Ankhie spends a lot of time browsing online auctions. What can I say – it’s a cheap thrill. Whatever you’re looking for, no matter how rare or bizarre, someone, somewhere has one that they’re willing to sell to the highest bidder. Years ago, you had to troll the big, festival flea markets for Edwardian underwear or real shrunken heads (unsavory items, both) but now, a few keywords, some ninja bidding moves and you’re one Paypal click away from your creepy collectible.
But how do you know what you’re really getting? Especially if the item you are buying is of a religious or occult nature. Authenticity issues aside, even a seller with 100% approval rating and the best possible intentions can’t guarantee that you won’t be getting more than you bargained for.
Dion Fortune tells the following cautionary tale in her (absolutely essential) Psychic Self-Defense:
I had a curious experien
ce with a Buddha upon one occasion. It was an archaic soap-stone statuette, some nine inches high, and its owner had dug it up herself on the site of a Burmese city that had fallen in ruin and been swallowed by the jungle. It was placed on the floor in an angle of the stairs and had served as a doorstop upon occassion. I had a flat on the top floor, and had to pass the melancholy little Buddga each time I came in or went out, and to me it seemed a desecration to see the sacred symbol of another faith treated thus. I tri
ed to point this out to her, and asked her how she would feel if she saw a crucifix thus utilised, but without result. Meanwhile the little Buddha sat there patiently, getting the carpet-sweeper pushed in his face and receiving libations of slops.
One day, passing upstairs bearing a bunch of flowers, I was prompted to throw before him one of the traditional marigolds of Indian devotion. Immediately I was conscious that a link had been formed between myself and the little statue, and that it was sinister. A night or two afterwards I was returning home rather late, and as I passed the Buddha I had a feeling that there was something behind me, and looking over my shoulder, saw a ball of pale golden light about the size of a football separate itself from the Budd
ha and come rolling up the stairs after me. Thoroughly alarmed, and disliking this manifestation very much indeed, I immediately made a banishing gesture and the ball of light returned down the stairs and was reabsorbed into the Buddha, who, needless to say, got no more marigolds from me, and received a very wide berth until I left the flat shortly after. The experience was a singularly unpleasant one, and was a sharp lesson to me not to meddle with the sacred objects of another system unless I knew exactly what I was about. I learnt subsequently that some of these statues are consecrated with the blood of human sacrifice.
goes on to discuss the rarity of this kind of negative association (so as not to disparage Buddhism or its sacred objects) – but the lesson here is well worth learning. The energy and intent that go into the creation and use of ritual objects have powerful and lasting effects. It is wise to first familiarize yourself with the associated traditions – exactly how the oject functioned and why it was sacred – before inviting it into your home. And if you are planning on giving it as a gift – all the more reason to be cautious!
Of course I will still be bidding on that “Small Sculpured Head” (I suspect it’s Cycladic – which would make it worth a whole lot more than the current high bid of $9.99) and the “Quartz Crystal Ball With Unusual Inclusions” – aware that these items may be exactly as shown – or may be like the knocker on Scrooge’s door – animated by spirit, and ready to haunt my holidays, present and future.