I am writing this essay as a concerned co-eBayer, not as a critic of any specific seller. Remember, you worked very hard for your money and, despite what any witch or seller may claim, wealth itself is not easy to come by.
You deserve to receive a genuine item (or at least an item that the seller believes to be genuine). You do not deserve to be defrauded, deceived, or bamboozled, and you certainly do not deserve to have your own dreams, needs, and insecurities used to manipulate you into purchasing a potentially worthless object.
As always, think carefully before bidding. I hope that the considerations contained here will be of some help to you. Examine each listing carefully and ask yourself the questions you find important.
Preliminaries & Background
We live in a complex and impersonal world. Many people believe, however, that we can experience the supernatural in real ways - ways that can affect us physically, ontologically, and spiritually, for better or for worse. Through history, these experiences revolve around people, places, and, most importantly here, objects.
The human recognition of such objects is ancestral; the impulse to acquire them is ancient, and widespread in every society. Anthropologists refer to these items as "fetishes," and Webster's dictionary defines a fetish as "an item that is believed to have spiritual or magical powers." While some Christians would disagree, elements of fetishism are present in every religious system. The existence of fetishes -- beyond any supernatural power -- stems from an innate human desire to control one's surroundings, one's peers, and one's destiny.
It is not within the author's scope:
- to determine whether or not such objects can exist at all;
- to definitively describe a method to accurately gauge the value - spiritual or monetary - of one object over another;
- to evaluate specific sellers or listings, or to recommend which types of listings are worthy of trust;
- to predict or explain the specific supernatural effects caused by certain items (or the lack of them);
- to define what a spell is, to survey alleged spell effects, or to prove that spells do or do not "work"; or, finally,
- to judge between one belief system and the next.
Rather, the direct purpose of this article is to raise a series of issues that each bidder should seriously consider before bidding on any haunted or enchanted item.
Human Greed & the Propensity to Hoard
As human beings we have an instinctive impulse to hoard. This impulse extends not only to material wealth, but to philosophical abstracts: we hoard power, control, knowledge, privilege. In fact, this drive to accumulate is one of the many causes of economic disparity, human suffering, and social strife - the rich and powerful, at the expense of the poor and disenfranchised, fiercely guard their access to wealth and influence. Only the very generous overcome this instinct.
Imagine that you had something that you knew for certain had definite power over the world around you. Would you give it away? Would you auction it off on eBay? Many sellers insinuate that monetary prizes, great careers, and enduring romances have been directly caused by the items they sell. Without speculating as to whether or not these events actually occurred, you should ask yourself: if you came to possess such an item, would you likewise distribute it to a complete stranger, or would you keep it for yourself, in your family?
Photographs & Photograph Editing
Definitive, scientifically acceptable evidence of spectral reality remains elusive. Nevertheless, many qualified paranormal investigators believe that the appearance of "orbs" and/or "ectoplasm" in photographs proves the presence of paranormal activity.
Orbs usually appear as small, translucent white circles in the image. Ectoplasm appears as multicolored (usually white) streaks, clots, or a pale mist. In extremely rare circumstances, a partial or even full ghostly figure, translucent and anthropoid, may be captured. None of these phenomena is present physically when the photograph is taken.
While such evidence is often extremely convincing, the bidder should be aware that, in many cases, photographic phenomena like the ones listed above can be attributed to natural, non-paranormal causes such as over-exposure. Beyond this, some orb effect can be produced by direct sunlight in the camera, and the appearance of ectoplasm can very often be attributed to smoke.
It also goes without saying that the absence of photographic phenomena does not indicate fraud. Tourists and other visitors to some of the most haunted sites in the world do not universally come away with strange pictures. The bidder should be aware that photographs alone do not constitute the proving point for metaphysical items.
Creating Spectral Evidence:
A standard roll of four-ply toilet paper is quite possibly the most un-paranormal object in the known world. Having photographed one on a plain, non-descript background, I will use it to demonstrate how commonly accepted photographic ?proofs? of paranormal phenomena can be easily faked.
Listing title: "SEE COVEN toilet paper roll! 50,000+ years old! HIGH PRIESTESS MAJYKKX! Luck, money, love! 150X spells!"
