The Witch of Granada: A Travel Narrative
(The story behind, "The Mysterious Head Under My Bed")
It was a little less than 4 in the afternoon that we arrived in the city of Granada: four buses containing 300 young people all over the world. Granada, like other cities, was peopled and full of shops. It was totally different from Malaga, where hardly you see people around except the young people who were there for the conference and a few inhabitants. It really felt like Spain with the Spanish architecture, adobe pavements and lots of Spanish posters. Ena, my roommate opted to walk around alone. Dilhayat, my other group mate, went with her other Turkish friends. It seemed that walking around for sight-seeing activity and some shopping would be impossible in multitudes: Europeans travelled on their own or by twos, Mexicans with fellow Mexicans, Africans with fellow Africans, there were hardly any Americans or Asians around. There were only two Filipinos out of those 300 participants. I didn’t know he even existed nor me to him until two nights before the conference ended. But it was not hard for me to find company. Clovis, my Brazilian group mate wished to join me and Yvonne, my Zambian friend who I also met in a conference in Mexico.
While we were still on the bus, Clovis taught me and Yvonne some words in Portuguese and Spanish. He was surprised that I knew colours, numbers and some words in Spanish. Clovis chose to bond with me and Yvonne, instead of his fellow Latinos, which was the case for most of the participants. He said that it would be better if the two of us had someone who could speak the language while we roamed the city. It proved that his decision was right and wise. I would not have found Witchita if not for him.
We were just getting the feel of Granada, leisurely walking and admiring the Moorish-style and Spanish-style buildings when we reached Capilla Real and the Cathedral. I wanted to go in and pay my respect to the Christian God, to the begotten Son, the Virgin Mother and the Saints I knew since time immemorial. I felt them especially because I was in Spain. However, we came there at the wrong time, when the Cathedral was not open to public like regular cathedrals. It was open through the Capilla Real that served both as a chapel and museum. To enter, one must pay 3.50€. Clovis was not a die-hard Catholic. He said that it seemed crazy to pay just to enter a church. But it’s not just any other church! He told me that if I really wanted to go, he’d just wait for me outside. I asked Yvonne if she wanted to see it. She just reiterated what Clovis had said, “Kate, it’s just a church.” I would later find out that Yvonne didn’t like to see it because it was just a church, she didn’t want to go because she left her wallet at the University dorm. With resentment, I had no choice but to satisfy myself in taking pictures outside the highly impressive Gothic building. I took photos of the tiled turrets, buttresses, cresting and pinnacles, and all the angles I could take.
Meanwhile, while on my final stage of photo shoot, an old woman approached Yvonne. She was about 5 feet, plump, with black hair and black eyes, with a honey coloured skin, with funny teeth, and in old clothes. She started talking to Yvonne, asking her if she wanted to know her future.
“Clovis, what did she say?” asked Yvonne eagerly.
Clovis translated for her. “I want. I want.” Yvonne’s facial expression signalled the old woman that she was interested. She held her hand and told her about having a family and two kids, and so on.
Yvonne dragged me to the woman and told her, “Read her too.” I showed her my palm but didn’t touch it the way she did with Yvonne’s. She looked at me for the first time, shook her head, and muttered some words that sounded Spanish and something else. The last few words, Clovis repeated, “Estar de Buena racha. She means good luck is on its way to you.”
She threw a sprig of rosemary that she pulled out from her side pocket onto my palm. Then she said, “Money, money. Give me. Give me.” Clovis mediated, “No, no señora.” They exchanged more words in Spanish. The old woman looked at me again and then turned her head, where a few feet away a similar old woman who was taller than her and wearing same style of clothes was standing. I looked at her and she stared back at me, she gave me creeps. Clovis motioned that it was time for us to go. The old woman had left us before we did. Yvonne was imagining who would be her husband and when she’d get married. I, on the other hand, was still wondering what the chapel and the Cathedral looked like.
We passed by Alcaiceria, a Moorish-style flea market near the Cathedral, and I thought of buying gifts for my friends and family back in the Philippines. We hopped from one shop after another to choose the best gifts I could buy. And then somewhere, in one of those streets, a smell of sweet lavender incense filled the air. I tracked down where the incense was coming from and arrived at a “spiritualist store”.
