I’m walking around Hong Kong.
Strangely it rains.
I take shelter under a highway and I see them, in their splendor, all old, toothless and smiling, they are the Villain Hitters.
It’s like a siren calls for me. I smile at all, I try to communicate but obviously they speak only Cantonese. I am not even helped by the two words I know in Mandarin. I choose the less-tooth hitter, just for sympathy and compassion. She has oily hair held back with iron combs, a gorgeous blouse and long yellow nails. I love her already.
She makes me sit on a low stool, hands me a bunch of printed sheets in different colors and shapes, folded over one another, makes me write my first name on top of them and puts it all on a red altar among the statues of the Gods and the oranges. She cleverly extracts from a Del Monte tin, five incense sticks, two of them longer and waxed which will be used to put fire on all my sheets during the session. The three normal ones she puts in my hands. She tells me using the body gesture that I must continually shake the sticks that I am holding in the sign of faith and prayer.
From my side I think I have a very long list of bad guys to beat, in addition to this my knowledge of Cuban black magic is enviable; I can compete with any jezebel in the world. I start thinking between all people that I want to beat who will be the chosen one, where to recover photos or hair or blood for the evil eye (Facebook is a good resource for this, #beaware). But the Chinese witches are not as bad as the Cubans, they don’t do any evil but they take it away, protect you from bad spirits and bless you. Let’s say they are less Satanic and more exorcists.
The ritual gets into the heart, my old lady takes the first sheet of my personal pack. It is a white veil with prints of subjects that remind me of bad things: snakes, dragons, knives, silhouettes of men and women, black clouds, spiders, pigs (poor little piggies).
The sheet is passed over the incense and shown to the statues on the altar as if to say:
“Hey, my dear magical friends, do you see these bad guys who are not nice at all with this beautiful and gentle Lady? Let’s beat them up!!”
Then the paper is leaned over a brick. The Villain Hitter takes a scotch tape-reinforced slipper. She closes her eyes, sways her head singing in Cantonese and suddenly starts to hit the paper with the slipper. Sometimes she stops for a second, just the time needed to turn the paper, twist it, and fold it up. She keeps doing this until the bad guys are dead and nothing remains on the paper.
In order not to risk that some evil spirits remain alive, the sheet “leftover” are thrown in the belly of a 3D paper shaped tiger that is given to the flames in a tin bucket.
I feel free from illness and lightened by spirits … if it was not for the container of the Del Monte Tomato Ketchup used as an incense holder that distracts me, I would almost believe it.
Now comes the blessing part. I’m not going to make it so long because it’s far more banal: caresses with leaves on my back, slaps with other papers on my palms, circles with incense sticks around my head, spreading rice grains on the left and right, all strictly at the rhythm of a Cantonese prayer that sounds like a rosary to me.
It’s done. It’s over. For just 5 euros I’m free from bad guys and protected, ready for a new lap in the rain. I want to scream: I AM A BELEVER! But I am shy.
I am so amused that I hug the old lady. She looks at me, I explain that I’m Italian, we touch, kiss and hug everyone. She looks puzzled, I don’t think she understand me, but she keeps smiling at me, a beautiful lovely toothless smile.
Her face is full of wrinkles, she looks like she’s 100 years old. I will love her forever.