Toilet paper roll with spectral orbs. Edited using Adobe Illustrator.
Toilet paper roll with red, blue, and orange spectral streaks.
Toilet paper roll with red orbs.
Previous effects can be faked with this item, a hand-held color-LED fan from the Sharper Image. This item is both easy to obtain and inexpensive. Features two transparent, soft plastic blades (child safe) that do not appear when photographed.
Toilet paper roll with ectoplasmic fog (black background)
Toilet paper roll with wide swath of ectoplasm.
Toilet paper roll; lit incense stick, foreground. Sandalwood scented. Note pure stream of white smoke. Holding a lit stick of incense a hand's length below the camera lens will give a convincing "ectoplasm" effect.
Toilet paper roll with incense package (Tulasi Chandan brand, a great smell). Note continued appearance of ectoplasmic fog, caused by lit incense.
Beyond these items, additional spectral effects can be faked with Adobe Illustrator. Introducing a sparkler (bought around the Fourth of July) will also give the appearance of sparkling or shooting energetic signatures. Many other light-, smoke-, spark-, or fire-emitting items can be used to create these images.
While photographs may be genuine, the bidder is urged to use caution when regarding spectral evidence.
The Archaeologist's Life & The Value of Paranormal Objects
Archaeology began as the pet hobby of a few European noblemen who had the financial resources to travel the world and engage in long, difficult digs.
Though the costs of international airfare have declined somewhat, the ability to journey from continent to continent in search of antiquities and oddities remains a prerogative of the very wealthy.
Whatever they find is procured at great personal and economic cost - hence most important historic, artistic, and spiritual pieces have found their way into private collections. Are they likely to leave these collections?
A few sellers on eBay claim to have dedicated their lives to traveling the world searching for paranormal artifacts. This scenario is not impossible, but it is very unlikely - compounded, of course, by the fact that these individuals are now selling on eBay at relatively low prices.
The search for an occult edge is not limited to average people. Bear in mind that some (if not most) members of the global elite maintain a keen interest in the occult as well, and are usually willing to pay top dollar for genuine curios.
The bidder should always ask himself or herself whether or not the seller is telling the truth in regards to their lifestyle. Is it plausible that an artifact hunter is shilling off his or her finds on an online auction site? Or is it more plausible that the seller is trying to deceive others by mentioning unverifiable circumstances?
Size of an Estate
Once, adornment was the prerogative of the noble elite. Over the last century, jewelry has become more common. Now, everyone has jewelry. Why? Primarily because of the dislodging of gold as the foundation of monetary systems worldwide. This, along with rising standards of living, has made it possible for more gold and silver to enter consumer markets.
Silver - an historical standard of finance in many countries - has entered such wide circulation that even fine silver jewelry is extremely accessible to every stratum of society.
The bidder should remember that the current state of affairs regarding jewelry only came into being within the last few decades. Large stockpiles of jewelry predating the 1950s were extremely rare, though not unheard of.
In addition to this, some eBay sellers claim to be emptying "estates" - a process which for many of them seems to have lasted for several years. If you are a practicing witch, how many jewelry items do you have? Would it take several months, or even years, for an arbiter to sell them all? While large estate sales are not uncommon, the bidder should be aware of the possibility that the seller is merely acquiring more unrelated objects outside the original lot (if the original estate existed at all) and selling them under the same "trademark" or "brand." Such a practice is inherently deceptive.
Items from the Centuries-old Traditions
Every reasonably-minded bidder should have some inclination as to how this scenario is highly implausible (though, technically, not impossible).
Things of historical significance belong in museums. In contrast, old things of little value are easy to find and re-label. Consider searching for roman ring , ancient ring , or roman coin. Hundreds of items of this nature are available on eBay at any time.
Old coins from other nations - including China - are also easy to obtain. The bidder should be aware that anyone is capable of buying an ancient ring, fabricating an extravagant occult history, then selling the ring back to a gullible eBayer at a huge profit.
A Note About the Salem Witch Trials
The infamous Salem Witch Trials have always been an item of historical interest. Many academics have dedicated a great deal of time - perhaps even their whole lives - to researching those events.
