An English Witch in Syria
Article ID: 15130
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: September 2nd. 2012
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Back in 2009, I moved to Damascus, Syria in the Middle East. I moved there for work reasons. I was an English teacher. I am originally from London, England, but I have always had an obsession with Arabic culture, even attending Arabic classes when I was a teen, despite never having been to the Middle East before.
Of course, Egypt was my first love, until I actually went there and the difficulties of being a woman alone dawned on me, as I was being harassed left, right and centre. In the end, I fled and conclude that it’s great when you’re with others but a nightmare alone.
So back in London, I got on the net, and searched for other positions in the same region and came across a very mystical looking Damascus. Ancient and the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, the pictures of old buildings and roads whose names were mentioned in the Bible drew me in. I was in love and was soon on a plane over there after being successfully recruited to work in a great language school right in the heart of the capital.
On the plane it did cross my mind, how I would continue my spiritual practice in this country where it is often assumed the women were covered head to toe in black, and women have no rights. I was a spiritual dancer. I was teaching other women about the power of intention, about Witchcraft and Tarot and how to make Mojo bags! What would I do in this country and would the infamous secret police arrest me? [The latter turned into a legitimate worry actually, as I slowly got to know the spiritual face of Damascus. A woman working as a psychic had been arrested for knowing things before they happened. It turned out that they were worried at just how much she would know about the government!]
Anyway, the first thing I got to know about Syria, in a spiritual sense, was the religion. In my very first week, I was told off for asking a man whether he was a Muslim or a Christian. The truth was that I was surprised that he was wearing a cross. I didn’t know that Syria was full of different faiths and that Syria is the only country in the Middle East where people of all denominations live side by side in the same apartment blocks. They often don’t even know their best friend’s religion because they just don’t ask. It doesn’t matter to them.
After three years living there, I have Muslim – all sects – Christian, Druze, Buddhist and Jewish friends. That early telling off made me think though. I realized that Syria isn’t what people in the West think it is in terms of Spirituality. There was more to uncover.
One thing that is stereotypical, but I’m afraid quite true, is that marriage is probably the goal that most Syrian women aim for. It determines their entire futures but in no way does it limit them. They still study, travel and work. However, every single girl in Syria wants to know whom she will end up marrying one day! They are obsessed with finding out their futures. As you can imagine, coffee cup reading from Turkey and tealeaf reading from Iraq is very popular there and you can find a reader anywhere. I met a palm reader and astrologer in Aleppo. He had many customers who were famous Arabs.
My best friend took me to a woman who was a strict, traditional Muslim, who would take her prayer beads, put her headscarf on and start praying verses from the Qur’an. Suddenly a child’s voice would speak through her and you would speak to this child and ask her questions like ‘does so and so love me?’ and she would give an answer. The woman was in a trance at the time and it was a very strange thing to witness but she could be quite accurate. She was making a lot of money and mothers would take their daughters to see her to find out whom they would marry. I remember once, an example to portray just how typical it was for people to ask about marriage - I asked about an influential woman in my life and she thought I was a lesbian!
She would also make rituals for them to do to get people to fall in love or pop the question! I guess you could say it had to be some form of Islamic Witchcraft but what I found particularly beautiful was that she would also give verses from the Bible to include in their rituals. Sheikhs in Mosques were also famous for putting love spells on people. They actually use the word ‘spell’ in Arabic to describe it.
My best friend was Armenian Catholic from Syria and one day she saw me give a Tarot reading to an English friend and she asked what I was doing. I soon discovered that I was probably the only person in the whole country who had a pack of tarot cards and if I ever got them out in a public place, people would flock to me and ask for readings! Anyway, she and I became very close and she was interested in what I was doing and liked the idea of lighting candles and making wishes out in nature. So we would get on a bus to Sednaya that was a small town built around a famous monastery in the mountains. We would climb up and wish for love and say thank you to the trees and leave offerings and then pray in the church for love again! She really got me into the Arab way of thinking!
Coming from England, the main thing that really threw me in Syria was the lack of green where I was living. Damascus is just ... yellow! And when you do go out of Damascus, the greenery is often littered with plastic bags. And I mean hundreds of plastic bags everywhere! They are all that the shops would use and so the discarded ones just ended up on the streets and under trees. Shopkeepers always commented that they know who the foreigners are because they refuse to take their plastic bags! They found it very funny because it just wasn’t common knowledge how bad they can be for the environment. However, I was happy to learn of a cafe that a friend was involved with, called The Environment Café in the old city area of Damascus, that did projects on the dangers of throwing away batteries in schools. I worked with them on projects regarding plastic bags and how to limit their use.
As Witches, I feel we are supposed to see the beauty in everything, even if it is religion or a country that seems different from our own. I thought I would wither as a Witch in the Middle East but it was the opposite. I left my Tarot cards in London and ended up reading water and scrying for people instead! I discovered an amazing talent for it. I realized my potential among the ancient ruins at Palmyra and felt close to Jesus in Maloula where the people speak Aramaic. I prayed and stayed at a monastery with the most amazing nuns and understood more of my own Islamic background (being half Turkish) .
Spirituality is more honest, raw and alive in Syria than in certain places I have lived all my life. This is why I wanted to tell you about it. When you watch the news and see the country in civil war right now, this is not a bunch of Muslims killing each other. These are people, like you and me, confused, just wanting to live to see their own future come to fruition.
Location: London, England
Author's Profile: To learn more about Aaliyah - Click HERE
Bio: I left for Syria in 2009 and returned to England a couple of months ago.
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