Ipsita's Columns

Dark forces that taint beauty of magic

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle - January 23, 2011

by Ipsita and Deepta Roy Chakraverti

We are told we live in an independent, emancipated India striding onwards in the 21st century. But unfortunately, our country today wallows in superstitions and nefarious practices in the name of magic and the occult.

The original word ‘magic’ comes from the Greek mageia, which in turn comes from magoi or magi, a Persian caste of learned priests who studied the esoteric. Magic is the foundation of all religions and has always had very spiritual and positive connotations.

However, at present in India, personal greed resorts to bizarre and gory rituals in the name of ‘magic’. Criminal acts of murder and sadism are thought to propitiate bloodthirsty deities. Does the fault lie in our culture or in us? What is wrong with us? We seem to be one of the most unfeeling, avaricious and mentally backward people in the world. Hence, one reads of child sacrifices, sometimes perpetrated by parents themselves. One hears of innocent black dogs being fed poisoned food so that ailing people may recover and the dogs die.

One hears of strange earthen pots being placed in early morning hours at a point where four roads cross so that the first person who knocks it over with his foot will be subjected to the transference of all ills from the person who placed the pot there. One cannot imagine that a country known for its spiritual inheritance and mystical thought should have degenerated into this muck and mire of spirit.

In October of 2009, shockwaves went around the country when two scientists from the reputed DRDE in Rajasthan were held for allegedly attempting to make a human sacrifice of their junior colleague. As recently as in December 2010, the death of a three-and-a-half-year-old child, Priyanka was reported in Mangalore. Primary investigations seemed to indicate it was a case of child sacrifice based on superstition. The alleged perpetrators had killed the victim in order to propitiate the family deity. The killing was rendered more heinous by the age of the victim, and the manner in which the small child was murdered - she was believed to have been strangled during a tantric ritual and her body was found at the edge of a plantation, covered up with leaves.

Decipher nature’s divine messages

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle - Aug 08, 2010

by Ipsita and Deepta Roy Chakraverti

One shies away from fortune-tellers and from fortune-telling. We should take each day as it comes and not fall prey to delving into the future. Anyway, whatever will be will be. So why this undue curiosity? All one has to do is be receptive to the signs and advice that nature is constantly throwing our way. If read right, these signs can help us to recognise the road ahead and to understand our part and purpose in life.

n olden times, there were pagan diviners who tried to tap into the language of nature - the sighing of leaves, the creaking of branches, the cawing of crows and the mewling of cats. In India specially, crows are called ‘spirit birds’ and after a member of the family passes on, crows are fed rice before the family sits down to a meal. Their cawing is believed to convey messages. In fact, we have a pet crow we call Kako, who visits us every morning, sits on our window sill and communicates with us before flying off. To the Ancients, even the smoke as it curled up from a fire could be interpreted. The formation of the clouds drifting by in the sky could give messages. Then there were the mysterious happenings. Fruit trees burst into flower out of season. A clay statue started weeping. A massive branch from a tree suddenly fell across one’s path as one walked. Nature spoke to the watchful and receptive in her own way.

One remembers the sensation which was created on September 21, 1995, as statues of Lord Ganesha started imbibing milk offered by devotees. The phenomenon lasted a day. Some said they experienced it a few days. But then it ceased. ‘Scientists’ tried to explain away the happening by going into technical jargon which didn’t really stand the test. If it were a kind of mass hysteria, why wouldn’t it be prolonged? If it were a kind of capillary action, the same question would hold good. So, was nature sending a divine message?

Some years ago in 2001, a neem tree down the street from where we lived in Delhi, started weeping quite copiously. The tears were a sweet, milky sap, which gushed forth from a fork in its trunk. People gathered to catch the liquid in jars and bottles. They said the tree was shedding tears of sorrow to indicate troubled times ahead. Visiting botanists put forth various theories. Nobody was quite sure what was happening. A constable was placed there to protect the tree. A few days later India was shaken by the news of a massive earthquake in Gujarat. Thousands lost their lives. The tree stopped ‘crying.’ Was this a sign or a coincidence?

