I once attended a party where a girl took my wrist in her hand and drew a symbol on it, a symbol etched in musk from a collection of bottles she kept on her side table. As it happened, I knew her lover had been in Haiti and had, at that time, been dressed mainly in the mode of Breton, the Dadaist artist. I suspected, naturally, that there was voodoo afoot; it is not possible to go to Haiti in the mode of Breton—a man who was himself a magician, Dada is magic—and not return without a touch of black magic. I had read enough of vodou in my African Studies degree to respect the art and think it carried some weight; indeed, Papa Doc, as related by Graham Greene, kept the whole country locked under his corporeal form with help from the Tonton Macoute, his occult secret service—real black magic.
“It’s all a bit wacky,” as my father, a straightforward engineer, would observe; yet, somehow, I had begun to move in a world for which I was quite ill-equipped—the supposedly sophisticated world where people had lovers and visited Esalen for weekends of induction into Tantric sex magic. As a fairly unimaginative man, it was all a bit too much for me—perhaps I am unsophisticated, but I feel love should be a one-shot affair; it is only the world we live in will not allow it. I am sure that the heart works to bring people together; it is only the mind that frustrates it—too many matches misfire in this way, because the couple thought about it. I once slept with a girl in this world and, covered in her menstrual blood, I awoke and flipped open the page of a book on her sofa. The first word I read was “AIDS”. It is haram to make love to a woman off heat—let us say I now moved in the world of infection, the incestuous world of art dealers, mirrors, and spies.
So here I was, among a selection of paintings direct from Haiti—fruits of the lover’s lover. “These are doorways to other dimensions,” I said to her; “this is magic.” “Yes, it is,” she said. I was glad that I came prepared. I had brought a bottle of holy water with me, straight from some Italian shrine my aunt had visited. It was a cheap plastic bottle—the usual Italian holy tourist tat; in other words, it was the good stuff. So when the girl drew her little sign—I know it was a sigil now—I washed it off with holy water. She wanted to enchant me; but magic does not work like that, you cannot try in that way—especially to violate another person’s body with an unknown symbol, that is black magic. It explains why, when we kissed, her mouth tasted foul; it is the corruption—not that I am pure myself, and now I have used a sigil or two for sex; though never on another’s body—never without permission—and, I might add, without success.
The Christians will be distressed by all this devilry. Christ performed miracles, but he was no magician; he was an enlightened man—the Buddhists also observed that the enlightened man has no need of magic or tricks: his word is law. The Buddhists do not moralise as the Christians do—use magic if you wish, it is not necessary; it is a crutch. We in the West moralised magic; it was evil we said—and so we suppressed it, so we forgot, and so those who did not forget enchanted us. Indeed, I am pretty sure that there is an active branch of Simonites who operate out of New Zealand and that a number of cultural history conferences about aviation are mere covers for magical operations. “It’s all a bit wacky,” as my father might say. Yes, indeed, it is very wacky—and it is also real.