What should I do with a plea for help when it's based on a psychic consultation?
June 26, 2006 6:08 AM   Subscribe

Help me with a family member who wants me to help her because of the word of a psychic!

My brother left his wife and teenage children for another woman a few months ago. My sister in law has lately been to see a psychic consultant, and told her about the situation, including the name of the 'other woman'. The psychic told her that a woman by that name had come into her shop lately wanting help to draw my brother away from his wife and family, that she is a very evil person, that she was conducting black magic on him, etc. The psychic wants me to help my SIL cast a spell to break the influence; my SIL and my mother have both begged me to do it. Personally, I think the psychic is taking advantage of my SIL's distress.

I don't believe my brother's left his family because of black magic; I believe he's being stupid, but I don't think it's anything more mystical than common or garden adultery. I don't want to get involved. Some years back I was involved in solitary paganism and did some spellcasting, etc; my SIL knows that. I don't do that stuff any more; possibly nobody in my family knows that, because they all live a long way from me, and we're not very close. And even if I did still do that stuff, I still wouldn't want to be getting involved on the word of a psychic. I am pretty sure that my SIL and mother will not understand why I would refuse.

I would like to find a way of telling my SIL that I think she is being manipulated and that I do not feel comfortable getting involved. Preferably a way that will not increase her very real distress over the situation - she is clutching at straws and very unhappy. I know that refusal will pretty much put me in the bad books of my own mother as well as SIL, and they will be bewildered and hurt and angry. I don't have a strong religious conviction to fall back on, and even though the simplest thing would be to just go along with it, I don't feel comfortable with it. But is it worth standing up and increasing the distress, or better to pretend to play along despite my own discomfort?
posted by andraste to Human Relations (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you cast a bad spell on someone it comes back on your ass sevenfold.

Lots of books say this quite clearly - if your sister in law believes in this stuff, you can find a well-regarded book that explains this to her.
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:18 AM on June 26, 2006

You say: "You are being manipulated and I don't feel comfortable getting involved. Sorry."
posted by beerbajay at 6:18 AM on June 26, 2006

I agree with Beerbajay that you should not do it. You might want to prepare yourself for a longish conversation where you discuss the limits of the boudaries of your relationship with her, and how those limits don't involve ritual activity. Though this would surely be an unpopular suggestion for you to make, you can suggest she talk to someone about the way she is feeling who is both qualified and understanding. Delicately of course.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:32 AM on June 26, 2006

Your text here sounds perfect to me. Just change a few pronouns and email it to her.
posted by Leon at 6:33 AM on June 26, 2006

Use the Sienfeld line....

"I just can't." No explanation required. You are well within your rights to refuse and STILL maintain a relationship with her.

If you cave, what's next? Human sacrifice? Biting the heads off babies? Attending Mass? Praying? It could go anywhere!

"I just can't." Works.
posted by FauxScot at 6:33 AM on June 26, 2006

Best answer: It sounds like she got some wacky adivce and took off with it, and I respect that you don't want to get involved, and I think it's lame that they have tried to rope you into doing something that you no longer do.

In situations like this, when it's clear that people are asking for things that fall clearly into the "be careful what you wish for" category, I always see it as an opportunity to turn their perspective on its head. If you want to at least pay lip service to her request, tell her that performing spells on people secretly without their permission can have disastrous unforseen effects (true), and especially since it is your own brother, you are not willing to risk it. Remember, they are coming to youfor help, and that makes you the authority, so back this up with whatever you like.

In this situation, that might mean telling your SIL that there are only a couple of kinds of spells that you think would work or are willing to do. Such as a spell strengthening her own security and clarity and communicative abilities (which secretly you can hope will keep her from relying on psychics for advice). Or something similarly concocted that is mainly a spell that is for her benefit and hers alone. If she is unsatisfied with this, then tell her she simply does not know very much about the way magic works, and firmly decline to help.