Animals see and hear things at a higher frequency. They ‘see’ spirits and are aware of impending, natural calamities. It is said that before the tsunami struck the southern part of the country in December of 2004, many dogs became extremely restless and hundreds of strays started moving away to interior ground. It is claimed that cats yowl before somebody falls sick. Dogs whine. Birds dash against window panes to warn of impending difficulties. One would say that considering the fact that we still know very little about unexplained phenomena, the natural world and the Higher Consciousness, one cannot dismiss strange happenings as mere superstition.

Of five-star hauntings, power-lines and fate

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle - May 23, 2010

by Ipsita and Deepta Roy Chakraverti

There is nothing quite as comfortable as a nurturing, well maintained five star hotel. Glistening lobby floors, downy pillows, the fragrance of lemony scented oils, discreet service… But what happens when in the midst of this little oasis of comfort and luxury, darkness steals in?

There is a plush hotel in the heart of New Delhi’s commercial area. During the day, it is peopled with visitors on quick working lunches from the nearby offices, and at night, it has a popular discotheque. However, behind this facade or beauty and grandeur, there lies an inexplicable sorrow and darkness.

In the spring of 2002, the young daughter-in-law of a prominent Delhi politician was found dead on the terrace garden of the hotel. Investigators reportedly admitted the details of the death were baffling. The young woman had allegedly jumped to her death from the seventh floor of the hotel — and yet her belongings were intact. She fell on her front, but the injuries were at the back. The final verdict however was suicide.

Just a few months later, in May of the same year, death claimed her sister-in-law. Then, seven years later, in the winter of 2009, another death struck the same hotel, again on the seventh floor. A window cleaner fell to his death from that very floor. Was it just an unlucky turn of events which caused these three deaths? Are they all linked by some strange turn about the number seven? Or is it just Destiny playing out?

Even as diners come and go from the hotel, there seems to be a darkness within, a shadow, awake, alive and waiting to strike. Another place which has a strangeness to it is a hotel in Mumbai. A site of the terrible 1993 Mumbai bombings, the hotel till date seems to echo the shockwaves. Around the years of 1997-1998, ownership problems showed up on the horizon and the doors remained closed. Thereafter, it did open, but was very sparsely peopled. At one time, a diner at the coffee shop there got a rude shock when an entire glass window pane next to her shattered with no provocation. Some reported strange noises and scraping sounds from the lower floors.

Interestingly, close to the hotel is an old church. Known for its beauty and for being a ‘location’ for the film Amar Akbar Anthony, it has a deeper connection with the nearby sea. In olden times, places of worship used to be built on leylines or invisible ‘power-lines’ which crisscrossed the land. Many of these spots were close to water. Perhaps the same leyline which passes under the church also passes under the ill-fated hotel, which seems to be forever waiting. If so, maybe before the doors to the hotel can open, the spot has to be propitiated in some way before a place of commerce can operate on it, and the hotel’s doors finally and successfully open for its guests.

When life eerily imitates art

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle - May 2nd, 2010

by Ipsita Roy Chakraverti

It is strange how often an artistic or creative portrayal begets a life of its own and steps into the real world. Take for example, the Hindi film Border. It is horribly and tragically strange that the Uphaar film theatre caught fire while this film, depicting extreme violence, was playing.

Another example is the horror film Exorcist, which is a classic now. Released in 1973 by Warner Bros, it was called by some ‘the scariest movie of all time’. Based on the book by William Peter Blatty, it was rumoured that the sets and filming process were not without their share of strange occurrences. The interiors of the house (the set) were said to have been destroyed in a fire, in which only the room of Regan (the possessed girl) was intact. Actor Jack MacGowran died during filming. It was said that minor injuries during the shoot, specially in scenes such as those where the possessed girl was thrashing on the bed, with her arms in chains, were a frequent occurrence.

Another film which must not be left out here is Dark Water. Released in 2005, Jennifer Connelly, the lead actress, reportedly said that soon after she signed the film, the NY house which she shared with her husband and two children flooded over not once, but twice. Sometimes, so powerful is the subject and its depiction, that some X-factor steps in and breathes life into the entire creation. It is as if a living being steps into our midst, straight from celluloid.

