fina is sitting pretty on this happy turn of events, all of a sudden a woman from Chico’s past shows up.
And Fina is forced to up the ante on her spells.
Not to mention on her faith in Palo Monte, the Afro-Caribbean belief system that Fina’s spells come from, and that is a big part of my book.
When I wrote about the effects of this accidental fufú, I was thinking of my own dabblings in magic and my very own accidental fufú… Way back in another life of my mine, when I lived in Boston, I too had a crush on a musician. And, like the musician in my novel, the one in my life was too much in his own head to really respond to me the way I wanted.
So I too put together a love fufú with a coconut, meant to symplize “the head” of my heart throb. It worked, but not in the way I had hoped…
(More to come next week…)