The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Places: A witch’s Travel Guide
Envision a time and place with no shopping malls, no department stores, and no main streets lined with stores. Envision a time and place with no mail-order catalogs and no online shopping. Now, in that context, envision the magic of the traditional marketplace, another place intrinsically associated with witchcraft.
The marketplaces traditionally associated with witchcraft aren’t modern shopping malls or strip malls; instead they are traditional markets where merchants brought their wares to sell and trade. This type of market might be considered a crossroads: it is where different people’s lives intersected. (And in fact, historically many markets were held at crossroads. These markets didn’t have fixed locations: vendors converged on schedule at a particular location, essentially bringing the market with them. The easiest, most convenient place to meet was frequently a crossroads.)
Once upon a time, and still in some places, the marketplace was a realm where women held sway. This remains true in rural West Africa. Women man the marketplace, buying, selling, and trading.
Services are also commonly found in the traditional marketplace: healers, diviners, body artists (tattoo and henna artists as well as piercers), story-tellers, and entertainers also offer their services, as do craftsmen like ironsmiths and other artisans who do repair-work and commissions as well as sell goods. This type of traditional market survives amongst the souks of North Africa and the Middle East as well as elsewhere, but once existed around the world.
The marketplace is identified with witchcraft for two reasons:
The more obvious reason is that for centuries, the marketplace was where one could obtain the services of a witch, magical healer or fortune-teller. It was where stories and information was circulated; instruction in various traditions could also be obtained.
It was also where witches and other practitioners obtained supplies. (The marketplace thus is the replacement for the forest.) The marketplace is the location where practitioners could meet, socialize, and trade techniques and secrets.
The less obvious reason has to do with the magical energy generated by the marketplace. The marketplace is the equivalent of a crossroads: anything can theoretically happen in the marketplace, it is a world of possibility and opportunities, either to be won or lost. Fortunes may also be won or lost. The excitement of the marketplace, the high emotions and interaction between so many people generates a powerful magical energy that spirits love and upon which they thrive. Spirits hover at the marketplace and thus witches and magical practitioners do too.
Many traditional cultures believe witches deliberately linger in the marketplace, absorbing the magical energy generated by impassioned trading and bargaining to enhance their own power.
Just as human women are believed to rule the physical marketplace, its spiritual rulership is overseen by powerful female spirits:
Ferronia, Italy’s ancient shamanic goddess now wanders through traditional markets in the guise of a shabby old hag. Don’t be fooled by her humble appearance: she remains the spiritual queen of the marketplace.
Oya, the orisha of storm winds and cemeteries exerts authority over the marketplace too. Shopkeepers wishing to improve business and profits are advised to petition this powerful orisha and leave her offerings every Thursday.
There are also markets specifically devoted to witchcraft. These witchcraft markets are where practitioners obtain botanical and other supplies. (They are also popular with tourists.) Among the most world-famous witchcraft markets are the Witchcraft Market (Mercado de Hechiceria) in Mexico City, and the Witches’ Market (Mercado de Brujas) of La Paz, Bolivia.
See DICTIONARY: Orisha; DIVINE WITCH: Feronia; HORNED ONE: Oya.