The very first time I went to a Botanica I had only a vague idea of what to expect.
That’s because until a few months ago, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. And I think that if you asked me to wager a guess as to what a Botanica actually was, I probably would have guessed that it was some kind of boujee greenhouse? Maybe more of a kind of high end boutique that sold basic gardening tools, bags of soil, giant purple geodes and overpriced succulents in small, handmade clay bowls. It’s a weird, specific guess, but I HAD been in a handful of these kinds of stores in L.A. The fancy name felt right.
But when “Botanica” came up in conversation once or twice at Club Coven, I used context clues to surmise that it probably wasn’t a store just for rich horticulturists and decorators.
Wondering why I never bothered to just Google what a Botanica actually is, I soon learned first-hand that it’s a kind of witchy convenience store that sells herbal remedies, incense, candles, charms and other specialty items for religious or spiritual purposes.
A few weeks ago, my friend Olivia, AKA, the Witch of Wonderlust served as my chaperone on a mission to such a place to procure a special item for a very specific purpose.
It turned out that there was a Botanica less than a mile from my apartment, but because it was tucked back into a plaza just outside of view from the main road, I never even knew it was there. The place was quite tiny, and reminded me of an old fashioned kind of pharmacy I had once visited years ago.
Dusty apothecary jars, filled with varying amounts of dry ingredients and labeled with masking tape and handwritten Spanish, lined the tall wooden shelves. An earthy incense burned while a woman behind the counter focused on one female customer in particular, who was seated on a stool in the middle of the store. They spoke in low voices, almost in whispers, even though there were only three other people around. Olivia saw my observing and told me that the customer was probably having spell-work done.
I followed my friend to the far west corner of the shop and she pointed at a shelf near the floor. Then she reached down and grabbed hold of the item we were looking for
She held it up in the sunlight so that I could have a better look. It was a red seven-day candle with San Miguel written on the label-- the Archangel Michael.
“Now, this is your last resort,” she said. “Because you’re basically going to war with the spirit when you light this thing.”
I nodded enthusiastically. There was no question. It was time to wage war against whatever entity had made itself known in my friend Kiki’s apartment. Rattling blinds and whispers had escalated to her somehow being touched and aggressively grabbed by a force that neither she nor her husband Ryan could see.
After we had paid and headed back to the car, Olivia advised me to create an altar or magical space inside Kiki’s home. I was to leave an offering for Michael, say his prayer and then speak very clearly about what it is that we wanted from him.
I wasn’t sure what kind of offering one leaves an Archangel. The word “offering” conjured images of animal sacrifice in my mind and I immediately felt uncomfortable. (I’m vegetarian.) I asked questions for clarification.
“Does it have to be meat? Do I need to go to the butcher shop? Buy a premium cut of lamb meat?”
She shook her head “no.” “Just leave whatever you think he would like,” she said. Not acquainted with Michael and his personal tastes, I replied “So, it can kind of be anything then?”
“So, like, if I leave Saint Michael Cool Ranch Doritos, that’s OK?”
She laughed and admitted that it would be fine. Just as long as we were respectful and left him something of sustenance and/or value.
I decided to do some more research later for offering ideas that might be preferential to the unhealthy snack I grew up calling “The Blue Doritos.”
A few days later, in the wake of several texts from my haunted friend, including one describing the spirit clutching onto the side of her neck, I threw my suitcase in the back of my lightening blue Ford Escape and drove northwest four and a half hours to Vegas.
Meanwhile, following her neck being grabbed, my friend went back to the psychic shop in a flustered, terrified panic and sought out the same woman psychic she had spoke to says earlier. Mid-meltdown, the woman told her to get a hold of herself. “You’re a Capricorn,” she said. “You can handle this.” She assured Kiki that she is exactly where she is supposed to be in her life. If she was able to be strong and figure out a way to keep living in the apartment, she said, the experience would have a powerful, positive impact on her art and career. Kiki left the psychic shop feeling inspired and more sure of herself. She decided she would stay in the apartment—at least for the time being.
