The Coven In Mumbai That You Probably Didn’t Know About
“I have to ask – how many queries do you get regarding love potions?”
Angel Serrao, known to his pupils as Lord, bursts into a laugh. Many, he tells me. In fact, the woman who had come to the store just a while back had been seeking a love spell. “I told her that I’m going to cast a universal love spell because you shouldn’t cast it on a particular person. Our Wiccan rede tells us to do as we please, but it should harm none,” he says.
Born into a conservative Catholic family, Serrao was on his way to becoming ordained as a priest, but life had other ideas. On a visit to San Francisco, he discovered that his aunt was a tarot card reader. A young Serrao accused her of being a devil worshipper, but she explained to him that Wicca was nothing like that. A while later, he visited an old Wiccan store in the city, and his life changed. Why? Because that’s where he met his teacher. Serrao tells us of a time when Yahoo Chat used to be a big deal, and he always found himself drawn towards pagan chatrooms. There, the future warlock would troll the members and give them a dose of Biblical fire and brimstone. A woman from that chatroom reached out to him, and years later, when he visited the store in San Francisco, he realised that the proprietor was the woman who had tried to speak to him on Yahoo Chat.
“Before entering the shop, I actually said my Hail Marys and headed inside, and was immediately drawn to the tarot card section. The proprietor was busy with another client, but she excused herself and asked me to pick up a tarot card set. She became my teacher, and I did the full three-year long Wicca course under her,” he tells me while playing with his cat, Odin, so named because he’s missing an eye.
I turn the conversation to ‘familiars’ – sentient beings like cats, dogs, snakes and birds, who become a witch’s shadow. They aid the witch or wizard in casting a spell and also protect them from harm. I ask him if Odin is his familiar, and the answer is no, not really. He has two dogs at home who are his familiars, but cats are always drawn to his shop.
Serrao also tells me that one can be a Christian, Muslim, Hindu or belong to any other faith and still practise Wicca. In fact, they could be atheists too. In his shop, Serrao teaches his pupils and those who wish to learn about his craft. The coven usually gathers during the festivals (of which there are around seven), but they do keep in touch throughout the year.
I ask him if he’s ever faced any complaints or hate, but surprisingly, the answer is no. It’s a spell he cast long ago that helps, he informs me. The journalist in me is sceptical, so I ask another member of his coven who helps around the store.
“The door has been charmed, so no negative person can come in and even if they do, they’ll feel suffocated and leave,” she tells me.
Serrao’s neighbours are Christians and Muslims, and nobody has an issue with him. He shares an anecdote about an octogenarian and chamomile tea and asks me to come and check out their Sabbath ritual. His coven, of which he is the High Priest, has 15 members and is growing.
Serrao also shows me his altar, which has the triple moon goddess and also Hindu gods like Ganesh. The seven angels of the bible also find their place there. A beautiful mural of Kali takes pride of place on the wall beside the altar; a friend of his had drawn it in a moment of passion. The gatherings that Serrao and his coven hold are usually after 8:30 pm, as it is easier for members to attend. The members of his coven come from all walks of life – there are a lawyer and a doctor too.
As I prepare to leave, I enquire about the properties of rose quartz. “That crystal is for love and emotional well-being,” he says and goes on to inquire if I am always dressed in black. I answer in the affirmative, to which he says that he believes I am drawn to the craft. I have used sage from his shop before, and while it smelled divine, I’m not sure if it helped drive any spirits out of my house.
“What would you recommend for anxiety?” I ask, wondering what my therapist would say. Serrao hands me a selenite crystal. It’ll calm me, he says, and sends me on my way.
- Wicca is not a religion but a way of life. Practitioners draw from pagan practices to form their rituals.
- It was commonly believed that magic was passed down from generation to generation. But today, anyone who is drawn to Wicca can also do a three-year degree in it.
- Wiccans are highly attuned to nature and their ceremonies celebrate a plethora of Gods and Goddesses from various faith systems.
- Wiccan celebrations coincide with auspicious cycles of the moon and the sun. • Wiccans also have “familiars” – sentient beings who protect and guide the witch or warlock.