excerpt from Body/Mind Journeys by Joy Gardner


            Personally, I've only met one Gypsy in my life, but she left an impression.  She was mightily pissed off when a doctor's negligence led to the loss of her left big toe.  She told me that she cursed him by speeding up his karma, and damned if he didn't die of a heart attack a few days later.
            So I was predisposed toward taking William seriously, when he loosened up and started talking about Gypsies on my last night as a guest in his house in Calgary.  I'm a counselor, and I guess I have a way about me, because people often tell me things they claim they've never told anyone else.  We had just finished off Dinah's chicken and pesto casserole and my bottle of Chardonnay, when William pushed back his chair, untucked his serviette (that's French-Canadian for napkin), and suggested that we have our dessert and coffee in the living room, by the fire.
            "Tonight's the night.  I want to tell you ladies a story I've never told anyone before -- not even you, Dinah.  I heard it from my Dad, and I'm not sure I believe it myself."  Once we settled in by the fire, he told me his remarkable story, as his father told it to him.
            "I know what made me sick," said the old man to his son, just before he died of his last heart attack, at 68.  "It was almost twenty years ago, a few years before Lena passed over, shortly after my first heart attack.   We were at your grandparent's farm, where I went to recuperate.   When I was a kid on the farm, we always looked forward to springtime, when the Gypsies would come camp in my father's field. 
            "One day a pretty young Gypsy girl came to our house to buy some milk, and she pointed to me and said to your mother, 'He needs help.  The old woman said that you should bring him to the Camp tomorrow afternoon and bring a raw egg and one of his handkerchiefs.'
            "She put the fear of God in me, so we did as we were told.  When we got to the Gypsy Camp the next night, we were met by a big guy with a red bandanna who led us to the edge of the encampment.  There was the old woman, sitting at her card table, as if she'd been waiting for us.  The table was covered with a bright-colored cloth, and every finger of her old gnarled hands was bedecked with rings, bulging with huge gemstones.  Her pointed chin and big nose made her look like a witch, but her eyes were kind.  She gestured for us to sit down, and she could have been the Queen of England.
            "We sat down at the table with our feet in the grass and she asked for the egg.  Lena pulled it out of her purse and the old matriarch motioned for the girl -- who came out of nowhere --  to bring her an empty teacup.  She set the cup on the table and plunked the whole egg into it, shell and all.  Then she asked Lena for the handkerchief. 
            "'Is this his?' she asked, examining the hankie and sniffing it.   Lena nodded.
            "The old woman put the handkerchief over the cup and then she sat there and didn't say a word.  After a few minutes, she whipped the handkerchief off, cracked the egg into the cup, and peered into it as if it were some kind of crystal ball.
            "Then she told me the story of my life.  'You're twenty-one and in love -- with her.' She gestured to Lena.  Lena nodded because it was true.   'You need job.  Farmer in next town wants help with his hay.  You take pitchfork,  go over with three other fellows.  You stay there full week, sleep in hayloft.  There's young woman in house -- very beautiful.'
            The old man stopped his story and looked at his son and said,  "William, I swear, I never told anyone about that woman."  He looked at Dinah and said,  "Not a soul.  Now you tell me -- how could that Gypsy know it all?  But she was right about what she saw, and everything that came after, too.  It gave me the heebie-jeebies."
            He continued with his story. "The old Gypsy said, 'The woman makes eyes at you.  She falls for you.  Just before you leave, she corners you, pushes herself against you, and asks you to marry her.  You feel confused.  She's very beautiful.  But you say no, you're engaged to another woman.  That makes her furious.  That's when she put her arrow in your heart.'"
            The old man told me, "When she said that, I felt a sharp pain here,"  holding his hand to his chest, "and I knew that everything she said was true.  I couldn't believe it -- but I knew it was true.
            "Then she looked at Lena and said, 'Bring him tomorrow, and I will remove the curse.'
            "We went home that night and went to sleep.  The next morning, we woke up early and went right up to the Camp, and the Gypsies were gone.  Not a trace of 'em anywhere.  They never came back, and we never did get rid of that curse.  And that's why I'm dyin' today."

