This column may contain strong language, sexual content, adult humor, and other themes that may not be suitable for minors. Parental guidance is strongly advised.
It’s been said that a certain congressman, known to be an incorrigible womanizer, is now a shell of his former philandering self, tamed by the love of—as the cliché goes—a God-fearing, albeit much younger woman.
The mistress, it would appear, has the congressman wrapped around her little finger. Not only has he bankrolled her many businesses and put her children through school; he has also apparently ceded control of his rather considerable fortune to her, a move that has his friends and family furious.
The woman is not the prettiest or the hottest, it has been said, and, this country being the feudal democracy that it is, not of the best pedigree. Nevertheless, she has done pretty well for herself, wagging tongues note, becoming the wealthy congressman’s mistress, with all the benefits her position entails.
Others, however, are not so charitable, and swear she has him by the balls—to the point that he has bought property in her name, and not his children’s. Rumor has it that her powers, including power of attorney, are the result of her having put a spell on him. This particular spell involves a string literally tied around his penis, hence, her ability to make him do what she wants like an obedient little dog.
Whether true or apocryphal, the congressman does seem rather docile these days. And love potions and spells, otherwise known as gayuma, have always been a part of Filipino folk culture. According to Wikipilipinas, gayuma “is a love potion that is used to attract a mate. The potion’s magical property is said to work best when taken by the potential partner, often mixed in a drink. As with any other mystical folk item, the effectiveness of a gayuma only works if the caster believes in its power. The use of gayuma today is usually associated with failed courtship, unrequited love, or secret admiration.”
It’s not the first time I’d heard of love voodoo being performed. A friend of mine—according to another friend—mixed her own urine into calamansi juice and served it to her lover, who from then on remained steadfastly devoted to her. They remain together to this day.
Someone else I know, a Middle Eastern head of state, has allegedly been on the receiving end of a particularly potent spell that has had him “pussy-whipped” as the local rumor mill has it, into deferring to his wife for everything. Other people have witnessed the change in his demeanor, and the subsequent consolidation of her power, and by extension her family’s, surmising that she must have cast the spell on him when she reportedly got wind of his plans to divorce her.
I can’t fathom the degree of desperation that would lead one dabble in suspect sorcery and voodoo magic—slaughtering a chicken in ritual sacrifice, boiling the leaves of a plant in rain water, pounding insects into a powder to be added to a drink, or even dropping wax from a red candle into sugar—just to make someone love you or remain faithful to you, unless of course you had a whole kingdom to gain from the exercise.
As for gayuma, just like in Santería, specialist dealers “determine the exact ingredients needed for the gayuma’s desired purpose; they also set the potion’s dosage and frequency of use. After purchasing a gayuma, vendors are also known to issue alternative prescriptions, most of the time on scratch paper, scribbled with bizarre characters. These prescriptions supposedly grant the potion its efficacy.
“During the course of preparation, special incantations, often in Latin, are whispered by the caster upon instructions from the vendor. Some instructions even require the caster to recite. Some believers of the craft equate the amount of time spent on casting to the effectiveness of the gayuma.”
Love spells are also common in African societies. All over South Africa, ads abound touting sangomas or traditional healers who promise to cure all sorts of romantic ills. There are ads in the classifieds from “Strong no.1 traditional healer to fix broken relationship” and “Marriage Spell Caster and Divorce Helper” as well as the formidable “Mama Aisha Best Healer,” who claims to help you “unlock your life, get back lost love.” You could call her a generalist, as she can “mend broken hearts, bring back lost love, get married, control cheaters, stop divorce, win court cases, palm reader, see your enemies in a mirror, job promotion, get tenders and contracts, win casino, spells caster, get a baby, and all financial problems.”
It’s hard to say whether love spells work, but they’ve been around for as long as myth and magic has been part of popular culture. Casting love spells was pretty much a thing during more superstitious times. Even Louisa May Alcott included a love potion in her classic novel Little Women, which had the March sisters perform a play Jo had written, featuring a love potion.
The ill-fated 12th-century lovers Tristan and Isolde famously drink a love potion in Wagner’s masterful opera of the same name. And Oberon, the King of the Fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream explains to Puck how a flower got its the magical powers to make people fall in love with other:
And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound,
And maidens call it Love-in-idleness.
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather drink the nectar of a flower charmingly called “Love-in-idleness” than mix my urine with calamansi juice. Or tie a yellow ribbon ‘round an old man’s dick. But then again, desperation was never a good look on me.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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Art by Ivan Cocjin