Among my relatives on my mother’s side of the family are a couple (an uncle and his wife) who could be called, politely, superstitious. Also, objectively, crazy.
For instance, these people have a son who was, in his younger days, epileptic. Rather than trust to medicines to treat him (medicines are so scientific, you know), they went to all manner of astrologers,
fakers fakirs and sundry charlatans to rid him of his grand mal episodes. To no avail.
Then, one day, two men turned up at their house, proclaiming themselves snake charmers. So what, they asked, did snake charmers want with them? This: the snake charmers claimed there was a nest of snakes in the house; they’d discovered the snakes through magical means, and would rid my relatives of them for free.
And, lo and behold, in a short time they emerged from behind the house with a wriggling bagful of snakes. Far be it for me to be so uncharitable as to suggest that they had themselves concealed the reptiles there earlier. For they were honourable men.
They proved just how honourable they were by offering to rid my cousin of his epilepsy, by magic, absolutely for free. Not only did they know of the epilepsy (well, just about everybody in their locality knew of it, as well as anyone who had anything to do with the astrologer/mystic/shaman set in their town) but they – out of the kindness of their hearts – wouldn’t take a penny for their efforts.
The catch? Oh, nothing much. It was just that the cure would take all of a week of daily worship at my relatives’ home...the worship of all the gold ornaments they owned.
This is as good a time as any of pointing out the fetish-like love Indian women have for gold ornaments, even if these are never worn, and even if they look tackier than tacky. But then I’ve never figured out why anyone would like gold.
Anyway, so this was the deal: the snake charmer duo would come to my relatives’ house each day for a week, and spend their time worshipping the gold, which was to be sewn up in a pillowcase. The family could watch them worshipping the gold, of course, and keep it once the daily worship was over.
The first day of the worship, every eye in the house was on the pillowcase-full of gold, and as soon as the two great and honourable mages had left, the pillowcase was unstitched. The gold was quite intact. As it was the next day; and the day after that.
By the time the sixth day had come around, a certain level of ennui had stolen over the proceedings. Nobody bothered to keep a constant watch on the two Merlins, and it was kind of a pain to unstitch and stitch up the gold every night once the duo had left. So they didn’t bother any more. They could, after all, feel the gold through the cloth, couldn’t they?
So, on the sixth evening, the altruistic magicians proclaimed as they left that the morrow would see the culmination of the cure. They wouldn’t come as early as on the other days – but they’d come for lunch, and they requested a good spread be laid on for them. Afterwards they’d do the final rituals, formally return the gold, and all would be fine.
You know where this is going, don’t you? The seventh day rolled around, and a sumptuous lunch, fit for the palates of such august personages, was laid on...but said palates didn’t turn up. The hours passed...no magicians. People were asked if they’d seen them. Nobody had.
Finally, someone had the bright idea of opening up the pillowcase...and discovered, of course, fake custom jewellery.
To this day, these people still haven’t learned. They’re still slavish devotees of some “godman” or other, the "guru" of some sect near their town, and who I expect is merrily fleecing them. For once I can't say that I’m not on the side of the exploiters.
With idiots like these, serve them right.