            It was very quiet in the living room when William finished his story.  I didn't know what to say.  I didn't want to believe that one person could have that much power over another.

            Then I ran across a story written by a black women from the South, talking about curses.  Then I met a Latina woman who was interested in translating my herbal book, Healing Yourself, into Spanish.  She said she'd like to include traditional Mexican folk remedies of the curanderas, like the egg remedy for the evil eye.
            "The what?" I asked, wanting to hear more, yet feeling apprehensive about what she might tell me.
            "Oh, you know, if someone is not feeling so well, and you want to find out if someone put the curse on them, you take a raw egg and (while it's still in the shell) you run it up and down their body, and their arms and legs, and then you crack it open and look at it, and if the yolk has a little round thing sticking out on one side of it so it looks kind of like an eye, that means they've got the evil eye."

            Maybe the Universe was trying to tell me something? 

            I thought I remembered a passage about curses from the Bible.  I finally found it in Deuteronomy:  "Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body .... Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity."  I remembered reading that as a young woman, and being offended that a curse could apply not only to one person, but also to their children.
            Not a pleasant thought!  Yet that passage from the Bible stuck with me all those years.  Part of me wanted to chalk William's tale up to good story-telling and forget the whole thing.  I've heard lots of amazing stories.  But another part of me was already drifting into my past, remembering stories of my mother's childhood in Europe.

            She loved to tell about the Gypsies, and their beautiful violin music, and how they taught her how to read palms and tell fortunes with cards.  She confided that it was partly trickery, and I think she convinced herself that it was all trickery until a peculiar incident occurred.  She was assisting at a fund-raising bazaar, and she decided to dress up like a Gypsy and read palms at the bazaar as a gimmick for raising money.  It turned out to be very popular because she was so good at it.  They begged her to come back the following year, but she refused.  It wasn't until I grew up that she told me what really happened.  She found that as she studied the lines in people's palms, pictures would come into her head, and she would see flashes of their future.  Sometimes she would see accidents, illness, and even death.
            "I don't want to know that!" she despaired.  "What was I supposed to do with it?  If I told them, they would get upset.  If I didn't tell them, I'd feel guilty, because maybe I could have said something that would have prevented their illness or even their death."

            When I was about eleven years old, Mom woke up crying and sobbed, "Your Uncle Harry is dying."   I barely knew Uncle Harry, so it didn't have an emotional impact on me.  But I was mightily impressed when the phone rang that night and it was Uncle Harry's wife, saying that he had died that morning.
            When your own Mom does things like that, nothing seems strange to you.
             We used to laugh at the Chinese for sticking pins into each other, thinking that would make them well.  Now that we know the value of acupuncture, we have to wonder:  who's superstitious -- us or them?  I try to cultivate open-mindedness.  If I'm introduced to something new, I hold it in my mind and examine it from all angles and try not to block it out, even if it scares me.  So that's what I was doing that night in William and Dinah's living room.  And that's what I continued to do afterwards.