When the Icelandic volcano erupted earlier this month, many feared this was the doomsday film 2012 coming to life. As TV channels showed the dense cover of ash and reported underground rumblings, whispers spread that this was like the earth cracking open in 2012, a film which happened to be released on Friday the 13th!

One can never really say what makes these sudden apparent ‘reel-real’ incidents happen. Do ‘bad’ films invoke ill-being and happy films well-being? Much like the custom of chants and spiritual words cleansing the atmosphere and negative intent spiking the atmosphere with harm?

Theories of imitative magic say that you can work your will upon a human target through a likeness. Voodoo, a practice originating in Haiti, uses puppets, preferably along with something belonging to the targeted person, in order to affect him or her. Films, music, art - all created things, each become entities of sorts with the energy and intent of their creator. Good or bad, what impact do they have? Maybe they tell us themselves.

Wicca is aimed at liberation of female psyche

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle - March 21st, 2010

by Ipsita Roy Chakraverti

It is many years now that I have been battling superstition and motivated lobbies in this country. Today, I can say with confidence that I have won the battle for women, at least where their freedom to be Wiccans is concerned. The journey has been hard but I persisted and after all these years, ‘witch’ or dakini is no longer a negative word. Wicca has been revived as a branch of learning and as a discipline.

By tradition, Wicca was for women and is considered to be the first feminist movement in history. In all cultures and climes, the Mother Goddess was worshipped. Society was built on the matrilineal pattern, and centered around the Sacred Feminine. It was with the rise of the patriarchal society that the Goddess was accorded second position. She became a consort and was worshipped as an appendage of the god.

The place of the woman in a family suffered in a similar fashion. No longer was she the pivot. No longer was the mother’s word law. The birth of a daughter became a liability. If she had not been killed in the womb, her trials increased with time. She was treated as a commodity in her father’s and her husband’s home. She was burnt, bruised and battered.

This trend became specially prevalent in the East and the Middle East. From very early times, Wicca has protested against this and has stood up for the dignity of women. In fact, very few people are aware that one of the reasons, Wiccans favoured wearing the colour black is because black has for them, stood for the regal, the dignified and the enigmatic. All that they stood for in their own personas. They were exclusive in their knowledge. They were the community’s first healers and advisors. The original shamans.

In the Indian subcontinent, Wicca was called Dakini Vidya. It was a discipline. A way of life. According to my research, one of the early and rare Wiccan temples in India, is at Hirapur in Orissa. The 64 Yogini Temple bears all the early Wiccan marks. A temple where the Sacred Feminine rules. Where Mahamaya is the central manifestation of the Goddess. Unfortunately, over the years, the words, Yogini and Dakini have been abused and distorted to imply the negative and the nefarious. Till today, in our country, women in urban as well as rural areas are harassed and assaulted for being dayans or ‘witches’.

The word is used as a handle for criminal acts against them. Either it is a gender issue where men in a community do not want to see the rise of powerful women, or it’s a vehicle for vendetta if their lecherous advances have been rebuffed. Often it is the ‘system’ at play. Organised religion has always come down hard on women in Wicca who have posed a threat to the priestly classes. In India today, every strong woman should be proud to label herself a ‘witch’. For strength is what is required of women in the home and at the workplace, in order to counter the evils which beset them, be it dowry demands by greedy in-laws, threats by exploitative employers or the callousness of an unfeeling society. Wicca’s magic lies in its strength.

Gain calmness, focus, through Wiccan way

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle - February 28th, 2010

by Ipsita Roy Chakraverti

The Wiccan Goddess was said to bring to her worshippers qualities of strength, endurance, intelligence and the ability to overcome the challenges of this world. But power begets enmity. Wiccan learning was twisted by a threatened section of society into the word ‘witchcraft’ and given negative connotations starting from around the 11th century in Europe when the ‘witch’ trials started.

