No shit, there I was in a West African country.

A friend and I were asked if we would like to visit a local fortune teller by our local guide whom I will call Kate.  There is a form of Sufi mysticism in the region but this fortune teller practiced an older form of indigenous rites that pre-dates Islam called Set.  Kate had known him since she was a child and referred to him as a uncle.  My friend, whom I’ll call Rich, and I were enthusiastic to experience some local flavor and readily agreed.

On the car ride there Kate asked us if we believed in the paranormal.  I replied that I think there is a such thing as ESP but that the effects are very subtle.  They are also very hard to prove scientifically.  She told me that a lot of Westerners come to West Africa thinking such things are nonsense but end up leaving true believers.  Predicting the future, medicinal healing, and even black magic are all practiced by various “witch doctors” in the country we were in.  Since a man can have multiple wives there, it is also not uncommon for one wife to put a hex on another wife.

It gets even more fun when one wife will drug the husband in order to keep him to herself.  Then the wife he was supposed to be with the next day chews him out and so she ends up getting to keep the husband an additional few days.

Parking the car on the side of the road, we walked up a narrow cobblestone street to the fortune teller’s home.  As we walked in we were provided with chairs to sit in.  A family member sat next to us, his knee inflamed from playing basketball.  It looked like he had a grapefruit for a knee.  The fortune teller came out from his room with a bag of items for medicinal healing.  He was the blackest person I had ever seen in my life.  He wore glasses and local garb.

“What are these two white guys doing here,” he asked Kate.  “They don’t believe in these sorts of things.”

She assured him that we were both open minded to what he had to say.  We watched as he held a small cotton bag over a flame until something inside began to melt and drip from inside.  He then took the bag and rubbed it in circles across the inflamed portion of his family member’s knee.  Once he had finished, we were invited into his room to have our fortunes told.

A cloth covering the door was pushed aside as we were ushered in.  It was dark inside and the floor was covered in sawdust.  The only furniture was a bed and a wardrobe.  I sat on the bed with the fortune teller.  Kate and Rich sat on the carpet.  It was determined that I would be the first to have my fortune told.