This is the story of how my voodoo mentor, Earl Marlowe, featured throughout my Voodoo Spellbook, came to settle in London. Earl was a singer and voodoo man from Trinidad. But after leaving Trinidad to serve on merchant ships, he settled for some years in the American South.
Much of Earl’s work at that time involved dispensing voodoo medicines and doing card readings (as is the case with most hoodoo doctors). People would come from miles around to get a reading from Earl. He favored playing cards over the “fancy tarot,” as he called it.
Earl lived in a run-down shack in those days, but it was comfortable and cozy.
One time, a woman calling herself Betty May came to him for a card reading. It was very late at night and Earl had already drunk half a bottle of rye whiskey, but he agreed to do the reading anyway (he claimed alcohol never impaired is psychic abilities).
The main reason he agreed to do the reading was Betty May was the ugliest woman he’d ever seen, and he felt sorry for her.
Earl shuffled the cards, then spread them on the table, telling Betty May to choose three cards.
Earl told me many years later that: “No sooner had Betty May picked out three cards and I knew she’d got a black soul and was from the very pit of hell. And she knew I knew. A horrible, evil smile cracked her face in two.”
Earl grabbed some witch’s salt, a remedy against demons, from his conjure bag and threw it at her.
It had no effect. Betty May just laughed in Earl’s face and said: “You cain’t stop me. I’m the Devil’s daughter, the spawn of Satan. An’ I’ve killed mo’ people than you’ve drunk bottles of rye whiskey and that’s a lot coz you’re more fonder of the firewater than my daddy the Devil is, and that’s a fact.”
Earl took exception to that. He wouldn’t tolerate disrespect, even if it was the Devil’s daughter dishing it out. He said: “Look, you come here to insult me or you want a card reading?”
“I want a reading,” she said, “but not from some old two-bit drunk.”
Even more irate Earl said: “Now, you watch your sharp tongue, the rye whiskey is fuel for my psychic abilities, just like it helps me to drive a car in a straight line. So what’s your question, Betty May? What do you want to know from the cards?”
So Betty told him: “I want to know when I’m getting married and who I’m going to get married to…”
Earl surveyed the cards for a minute or two, then took a slug of rye whiskey and said: “Betty May, the cards say you gonna be a spinster all your life. Even yo’ daddy, the Devil, knows there’s ‘o way he can marry you off on account you as ugly as a deep river catfish. Ain’t no man coming into spittin’ distance of you, even if you got a bag over yo’ head.”
But before Betty could say anything, Earl fell off his chair onto the floor, having passed out from the effects of the rye whiskey.
When Earl came round the next morning, he thought it must have been a bad dream. As he pulled himself upright, he muttered “the ugliest woman I ever seen…” Then he had the shock of his life. Sitting in an old armchair by the fire was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He stood open mouthed, then composed himself to ask, “Where’d you come from?”
“I’m Betty May,” she replied. “Don’t you remember, I came by for a card reading last night and you promised to marry me, but then yo’ passed out.”
Bad dream the night before or not, Earl wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Not when the gift was a beautiful young woman. Three days later he and Betty May were married.
But on their wedding night, Earl had the next biggest shock of his life… Betty May transformed herself back into the Devil’s daughter, which she had been all along – it was an enchantment made her look beautiful.
Years later, Earl told me: “I tell you man, I ran outa there buck naked. I didn’t stop till I got to a sea port and jumped on a ship that took me all the way to England. That’s how I came to leave the American South and settle in London. I was runnin’ from the Devil’s daughter.”
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