Posts Tagged ‘secret’
Black Bags and Wrapping Paper: Magickally Warding off Evil One Tinsel Bow and Strip of Scotch Tape at a Time
I’ve been unpacking my suitcases the last few days and am bemused by how many plastic shopping bags I acquired over the past three months of excavation out in the deserts of the Middle East. And while the plastic bags from the cities of Jordan do often follow the same Safeway, Target, boutique store X model; the bags from the smaller stores, and especially the stores out in the boondocks middle of nowhere (like where the dig I work with is based): are all black. No logo, no design, no nothing. Just black. Initially I had thought this was a question of economy. That some black bag producing mini-wonder had cornered the Middle Eastern bag market. But actually, it turns out, it is mostly a question of superstition and folk magick.
The black bags of Jordan are not simply bags. They are a practical device which also wards off evil spirits and bad intentions. They are modern pieces of protection magick practiced by a living culture.
Local superstition holds that if someone were to see what you had purchased (i.e. if you were just carrying it around or used a more see-through type of bag), their envious Evil Eye could curse your purchase. And so when you went to drink your soda or use your shampoo, the bad luck cast upon the item would transfer onto you for having utilized it. The black bag keeps your purchases secret, safe from the nefarious Evil Eye which so haunts the Eastern Mediterranean imagination and customs.
It’s bad enough when You use the cursed object, but its deemed particularly bad form in Jordanian culture to pass on any jinxed purchases. And thus, when you present a gift to your friends, neighbors, or in the case of this past season: your local awesome Department of Antiquities representative; you promptly hand over your gift still in its black bag, and just after you enter their home but before you are introduced to the rest of the household in the ubiquitous social room of their house. The black bag keeps the evil energy of onlookers at bay while outside, but once inside, a quick opening of the present at the doorway is still necessary, lest other guests watch you unwrap the gift and curse it in the tiny window remaining before ownership is firmly transferred.
The formality of the black bag social customs initially struck me as quite a deliciously bizarre facet of modern Jordanian culture. But then it occurred to me that really, western culture is no different. We just wrap our presents in much more expense, even more highly stylized formats. Birthdays and the long list of fabulous winter holidays up for celebration (we do them all in my family) are not complete without some well-wrapped presents. And while much of the importance of the wrapping is placed on the idea of keeping the gift a surprise, realistically: the tradition of and psychology behind wrapping gifts is literally all wrapped up (pardon the pun) in that same idea of controlling the kinds of thought focused onto the gift. Once its unwrapped, the gift is open to all kinds of judgment: from the recipient and from those at the unwrapping. Let’s face it, it’s hard not to immediately judge a gift once given: Was it the right gift for that person? Did the recipient give an equally appropriate gift back to the giver or did they spend more or less money on their gift? Isn’t that just like what so and so got for such and such? All of these swarms of thoughts are out there, presumably affecting the now naked gift. It makes sense to keep it under wraps for as long as possible, just to keep all the potentially negative energies at bay.
It is almost conceivable that the brightly colored, intricate wrapping paper which is used for gifts in the western world adds some good energy to the gift. In such situations where ‘it’s the thought that counts,’ surely a thought that comes with spangly, glittering wrapping paper and bows counts a bit more. Be it stupidly expensive designer wrapping paper or cleverly done up comic books (hipster style!): that bit of extra energy that goes into a lovely wrapping job, that extra dollop of creative good will may well be a form of psychological magick in and of itself. Not only does it feel good to give beautifully looking gifts, it feels good to get them. If the energy of the gift can be altered by the wrapping, it makes sense that the joy of a well-wrapped, well intentioned gift would invoke good energy just as much as it protects against the envious Evil Eye.
So ladies and gentleman, bust out your mini-baubles, your ribbon fringers, your fancy labels, and colored tape. And send out positive energy as you wrap your presents this holiday season. It adds a little bit more magick to every gift you give!
P.S. It’s good to be back in the states (and with working internet!) More blogs on the past few months of archaeology and anthropology-tastic travel, as well as a slew of holiday topics and History of Witches in the Western World promos coming soon! So watch this space! xxx