The store was filled with stones and crystals. Gemstones were in open boxes, while precious stones where inside the glass cabinet. Different kinds of oil, candles, incense, amulets for love, luck, business, study, and so on lined up in wall to wall shelves. Pendulums made of white crystal and rose quartz hang inside the glass cabinet. Witch dolls—beautiful old women with pointed hat and riding a broomstick, and wart-free pointy nose and a charming smile—of varying sizes seemed to fly around. Seeing all these, I felt so warm inside, so warm that my hands and forehead started to sweat. I went further inside. The whole place was packed with charms, amulets, crystals, books and tools for divination like tarot and runes. How can I buy when no one's around? Deep inside the store was a small room, and the entrance was covered with cloth embroidered with ancient symbols—incense smoke came from there. For a few minutes, it appeard that store manager or owner had left the whole place open and went somewhere until I heard a sound of a bell from the room. A woman in her 50’s, about 5’8, white, blonde, blue eyes, wearing white long sleeves polo shirt and jeans came out. Her smile was Monalisa’s. She didn’t ask me what I needed. She didn’t speak a word. I found her very snobbish. She went straight to the outer part of the room. When she passed by me, I felt as if my head was open. I began to feel so dizzy. I told Clovis, who was just following me around while Yvonne was outside waiting for us, to tell the woman that I wanted to check her pendulums. Without a word, she unlocked the cabinet and asked me which one I liked. I was torn between the clear quartz and rose quartz but I pointed to the clear one. She handed me the pendulum, and the moment I held it in my hand it started moving clockwise. She spoke for the first time in a light-hearted tone, “muy sensitiva.” She smiled at me, a welcoming smile that is expected of a seller. I bought several items for close friends who believed in the world of the paranormal, the metaphysical, or the supernatural, the ones who could not leave the house without wearing any charmed object (crystal, amulet, or even scapular). She asked me if I wanted a doll, she pulled out a particular doll that I would later on baptize as Witchita. She said something like, “She likes you to bring her to your country.” I smiled at her and told her that I’d be more than willing to bring her home.
Contrary to the first impression I had of her, she turned out to be more than a shop owner, more than a businesswoman. She gave me an extra pencil-size broom, an extra Goddess Fortuna oil, an extra protection amulet, and a picture of the Divine Mother embossed on a square tile. She instructed me to give it to my mom. Not only she gave me extra items for free, she even gave me a big discount. She wrapped each item in red paper. And every time she finished wrapping, she gave me a warm smile as if telling me, “Your friends will surely like your gift to them.” I was grateful but at the same time surprised for such gesture. Who will ever do that to me, anyway. I’m a tourist.
I then requested Clovis to take our picture together. I stood beside her with a small space between us, and she put her right arm around me, winked at me and gave a beautiful smile in front of the camera. When I bade her, “Adios. Muchas gracias”, she replied, “hasta luego” and added some more words in Spanish; and again Clovis happily translated to me, “You have to learn Spanish so that next time you visit, we can have a good talk.” “Si, Señora,” was all I could say in Spanish.
After visiting Albaicin and seeing Alhambra, I begged the two to accompany me again to the store. Clovis just agreed, and Yvonne just followed. We circled the city for 30 minutes but we could not locate the store. I said that I was sure it was right across the University of Granada, and Clovis agreed. But the store was nowhere to be found and the air no longer smelled lavender, it smelled ordinary like the smell of a city. Disappointed by not seeing her again and tired of walking around, we ended up in cosy restaurant that satisfied our grumbling stomachs. We talked about her over our dinner and we still could not believe that none of us remembered where the store was. Like the smoke of incense, she and her stored disappeared in thin air. There was no “hasta luego”, there was only “adios.” Perhaps, she will just wait for me in the future when I’ve learned how to speak her language? Who knows?
When we got back to our rooms, I held my pendulum in my hand and asked if I’d see her again or if I’d ever go back to Granada, the pendulum moved clockwise. And once again, my whole body felt so warm inside while the wind outside was howling and clanking the windows.