How Doktor Snake was initiated into the art of conjure, and glimpsed the dancing glimmersparks whirling on the shimmering strands of destiny.
It all began in the mid-1980s. I was about nineteen. A struggling guitar player and writer living in a shabby, one-room apartment in North London, England. All I owned were the clothes I stood up in (a pair of Levis and a leather jacket) and a Fender Stratocaster, Gibson acoustic, and a Marshall valve amp.
I didn’t have a job. I just wrote songs and stories. Which meant I was excruciatingly poor. But no matter how hungry I got, I wouldn’t sell my guitars. I came close, but never caved in.
At one point, I began to wonder whether I’d ever have any money. Whether anyone would believe in me. Whether even just one door would open. Then one day there was a loud knock on my door. I opened it. Standing there was an incredible sight. A big, bald-headed black man with a feathered jacket, jeweled rings on his fingers, and a bone pendant hanging around his neck. He looked about fifty years old.
“Hey, man,” he said. “You the guitar player? Want to play for my band?”
“Yes. Why not,” I replied.
“Great. Get your stuff. We gotta gig tonight,” he said. “We play blues, calypso, and reggae.”
I don’t know how I did it. But I managed to wing my way through the gig. It was at a London club and we had an audience of around a thousand, which was the most people I’d ever played in front of. It was scary. But I’d never felt more happy.
Formal introductions came at the end of the gig. The big flamboyant black man said his name was Earl Marlowe, a singer and percussionist who had grown up in Trinidad and lived for sometime in the Southern States of America, before settling in London.
After we’d played gigs regularly for three months, Earl and I took a trip out of London to Trent Park, which lies on the far northern fringes of the sprawling metropolis. We walked through the rolling meadows, soaking up the heat of summer. A strange dreamy atmosphere fell upon us.
We sat down on a bench, sipped from cans of Bud, and talked. Earl told me that, besides being a singer, he was a hoodoo man – a witch doctor.
“My grandfather in Trinidad was a sorcerer,” he declared. “He taught me the art of conjure, which some call voodoo and hoodoo. Fact is, he was a trickster shaman, an upside-down man, who seemed duck rabbit crazy most of the time.”
I sat enthralled as he regaled me with some of the most amazing tales – all of which, he claimed, were true. He told me about dream travel, where you learn to wake up during your dreams and gain control of them. Eventually, with much practice, you can travel anywhere in the world and beyond in your spirit body.
He also told me about how he had used voodoo to get money when he needed it. And how he once “conjure-charmed” a beautiful woman into his life.
“But it turned out bad,” he said. “Ain’t no good conjurin’ women into your bed when the real, true magic of love ain’t there.”
Many of his stories were so far-fetched that, to me, at least, they were beyond belief. He laughed at my skepticism and said cryptically, “You wait and see.”
Then he did a very strange thing. He reached over and touched my forehead. Then struck me hard on the back of my neck. I fell forward on to the grass – dazed. A second or two later I found myself hovering in the air, staring down at my inert body lying face down on the floor.
Earl was nowhere to be seen. I was terrified. Panic ricocheted through me as I floated above the rolling meadows. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move in the grass. It was a snake. An adder. And it was crawling towards my prone physical body.
I struggled to get back down to my body. But couldn’t. I was frantic. The snake slid closer and closer. I was sure it was going to bite – even though I knew adders keep well away from humans in normal circumstances.
I watched helpless from above as the snake struck.
Then I woke up – back in my body. Earl sat close by, staring intently at me. I leapt up, frantically looking for the snake bite. “A snake bit me!” I yelled.
Earl waved to me to sit down. Then said very seriously: “You were bitten, but you won’t find the mark. Not on your skin, at least. You were bitten in the spirit. That snake was your power animal. It’s marked you out for the voodoo conjure path. And your life will never be the same again – believe me.”
That was when Earl Marlowe became my teacher and mentor on the path of voodoo conjure.
He immediately re-named me “Doktor Snake” – a writer and guitar player riding helter-skelter down the mysterious conjure highway, where dreams become real and the safety of everyday life crumbles from your grasp.
Earl and I had many wild and mystical adventures after that fateful summer’s day. Many are chronicled in my book, Doktor Snake’s Voodoo Spellbook, originally published by St. Martin’s Press. At the day’s end, the sun had sunk low in the western sky. And I knew I had become a twilight believer. And that I’d caught a glimpse of the whirling glimmersparks that dance on the edge or fate and reality.