By the 17th century these persecutions had killed nearly eight million women and some men. Joan of Arc was one such woman who was condemned as a witch and burnt to death. The urge to destroy free thinking individuals who would not bow to the system was a worldwide phenomenon and persists in our country till today. It is strange that in India the name of the Wiccan Goddess Diana has been distorted into ‘dayan’ and implies dark qualities in a woman.

The Wicca of old has almost become a gender war. The proud and wise Wiccan, that elegant figure in black, has been turned into a withered crone in man-made horror stories. It has been a war beset with baseless superstitions and motivated distortions.

Wicca, which was not only the way of the goddess but also a Pagan way of looking at life, gradually became reclusive and secret in a bid to preserve its secret knowledge.

The learning involved aligning oneself with nature. From that it drew its sustenance. It was a cerebral and aesthetic way of life — which spent its time in trying to understand the mysteries of the world.

Each Wiccan left his or her own findings and conclusions in a diary called The Book of Shadows. What was the ultimate aim? The goal was to imbibe strength and knowledge and thereby to understand the secrets of life and the universe. It was a bid to develop discipline of both body and mind.

It was to know detachment while not renouncing the world. It was said in Wicca, that to withdraw from the world was easy, but to live in the midst of its battering and yet remain calm and focussed was where the magic lay. From that arose the power it bestowed on the worshipper.

Wicca, more than 5,000 years ago was trying to develop a super-breed of human beings who would be able to understand and imbibe in themselves the qualities of the goddess they invoked.

Cast a V-Day spell to stay together forever

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle - February 14th, 2010

by Deepta Roy Chakraverti

Has your lover strayed? Fiancé/fiancée run off with your best friend? Boyfriend been discovered in bed with your ex (this is the day of liberation after all)? Well, don’t come to Wicca with moans and groans and sniffles and complaints. Witches are selfish. If you bore them to tears and act like utter drags, they’ll never see you. But — show some spirit, some self-respect, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll help.

Wicca does not believe in allowing its followers to become mushpots. It stands for dignity and strength. If you lose your own will to another, then you belong nowhere. Least of all to Wicca. Wicca is of the Goddess, of Kali and Diana; true ‘witches’ are those who break barriers and defy a male dominated society. They are the women who’ve dared to walk out of abusive relationships, to thumb their noses at dictatorial husbands and in-laws and boyfriends, and who’ve always believed that nothing, and I mean nothing, is worth the loss of their self-respect.

So, if you come to me with strength I give you a little tip below. If you’ve got the ‘love of your life’ at hand, why not cement the bond? True love and all that is very fine in romances. We witches don’t believe in all that jazz. We believe in us.

Love spell

ake a length of pink ribbon and a mirror with a handle. You must keep a picture of the beloved handy. Make three knots in the ribbon and after each knot, take the mirror in your hand so it reflects the picture in it. Look at it well each time. After the knots are made, place the ribbon in the centre of the mirror, face up. Now think of the person, focus the strength of your will on him/ her, and say the following once only:

Aphrodite I seek of thee

Bless forever him/her and me.

Now you must take the mirror with the ribbon and submerge it in water — be it a lake, a sea, or a crystal bowl of water. Now, begone, and don’t worry me for some moons.

Marry for the moolah

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle - February 14th, 2010

by Ipsita Roy Chakraverti

In about AD 270 the Roman emperor Claudius, banned marriages because love and marriage and the ensuing obligations, kept young men from going to war and fighting for Rome. A certain priest, St. Valentine married young couples secretly and became very popular. The emperor finally found out what he was up to and had him executed. Even in jail he got quite friendly with the jailor’s daughter and left her a note saying, ‘Love from your Valentine’.

Now that is a sentimental point of view if I ever heard of one. I’d say too much is made of this thing termed ‘love’. It’s getting to be ridiculous. Oscar Wilde once said that to love oneself was the beginning of a life long romance. I agree. I wouldn’t advise anybody to go mooning after a ‘sweetheart’ who’ll dash your dreams the very next year. Nobody will live upto your expectations. Love yourself. If you must marry, marry for money which will keep you well supplied. I never heard of anything as silly as marrying a man because you’re in love. It’s a tough life out there. Get your feet on the ground. The world will be dazzled. He’ll respect you for that. So will his mother.