            These experiences, and subsequent ones, helped prepare me for Leslie.  She heard me talking about Vibrational Healing on the radio, and called to make an appointment.   I never said anything on the radio about curses.  Leslie was late for her appointment, and I thought she might have trouble finding the place, so I went out to watch for her.  I was unloading a box of books from the back of my car when a black fellow in a Toyota pickup truck pulled in across the street and came walking toward me.
            "Joy?"  I looked up and quickly computed that this fellow in gray sweats with the black cap had breasts and was Leslie.  Something about her easy smile and casual manner made me like her right away.  She told me about her job at the Sunshine Halfway House.  She liked working there because they accepted her as she was; no discrimination based on whether or not she wore make-up or dressed fancy or had different sexual preferences.
            "So -- what's on your mind?"  I wondered aloud, once I felt that mutual bond of trust had been established.
            "When I called you, there were a lot of things.  But right now, the main thing is my son, Earl.  He was in a motorcycle accident a few days ago.  He's in the hospital now and I want to go there, but I haven't got the money.  He's stationed in Alabama, and in a place like that you never know when people are gonna  have the old way of thinking and not have your best interests at heart."
            I wondered how I might be able to help.  "Tell me about the accident."
            "He was alone."  She shakes her head.  "Jeez, he's always been kind of a loner.  The rest of the guys in his barracks, they like to drink and smoke, and that's not his way.  So he was riding his motorcycle, and he stopped at a light, and this truck hits him from behind.
            "So now he's got a fractured pelvis.  They say he's okay, because there hasn't been much internal bleeding.  But I'm worried, because there've been three or four accidents and deaths in the family.  They always seem to happen to the ones who have the most intelligence; the most potential to succeed."
            "Tell me more about it," I said, wondering if this was going to lead anywhere.
            "My nephew Jerry came home on leave and it was wintertime in New York and he was riding his motorcycle down by that sharp turn where the big white wall is, where all those accidents have happened, and he skidded on the ice and got killed.  And Cousin Ralph got stabbed in a fight while he was on leave.  And Cousin Sonny, he died from an overdose."
            A few years ago it wouldn't have occurred to me, but now the first thing that popped into my mind was the family curse.  Since she came from the New Orleans, where there's a lot of Voodoo, I had the feeling it would be okay to mention it.   "It sounds like there might be a curse on your family."
            "Yeah.  That could be.  My Grannie was Cuban; she was always goin' into town to see the healer woman so she could get other people's stuff taken off her."
            I was glad I didn't have to convince her -- it had been hard enough to get myself convinced.  I asked Leslie who might have cursed her family.  She didn't skip a beat: "It would've been my father's mother.  You see, my Grand-daddy, Ulysses, was a mighty good-lookin' man," she settled into the armchair, crossed her legs, and warmed up to what seemed like a good story.   "There were two women out to get him -- Mary Anne, my maternal Grannie who raised me, and Emily, my father's mother.  It was a small town, and all three of 'em were high yellow -- that means their skin was so light they could pass.  Both of these fine ladies had good education, and good looks, and Ulysses was the only light-skinned Negro in town, so they both wanted him.  When Maryanne got him, Emily got stuck with Sam, who was a darkie.  She was spittin' mad.
            "Emily and Sam got married, and they had Daddy, who was light, and when Daddy was eighteen, he fell in love with Mamma -- who was the offspring of Ulysses and Maryanne.  Well!  Emily was fit to be tied.  Of course, Daddy and Mamma knew that his family would never approve of their marriage, so they eloped.
            "And you know what Emily and Sam did?  They got the marriage annulled, and then Sam enlisted Daddy -- his own son -- in the army.  Back in those days, a black man could do that to his boys and it was legal.  There was nothin' Daddy could do about it.  But Sam and Emily didn't know that Momma was already pregnant -- with me.
            "So that's why my Granny Mary Anne raised me, 'cuz I was the same age almost as my uncle, and we just grew up like brother and sister.  And then Momma married this Blackfoot Indian who was alcoholic, and they had Annabelle.  She was alcoholic and she had her first child at 15, and her daughter had her first child at 15.
            "And then Maryanne's sister, Mary Lou, had two boys and -- like I told you -- one of 'em died from an overdose and the other was killed in a motorcycle accident."
            I was getting pretty confused when I asked her:  "All these people in your family that have had so many deaths and misfortunes are all related to your grandmother, Mary Anne?"
            "That's right," she said.  "And then Mary Anne's sister, Mary Lou, was livin' in Miami, and she was a school teacher (she could pass, too) and she got shot and killed.  Turned out she lived next door to some drug dealers, and they thought she called the cops on them -- but she didn't.
            "Then last year I had an accident at work, and I hurt my neck bad, and I got Worker's Comp, but I should've gotten a lot more, except that my lawyer snowed me.  That's what the other lawyers said when I told 'em what happened.  'He snowed you.  You oughtta sue him.'
             "I don't know.  He lives in my neighborhood, and I'm pretty superstitious.  Someone like that, he could get angry and that could be dangerous for me."
            By this time I was convinced that Emily, the paternal grandmother, had put a curse on the family.  I asked Leslie if she wanted me to remove the curse from her and her family.  She said she did.
            I knew I was going to need a lot of amethyst and smoky quartz.  Amethyst is for protection, and to transmute negative energy.  Smoky tends to make negative energy heavy, so that it sinks down into the ground.
            I sensed that we were going to need lots of protection in order to deal with the magnitude of this curse that had been attacking Leslie's family for several generations.  We were going to have to do some heavy-duty transmuting. 