It is the opinion of many professional historians that witchcraft as such was never really a factor in the Trials - these historians recognize the driving force of the Trials as religious tension manifesting in a social hysteria. Moreover, some biologists have drawn a connection between the Witch Trials and a poisonous, hallucinogenic fungus called ergot.
One is free to dismiss these views as overly secular. In any case, the topic of the Salem Witch Trials - and of Witch Hunts and Witch Trials in general - remains hotly disputed (see, for example, the Wikipedia entry and talk pages on "Witch Trial"). Regardless of one's conclusions, the bidder should be aware of how a seller references the Salem Witch Trials. They could be accurate, or they could be attempting to inflate the item's value and drive up the bidding price.
Listing Fads & Trends
In spite of the allegedly cosmic extent of magical forces, the use of magic on eBay usually prevails over a few specific concerns: love, money, and physical appearance. Even beyond these categories, listings seem to imitate each other, especially following an extremely high successful bid and sale.
Among the current listing fads:
- Physical Transformation amulets
- Coven Jewelry (jewelry enchanted by an entire coven or set of covens)
- Jewelry allegedly dating to several centuries ago
- Wish-granting items
- Items having been owned or enchanted by gypsies
Among the current listing trends:
- Extravagant Genie Lineages, usually involving a total mangling of Islamic mythology
Selling in concord with these fads or trends does not of itself indicate fraud, as each seller can be construed to be responding to perceived eBay market preferences. Desire for profit, however, would vitiate many sellers' insinuation to be selling only so that the items will find their "rightful" or "destined" owner.
The bidder, in every case, should make his or her own determination as to whether the seller is genuine or is copying a more successful eBay member.
"My Grandmother the Witch"
One may come to one's own conclusions as to what number of witches have been trained, have lived, and have died in the world during each century. And, of course, it is true that similar people can lead similar lives. Take account, however, of how many stories are similar in the following regards:
- Seller is maternally related to deceased witch
- Deceased witch (and/or seller) is of a protracted lineage (7th generation, etc.)
- Deceased witch is an octo-, novo-, or centro-genarian (80, 90, or 100 years old) or even more
- Deceased witch only practiced White magic, and only practiced for the benefit of others
- Estate of deceased witch is limited exclusively to jewelry items
- Deceased was High Priestess or of similar rank
Though these details may be real, there is a possibility that some are merely copying the listings of more successful sellers in an attempt to inflate the value of their items.
A Note About "Gypsies"
Among people renowned for alleged magical powers, the "Gypsies" -- a vague term referring to an ethnic and cultural group with origins in Northern India -- are, perhaps, foremost. Gypsy-like characters appear everywhere, usually involved with fortune-telling, sorcery, or sexuality.
The bidder must understand that these quaint caricatures are exactly that -- most preconceptions we have about "gypsies" belong in cartoons. Members of this group prefer to be called "Romani," and they deserve respect as heirs to their own history and culture. A Romani woman, using the eBay user name "sintipower," has taken a stand by writing against the negative "gypsy" stereotype and its use here on eBay. You can find her guide here .
Every buyer should exercise care when purchasing items related to a culture with which they are not familiar. Is the seller taking advantage of an ethnic slur to sell something fake?
The Chores of the Afterlife
Many sellers describe the presence of an overshadowing spirit -- namely, the spirit of their departed mentor or teacher, who, while deceased, somehow remains vigilant over the items he or she previously owned. This sense of eminence grise is also known as Obi Wan Kenobi syndrome (are even the most intimate details of our lives viewed by ghosts? Try Googling 'wank seance').
Requiem aeternam dona eis, domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis: "Unending rest grant unto him, Lord, and may the undying light shine upon him." This liberation from the endless empty work and vicissitude of life is the primary appeal of the hereafter. It goes without saying that being relegated to custodianship of jewelry or objects -- and all the menial duties involved -- would be a grim vision of the afterlife.
When you die, would you enjoy eternal service as a spectator, forced to police the use of your possessions -- possessions your students and admirers have, in their grief, sold off on eBay? (thanks to user cate108 for this insight)
In conclusion, think carefully before bidding. Thank you for taking the time to read this guide!