Within the illusive realm of magic, witches seem to only exist in ancient folklore and pop-culture. There, these powerful female figures come dressed in black, brandished mysterious implements—think brooms and crystal balls—and conjured spells to make troubles disappear.
The ’90s were the heyday of fictitious TV series or movies featuring these witches, including “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, “The Craft”, and “The Witches”, and that was a time when much of their allure lies in old-school CGI and rhyming couplets.
Fast forward today, in a world of never-ending chaos—or as this New York Times op-writer says, “assumption of chaos—the sense that institutions have failed and no one is in charge”—a well-documented rise in occultism has been observed, and it is not at all surprising. After all, with the recent reboots of Warner Bros. series “Charmed” and Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, witches have once again re-entered the public’s consciousness.
In Singapore, fanfare revolving this mystical genre is not unheard of. Occult shops, such as Spellbound in Peninsular Plaza or Charms Offensive in Fu Lu Shou Complex, are a dime a dozen. Yet, few have heard of a real-life witch.
Enter Nara (short for Narayanee Singaram), an aviculturist, avid dancer, a spiritual healer, and a self-professed witch based in Singapore.
“A witch is someone who chooses to live in her power. She has a slightly different perspective of seeing the world and makes sense of what is around her in a different light,” Nara explains. “That makes you a lot more magical. Being a witch is about being magical, being in a good space about it, and not trying to hide and run away from it.”
Growing up in a family of spiritual practitioners, Nara’s foray into mysticism and the metaphysical seems pre-destined. Her late-grandmother, who was a ‘witch-doctor’, was known to dispel negative entities and remove curses from those being affected.
“People come in with a problem, and we try to solve it. My grandma would tell her clients to remove suspected “curses” or negatively bewitched items from their household. Stories abound of how these items, such as locks of hair or burnt ashes, were never much in plain sight but made a sudden appearance during a house cleansing.”
Then, there is Nara’s beloved late-godmother, Rosina Maria Arquati, who was a renowned animal telepathic communicator from Hong Kong.
While her family dealt with darker and more sinister forces, Rosina dealt with the opposite. To Nara, Rosina was her gentle and modern mentor who inspired her modern witch outlook, a distinctive contrast to what grandmother would usually practice.
“Rosina is more on the loving side of witchcraft. She is more of a you-attract-what-you-want-and-repel-whatever-that-doesn’t person. When I met Rosina, she gave me comfort and my life changed,” says Nara wistfully. “When she knew she had colon cancer and had little time left, she passed on many teachings such as the practice of reiki, animal communication, and crystal healing therapy which is pretty much what I do today.”
This Halloween also marks the third anniversary of Nara’s e-commerce shop, ‘My Grandmama’s Secret’.
Running ‘My Grandmama’s Secret’ from her home over the weekend and on her rest days entails several esoteric and time-consuming tasks. Whenever she is not creating mojo bags—amulets of African-American origin that contain prayers of sorts—or busy concocting potions, she can be seen reading tarot cards occasionally at cafes and even communicating with animals.
Many of Nara’s clients fall under the younger, female demographic, and they would come to her seeking clarity and help. Some would seek potions or mojo bags for self-empowerment, while others would request Nara to cast love spells.
“What I do is not to draw someone closer with magic explicitly. What I do is create more self-love, so that my clients can feel confident and attract a possible love interest,” she clarifies. “But it’s up to the individual. I also guide them through tarot card readings and more.”
Mojo bags, Nara says, are created with intentions to empower the owner. Within each mojo bag is a combination of different dried flower petals, a concoction of essential oils that are meant to enliven or loosen the mood, as well as small crystal chips that would “balance the person’s energy and vibration”. Sometimes, Nara would smear the special concoction onto pre-made candles to channel more energy into her clients’ room when lit.
To the unacquainted, candles and essential oils are perhaps tools for aromatherapy, but for believers and practitioners, like Nara, these unsuspecting objects are tools that serve a higher purpose. Even so, while this broad umbrella of magical rituals is deeply entrenched across history—older than Christianity as some would argue—and vastly different across cultures, paganism still defies logic.
Nara is, however, quick to add that not everybody is as accepting as the millennial generation to occultism. Hate mails and hate comments are common in her line of business, and they are telling of the restrictive perimeters in the world of witchcraft. Furthermore, the public misconception of how witches worship The Devil only adds fuel to the flame.
“For me, I acknowledge that the Devil is a fallen angel, and his purpose is to get me closer to God. What he is manifesting is this thing called ‘fear’, and if I don’t give ‘fear’ such a huge importance, it doesn’t become a real thing, and I can manifest my reality,” Nara says. “Plus sometimes fear is a good motivator. Think about a deer and a tiger. If the deer is not afraid of the tiger, the tiger would not have kicked off the reaction in the deer’s body to run for its life.”
When first exposed to such negative comments and at times, possible threats, Nara would turn to her godmother Rosina for solace. “She would say: ‘Nara, it’s gonna happen. People are going to hate what you do. People are going to hate you. The more people do this, the more you stand to your truth. Because it’s not real.’,” Nara says. “She is right. It’s not true that I worship the devil because the reality is that I’m not against the Devil, nor am I against anything else. I am simply the flow.”
In an era steeped in feminism and its ideals, renewed interest into these mythical band of women easily calls to mind labels that span across the ‘unconventional’ to ‘feminists’ who champion and fight injustice. If anything, the common consensus on the use of witchcraft today resides in its ability to empower the modern woman and helping others along the way.
“I feel really good for helping people,” Nara muses. “I don’t think I attract people with problems. But rather, it’s because I am on the path of healing people, people with problems come up to me. And it’s only my nature always to want to help.”
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