In the first few hours of my visit, we didn’t really talk about the ghost issue at all. Kiki had decided it was best to not to give the spirit any extra attention or energy and this included speaking about it/the spooky events while in the apartment.
While I didn’t really know what to expect, I was a little surprised when we didn’t hear a peep from ‘ol ghostie all afternoon. Kiki said this wasn’t too unusual, though, as there were some quiet days without any activity. I made the joke, outside the walls of the apartment of course, that the spirit must “have stage fright.”
As we began preparing to go to bed later that night, Kiki briefed me on the rules for possible contact, as instructed by the psychic. If I were to experience anything during the night, I had to try not to scream. I couldn’t swear, show fear or have a dramatic reaction in any way. At least, to the best of my ability. Kiki told me that if I was touched, I should say a phrase she learned from Adela’s video, “this is a place of light and good intention. All those with bad intention need to get out.” She instructed me to say it with conviction.
I was in her art studio, my guest room for all intents and purposes, rifling through my suitcase looking for the toiletry bag with my make-up wipes, toothbrush and the like, when I heard Kiki say the familiar magic words. The “this is a place of light and good intention...” words. I hopped up off my air mattress and wandered into her bedroom. She was in the brightly bathroom, her toothbrush in hand, her mouth foamy from her toothpaste, and her face twisted into an uncomfortable, hard cringe.
Instinctually, I reached out, grabbed onto her and held her in a tight hug “It just grabbed my ankle,” she said. In perfect storytelling fashion, as she told me what had just happened, I felt something brush past my feet.
A chill ran down by spine and every single hair on my arm stood straight up. I backed into Kiki’s dark bedroom, where, other than bathroom light, the only other light came from Kiki’s husband’s tablet from across the room, where he lay in bed.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a quick flash of green light. But when I turned my head to take a look straight on, it was gone. Kiki studied me from the bathroom.
“I just saw something,” I admitted.
“Was it a light? A greenish burst of light? Only there for a millisecond,” she asked?
“Yep, that’s it.” she said. "That's the ghost."
I didn’t end up taking off my make-up or brushing my teeth before bed, which is disgusting and horrible. But I was just so scared. I got situated onto the air mattress, covered my eyes with my sleep mask and pulled the bedding up over my head. I tried to focus on my breathing to lull myself to sleep, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what had just happened.
Throughout the night I lie awake and heard some strange noises. Mostly short, sharp scraping noises in the hallway that sounded almost like Kiki’s kitty (ironically named Spooky) doing his business in his litter box. Only, he wasn’t, because he was in the room with me.
After a few hours, I knew I needed to actually get some rest, so I spoke out loud to my dead friend Jeff—just ramblings of how much I missed him and knew he was there to protect me. This brought me comfort and soon I was able to drift off to sleep.
The next morning, groggy over coffee, we decided that it was time to perform the ritual.
Kiki isn’t a religious person and I’m a Catholic drop out. While I have the makings of a Catholic—the Irish ancestry, the superstitious behavior and the guilt—my family stopped attending church when I was in the third grade and consequently, my religious education came to a screeching halt. (But more about all of this in a later post.)
Kiki expressed her reservations about contacting an Archangel for help because she felt like a hypocrite. She wasn’t a believer in Christian scripture. I understood where she was coming from and told her we didn’t have to light the candle if she wasn’t comfortable with it.
It turned out that it wasn’t really the candle lighting and overall ritual that bothered her, though. It was the specific words within the prayer/incantation.
I soon discovered that there really are a few different versions of the St. Michael prayer. (I actually went down the Wikipedia rabbit hole on this one. The most interesting things I learned from this exploration: 1.) The prayer was originally written by Pope Leo XIII sometime between 1884 and 1886 after he had a vision of “demonic spirits...gathering on the Eternal City (Rome.) It was reported that his face changed during the vision and one claimed that he appeared “pale and fearful. 2.) The prayer later went on to be added to the list of prayers recited by authorized Catholic priests during exorcisms, to allegedly cure those inflicted with demonic possession. Fascinating stuff.)