So, like a General gathering reinforcements, I scoured my house for several large pieces of amethyst and an amethyst cluster, and several large pieces of smoky quartz.  I asked Leslie to lie down on the couch and I placed the single-pointed smoky below her feet, pointing downward, and I put amethyst at the other three directions around Leslie's body -- one one above her head, pointing upward, and one next to each wrist, pointing outward.  I placed the amethyst cluster on the shelf above her head. 
            Within minutes, Leslie curled into a fetal position on the couch and started talking about her paternal grandmother.  Her head began to jerk, and then her whole body began going into a mild spasm.  I reassured her that this was a good sign; we were definitely calling up the demon.  (I don't know if there are literally devils or demons, but my experience tells me that there are certainly demonic thought forms that can t be very powerful, and it is common for the body to react to this kind of "possession" by becoming jerky.)
            She began moving her tongue as if she were tasting something awful and said, "I'm in the womb.  It feels terrible in here.  When they sent my Daddy away, Momma drank something.  Tastes like poison.  It's awful.  Makes my stomach sick."
            I asked if she was ready for me to remove the curse.  She said she was.  I warned her that I might make some awful noises.  She said that was okay.  I felt guided to use the large elongated crystal that I call my crystal wand.  It felt like I was going to have to go in and scoop out this darkness.  I saw it as a black ball -- it didn't have much substance, but it was black, and it was spreading, and it was in her son, too.
            So I made a dramatic gesture, as though I was reaching deep in, to the center of her being, with my crystal, and I made some deep and terrible sounds until I felt I made contact with the darkness, and then I scooped it out mightily with my wand while making a horrendous sound, and I raised it up to the heavens and imagined that it was being flooded it with violet light.
            As the violet light was shining down upon her, and as I was scooping out all the little bits of darkness that still remained, I asked her to name every member of her family that might be affected by this curse.  With each name, I asked if she wanted this person to be freed of the curse, and she would call out "Yes!"  I asked her to say her full name, and all of the names that she had ever used.  She did this.  Then I invoked all the Gods and Goddesses to come down and take away this ugly curse and release all these people to be able to go out and live normal lives.
            After that she felt much better.  I got the sage and got it burning until it was giving off plenty of smoke, just as I learned from the Apache Indians.  This is powerful medicine for removing negative energy.  I smudged (smoked) her from bottom to top and from back to front and each of her sides, and I opened the door and smudged the room by going around the whole room three times counter-clockwise.  Then everything felt fine.  I told her that her son was going to be okay.


            Follow-up:  Leslie called a few days later and said that she was feeling different.  She didn't have so much fear of people anymore.  She came back a month later and she seemed like an entirely new person -- as if a curse has been lifted from her.  She told me her son recovered perfectly and insisted on keeping his motorcycle.  "I know that I'm protected, Momma," he assured her. And he was.

Copyright   Joy Gardner   1995