As a young girl, I loved the Virgen de Guadalupe. Not the Virgin Mary — not that I had any issue with her, as she seemed like a very nice lady; but I loved la Virgen, specifically. While obviously kind and saintly, the Virgin Mary seemed like a woman who would faint a lot — pale and quiet-tempered, truly chaste, as her name suggests, and not much like anyone I knew or could relate to. She seemed sad, as if she had long since despaired of getting whatever it was that she desired.
La Virgen de Guadalupe, on the other hand, seemed so festive, so vital, glowing amidst a riot of color and bursting rose blooms. Like Mary’s, her expression was one of repose, but there was still a liveliness, a sense of humor, a hint of sexuality, a certain je ne sais quoi about her that spoke to the riotous, fiery color I felt blooming inside of me.
Unfortunately, not being Latina or having grown up Catholic or even Christian, I felt I had to adore la Virgen in private. It seemed disingenuous to adopt her as my non-Latina, non-religious own. But love her secretly I did, in part through regular pilgrimages to the saint candle aisle at Fiesta Mart. I was drawn especially to the La Virgen candles with pink wax that gave off the faint scent of roses, which represented how I wanted my life to look and smell: sweet, colorful, flowery, busy and, yes, exalted, but in a friendly, accessible way.
(I am reminded now of a Spring 2007 trip to Puebla, Mexico, where I was enchanted by pictures I saw everywhere of what I called “Approachable Jesus.” Of course I had seen all sorts of representations of Jesus, ones in which he looked saintly or holy or concerned or even beleaguered. But in these pictures all over Puebla, on the walls of restaurants and for sale in the mercados, his expression just looked so friendly and approachable, like a guy you would want to sit down and have a beer with, and talk over your problems. Viva Approachable Jesus!)
Psychics also fascinated me from an early age. For her 12th birthday party, a friend invited several of us to visit a palm-reader on Burnet Road. I remember sitting in a waiting area until it was my turn to join the woman in a small, closet-like room with a sliding door. I sat down in a little folding chair, so close to hers that our knees bumped, and showed her my upturned hands. Flowers and saint candles were all in a jumble on the table at our elbows, and incense burned, making my lungs feel tight. The palmist told me I would marry a man when I was eighteen years old and have two children with him. Neither prediction came true.
Years later I visited psychic Joe Nicols, who seems to be well respected in town as a serious psychic. I liked him, and my session with him actually helped me decide to become a schoolteacher. But his office just didn’t have enough saint candles or colorful shrines for my tastes.
In early April of this year I visited Madame Ruth, a psychic whose office is located on I-35 just south of St. John’s. I stopped in on a whim, not expecting much but hoping for something — some encouragement, a message from the hereafter that I don’t quite believe in, but still hope exists. You see, I had my first child in January, a baby boy who passed away at birth, and though I don’t exactly believe in heaven or an afterlife, I was hoping my son’s spirit might be hovering nearby, a chubby little cherub with wings, maybe, waiting for a chance to communicate with me through Madame Ruth.
Madame Ruth’s card reading was brief, spoken in a monotone that was sometimes hard to understand. At first she gave me several typical psychic lines — “You have a secret admirer,” “There is travel in your future,” “Soon you will come into a great fortune” — you know the drill. She muttered these under her breath, looking at her cards and not at me.
But then she stopped and looked me in the eye. “Things were going okay, going good, but then recently something very bad happened. Very sudden.” Yep. “Now your family is having a lot of trouble.” Yes, that’s true too. “You have two enemies. I see one man, one woman.” Um, unfortunately, yes… “You have a black cloud hanging over you. You’ve been having some bad luck.” Sigh. Four for four.
Then she surprised me by stopping the reading abruptly. She instructed me to go to the Dollar Store, buy three Virgin Mary candles and three Virgen de Guadalupe ones, and bring them back to her. I surprised myself by doing so, bemusedly.
When I returned with the candles she handed me a folded piece of paper. “I wrote something on this for you,” she muttered, “but I folded it up, so don’t read it and don’t worry about it.” Ohhkay, I thought.
She proceeded to read my palm, and though my son didn’t make an appearance, Madame Ruth did seem to see several things about me that she had no way of knowing. Then she told me to take one of the La Virgen candles home and light it for 30 minutes every morning and evening. She said she would pray for me and would light the other candles to help me break this bad-luck streak.
Cool, I thought. I can sure use that kind of help. When I got home, I unfolded the piece of paper, though she had told me not to.
On it Madame Ruth had written the following in shaky lettering, a special, tenuous prayer just for me:
“6 bags Uncle Ben’s rice”
Viva Madame Ruth! Viva modern-day saints!
Psychic Madame Ruth is located at 709 Blackson Avenue; her phone number is (512) 454-1295, and she does accept walk-ins. Psychic Joe Nicols can be reached via his Web site; his office is located on Hancock Drive, and he requires an appointment for a consultation.