I had been thinking of my new housemate and letting the superstitions of the locals creep into my mind, wondering if I was indeed cursed. I called a local friend and he contacted the local shaman. A wizard of some renown. He arrived later that day dressed in a royal blue, silk robe with matching hat. Age, undetermined. Old old old. A face that had road maps carved into it. He had small button eyes and an infectious grin that belied the dignity of his position. He swarmed past me, or should I say glided, seeming to know without being told where the Stone was located. Incense in one hand, the other furiously making arcane passes over the stone. A droning, repetitive, almost sub-vocalization vibrating through the house.
An assistant was setting up a small shrine on the porch table with fruit, more incense, and a package of paper money, candies, and various good luck charms. Many blessings occurred and they took the stone away after covering it with some sort of altar cloth. The Wizard informed me that the headstone belonged to a woman from an old Chinese family, and that the family was large and still living in Hoi An. He told me he needed to hold a three-day ceremony of reburial for the spirit and commended me for calling him. His impression was that the spirit was angry that she had been neglected by the family. She wanted a place to rest and my house was the first time she had been in out of the weather since her burial, several hundred years earlier. She did not want to leave. Now she was pissed. He promised all would be well in three days. He was wrong.
At the end of the day, I ended up in bed by 6 in the evening. I felt listless and tired and I slept fitfully. At 5 a.m. I awoke and found myself exhausted. Enough was enough so I cleaned up and after popping off a couple of emails to tell people where I was going to be, I was off to the hospital. Thinking that I would get and injection and some more meds, I was shocked when the doctor told me my heart was completely out of kilter and showing an arrhythmia with an irregular heart beat. They put me in bed instantly and I started to get worried when they couldn’t find a vein for blood work. My veins were collapsing due to extreme dehydration. They finally found a vein and put me in intensive care with full monitoring and transfusions going full blast. I came to the conclusion that evil spirits can really kick your ass. Twenty-four hours later, they released me from the hospital.
Being away from the house gave my system a break and I was feeling better. The minute I reentered the house, my stomach revolted and it was back to the track meet. I doubled up on my meds and this seemed to keep things in control. I would feel better in the morning and worse as the day progressed. Finally, I called the Wizard and asked him to return. He brought out the big guns this time with many presents and gifts for the spirit. He also had containers of rice in which to capture the spirit. While droning along, he sprinkled holy water by dipping a flower in a large container of clear water. (I later found this to be rice wine.) He started at the rear of the home and flung liquid to all corners of the house trying to drive the spirit toward the front of the home and then out.
Incense was burning in all corners, on the porch, and at the street. Rice was flung into the street, as if seeding the avenue for next year’s crop. An immense stack of money was burned at the front of the property. The rice was what had been in the containers that captured the spirit. The casting it into the street was symbolic of the spirit being released from the home and sent on its way. We said prayers over the temporary altar and much bowing and droning continued for the next hour. Finally, the wizard informed me that the spirit had been banned. The house was free of any evil influence. Hallelujah.
Still feeling under the weather, I retired to bed and slept like a baby. I didn’t wake once. Now by this time, I had been sick for over a week and I don’t know if the bug had run its course or what, but I awoke feeling refreshed and it’s like I was never sick. Coincidence?
Yeah, probably. But it certainly makes you wonder. When in Rome, etc. You have to flow with the local superstitions and customs. I have noticed my neighbors giving me the eye the last couple of days. Not in a bad way. Maybe with a little more respect that they had before. Of course, it could be my imagination.
Wizard, indeed! Oh, by the way—not one cent exchanged hands. No money involved at all. Not the Vietnamese norm. You have to wonder … What do you think?
Part 1 | Part 2