fortune tellers


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below is a piece from the economist on a fortune teller in havana which is a bit of fun. 

wondering if anyone uses them or anyone takes them seriously.

i had one encounter. 30 years ago when doing the backpacker/back of a truck thing through africa and asia, a few mates and i were at a backpacker bar in bangkok. a garden bar, so outdoors. a few street hawkers and dodgy souvenir salesmen and beggars hanging around. and a few fortune tellers. one kept pestering me. i had told him to take off several times but he was convinced he would get me as a client (which should have been the first clue that caused him to question his chosen profession). 

finally, sick of him, i said 'right, i'll give you three go's to tell us something about me that you could not possibly have known. if you do, i'll pay you full whack. if you don't, you leave this garden and you do not come back today".

we had a deal.

so, into the ritual he goes. a bit of chanting. a bit of rubbing the palm. a deep look into my eyes. and then, in the most serious voice you could imagine...

'you are not from around here'. 

of course, we all burst out laughing. i'm a blond-haired, blue-eyed caucasian. no, i am not from bangkok. not even anywhere else in thailand. and i am at a backpacker bar which has nothing but tourists passing through. so no, i am not from around here and that is something every single person on the face of the globe knows. try again. 

a lot more humming and quiet chanting. then he looks at me with the most serious expression and with eyes raised to the heavens, says...

'you have had trouble with women'. 

more fits of laughter from us all. i am a bloke, i point out, every bloke on the planet has had trouble with women. you have one last crack.

so he gets down to it and mutters and hums and rolls the eyes and so on. finally, as a big smile spread across his face, he announces...

'you are german'.

we never saw him again and needless to say, he left empty-handed. 

 

Roseann Lake, The Economist’s Cuba correspondent, visits a fortune-teller

Roseann Lake | December/January 2019

Magaly disappears into her kitchen and returns with six small containers, each a different size. Some are white, plastic pill bottles and others resemble glass, baby-food jars. “Ex-lovers, evil bosses, meddlesome mothers-in-law – they all live in my freezer,” she says: “We write their names on a small piece of paper, put the paper in the jar and we freeze them.” For exceptionally unpleasant people, she adds a few tablespoons of ground coffee beans. “I really need to start throwing out these jars. We freeze them and people forget all about them, but they pile up.” Freezing troublesome people is a central part of Magaly’s job as a Cuban cartomántica, or fortune-teller.

“Mueve,” (shuffle) she says, handing me a deck of beautiful tarot cards that are wilted from regular use. Unlike many women who whisper fortunes into the ears of tourists from the corners of old Havana’s most iconic squares, Magaly doesn’t wear a turban or surround herself with a small army of colourful cloth dolls. Instead, she is preparing to divine my future wearing a black baseball cap, yoga pants and a sparkly, Calvin Klein-logo T-shirt.

With her black cat splayed out on the table in front of us, Magaly examines my cards. After giving several sunny updates about different things happening in my life, she stops. “Someone is trying to do you harm,” she says. “They are behaving irrationally and accusing you of things that are untrue.” I nod. I hadn’t expected Magaly to pick up on this, but she’s right. “We’ll take care of it,” she says. She offers me a jar, but I decline. Cuba is short of basic goods, including vessels to store things in, so I didn’t want to contribute to the squeeze. Instead, promising to do as she said, when I was back in New York a few weeks later I dug out a small jar. The person who’d given me trouble now lives in it under a generous dusting of coffee beans, shelved between two packs of frozen broccoli. They have been quiet ever since.

My freezer is probably not the reason for the ensuing calm. Like many people, I enjoy the allure of rituals and the mystique of fate, luck and fortune, even in this age of scientific thinking and rational analysis. From the I Ching or the entrails of sacrificed animals to the Magic 8-Ball, the desire to divine the future has persisted for centuries.

World leaders from Adolf Hitler to Juan Perón and Hugo Chávez have famously sought the advice of soothsayers and mediums, often with tragic outcomes. The presidency of Park Geun-hye of South Korea nearly collapsed in 2016 after a person who local journalists described as a “shaman” was found to be influencing cabinet appointments and foreign-policy decisions (Park was impeached the following year). Ne Win, former dictator of Myanmar, was so obsessed with astrology that he issued currency in “lucky” denominations and withdrew notes in “unlucky” ones, an act that left millions of people in poverty and contributed to his ousting in 1988.

From Hong Kong to Wall Street, many feng shui masters and astrologers are paid handsomely to provide the kind of investment intelligence that some believe can’t be found in economic forecasts. Celebrities including Brad Pitt, Patrick Swayze and Cameron Diaz have also reportedly consulted fortune-tellers.

I continue to visit Magaly from time to time. Her other clients are a mix of Cubans and expats. I know at least one Google executive who has gone to see her too, inquiring about the fate of several bids the company had made in the hope of improving internet connectivity on the island. “Está complicado,” says Magaly. She suggested that he offer a generous serving of chicharritas to Yemayá, a water deity who is revered in Cuba. Magaly and the Google executive fried up some plantains in her enchanting kitchen full of frozen receptacles and took a taxi to the Malecón – Havana’s iconic seaside promenade – to scatter them into the water. If Cuba ever goes online, we’ll know why.

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  • 2 years later...

I really find this a very interesting topic of fate. I want to tell you my personal story. The fact is that 6 years ago I was very painfully going through a divorce. Painful - this is when alcohol, sports, marijuana, friends did not help, and even a psychologist did not help me. Then time seemed to stop.. My best friend decided to introduce me to a woman who could tell me about the future with the help of tarot cards and help me with advice. I didn't take everything this woman said seriously. I went, not out of desperation, but just to laugh. She told me classic nonsense. "You won't be with your ex-husband. It will be a long road for you" . And she looks so judgmental, and says looking into her eyes: "you will meet your fate in transport, it will be with money, the house will be full and the children will be and all that ..." It's funny that everything happened as she said.



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