I had initially suggested that we read the original, longer version of the prayer, to be extra sure that it worked. You know, just to make sure we were covering all of our bases. Kiki found some of the wording to be “kind of intense” as she put it, so we decided to stick with the more well-known, shorter version, and say it a total of 9 times.
Saint Michael Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; may God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
-The shorter, more well-known version of St. Michael’s Prayer
By the time Kiki felt 100% ready to perform the ritual, it was a little bit later than we realized. We attempted to go to the grocery store for our offerings but discovered that it was closed. In fact, all of the markets in the area were closed.
We still needed to acquire a few things though, so we improvised.
We picked some pretty, wild-looking flowers outside the closed grocery store. (These may have been part of the landscaping?) Then, we crossed the parking lot to hit the 7 Eleven. There, we bought Cool Ranch Doritos, a Red Bull energy drink and a bag of pretzels.
We thought Michael might also appreciate a smoke to calm his nerves after waging war on a spirit—so we asked the cashier if he could sell us a single cigarette. (Neither of us are habitual smokers, so didn’t need an entire pack.) He couldn’t sell them individually, but agreed to give us one from his personal supply. We laughed about the “if only he knew” on our way to the car.
We headed back to Kiki’s apartment complex where we picked a few more wildflowers and leaves from assorted other plants on the property before heading inside to set up the altar.
Because Kiki’s bathroom seemed to be the epicenter for all of the activity, we chose it as our sacred space. We set the candle in a large bowl of water for safety, since it would be lit for 7 consecutive days. We put the freshly picked plants in a vase with water and then we carefully placed our offerings around the candle.
We took a deep breath, finally lit the candle and began to say Michael’s prayer. At the end of the nine cycles, we were very clear about our intentions for the Archangel. We wanted him to banish this troublesome, dangerous spirit from her home and to keep Kiki and Ryan safe.
We spent the rest of the evening drinking, talking and looking through photo albums--We didn’t go to bed until 7 the next morning.
The next day I was quite hungover and it took me awhile to get on the road to head back to Los Angeles. While sitting in traffic at the Nevada/California Border, Kiki texted me that something had aggressively, repeatedly grabbed her around the ankle. Three times, Kiki said.
I was initially despondent, but when I spoke to Olivia soon after, she told me that it was probably a good sign. It was possible that it was starting to be forced out and didn’t want to leave, so it was holding on any way that it could.
Things were quiet for a day or so—and then the candle down to the bottom and went out less then a week later. Kiki was worried about this, the fact that the candle didn’t burn for a full 7 days. I told her this was probably fine, since it happened naturally. (Insert shrug emoji here.)
But, unfortunately, the spirit is still hanging out. Much to my disappointment, ghostie grabbed my friend again a day or two after the candle went out.
I am obviously still quite new at this, so I don’t know if the fact that the candle went out early is part of the problem? Or if we did the ritual incorrectly? Is it because I’m not yet seasoned at these kinds of things and lack any kind of power? It’s hard to say.
I’ve been asking friends I know through Club Coven for their help: Adalia for one and my new friend Paul, who is a Paranormal investigator and ghost hunter. We’re hoping that more can be done to help.
In the meantime, Kiki has been doing her best to press on in her haunted home. She told me the other day that her kitty, Spooky, was chasing around a green colored orb, which Kiki believes was the ghost.
Because the touching happen so frequently, my friend has gotten a little more “used” to it and is doing her best to ignore it. The other day, she said she heard some additional noise coming through the walls. She thinks that the spirit craves her attention—and because she hasn’t been giving it, this thing may be venturing outward into other apartment units to get a reaction out of other tenants in the complex.
In the meantime, while other solutions are attempted, I'm crossing my fingers and thinking good thoughts.
I’ll post more updates on the status of Kiki’s case in the coming weeks.