If you do decide to do something, I hope you will make her do most of the legwork and put a lot of her own effort into it-- I don't like the idea of desperate people commandeering other people's time and energy for things they should be doing themselves.
posted by hermitosis at 6:45 AM on June 26, 2006

"You're desperate and being manipulated. I don't believe in that mumbo jumbo and even if I did I don't want to get involved."
posted by Rhomboid at 6:53 AM on June 26, 2006

Not only should you not get involved, but I really think it's your duty to try and gently convince her that she's being taken for a ride. Unless you think it might actually help her to believe she's gaining some power over her misery, I guess. But this charlatan has got her claws into a woman who's already been made a victim once, and should be stopped.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:35 AM on June 26, 2006

Best answer: "Sister-in-law, my heart breaks for you. Brother did a shitty, shitty thing. I WISH I could just cast a spell and make everything better, but life doesn't work that way. I know that and deep down, I think you know that, too. I promise that I will do everything I can to help you through this, but you have to let go of the idea that there is a magical solution."
posted by jrossi4r at 8:03 AM on June 26, 2006

The only thing you owe her is the truth.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:52 AM on June 26, 2006

Uhh, this is _the_ classic grifter swindle. None of this should even come into question as having any relevance whatsoever. This "psychic" has nothing to do with the family dynamic and the sooner your sister in law realizes this, the sooner she can start to deal with the actual emotional and physical reality of her situation. For now it's just an invasion of her privacy that will only further complicate her predicament.
posted by gallois at 8:56 AM on June 26, 2006

Refuse to work with the psychic until she's bought a case of this and doused herself thoroughly to remove the Negative Energy Vibrations that the Other Woman left behind. Then claim you can still sense them, and refuse to work with her anyway.
posted by flabdablet at 9:19 AM on June 26, 2006

Refuse to work with the psychic until she's convinced James Randi of her abilities.
posted by borkencode at 9:40 AM on June 26, 2006

Who is this psychic? From what tradition does she claim to get her powers? Afro carribean vodun based stuff? New-Agey-aura-reading-my-great-grandmother-was-a-cherokee-princess type?

There are still a lot of Gypsies working this scam, and here is one way to check. While talking to her look at your SIL and very quietly say the following sentence in Romanes, the Gypsy langguage: "Nai lashi, Sister In Law, nai lashi, hokhavel..." (accent on last syllable, good smearing yiddish sound on the 'kh' combo, means "This isn't good, Sis, she's lying.') If the psychic is Roma, she won't be able to conceal her shock. Roma do not play the fortune telling scam among themselves, and usually can not believe that a non Gypsy could ever speak Romanes. Then just take your SIL and leave.

Easier Romanes exclamations if you need to try the shock method but can't be memorizing whole sentences, try casually dropping some of this into conversation - to your sis, not directly to the seer - and see if there is a reaction:

Nais tuke (pron. "nice tookay") Thankyou
Baro Devla! (good god!)
Mishto. (Good, cool.)
Me Merav (I'll die, but literally "wow". Say "Me Merau" for that funky Romanian Gypsy accent. Slap your forehead for effect.)
posted by zaelic at 9:51 AM on June 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

Since you are familiar with spellcasting, if I were you I'd keep the explanation within that reference. Because after all, what she's asking is NOT pagan-kosher. Also, what hermitosis said.
posted by desuetude at 9:52 AM on June 26, 2006

Guess it's time to fess up that the whole pagan spellcasting thing is just as totally bunk as psychics, now isn't it?
posted by klangklangston at 10:10 AM on June 26, 2006

Best answer: spoken: "I'm prevented from casting this spell"
unspoken: "...because I believe my brother was being stupid."

It comes down to this:
Your sister-in-law is crushed. Nearly anyone would be in her situation. She's grasping at straws, and she is being used by someone who is will provide her with straws as long as she can.

The physchic in question has convinced your sister of the metaphorical existence of an invisible, weightless, odorless, tasteless vulture that has landed on your brother and affected his behavior. She will take all the money she can in order to push this belief until (1) your brother comes back or (2) she has performed a total cashectomy on your sister-in-law (3) your sister gives up on her. If it doesn't work, the first few times, she will claim to need to try something stronger or claim that someone involved other than the psychic interfered.

You have a number of choices in front of you. Trying to prove the non-existence of the invisibile vulture will probably be the most challenging.

The psychic will not hesitate to drive a wedge between you and your family and your sister-in-law if s/he believes it will make more money, because s/he has no stake in the matter other than money. If you are getting in the way of her income, she will discount you.

Your SIL needs to accept and mourn. Maybe spending money on a psychic is the right beginning for her, but I doubt it. I'm wondering if your SIL would respond to someone more authoritative telling her that "the spirits want her to move on, which is why that spell worked in the first place."
posted by plinth at 11:43 AM on June 26, 2006

The scam has already been mentioned, but how it works has not been.

The next step, typically, is for the psychic to explain that there's a poison in the mark's house or life, perhaps explaining that the curse placed on the SIL or relationship used a conduit. That conduit, inevitably, is money. The psychic will probe—was there a windfall at some point? Is there money set aside for a purpose not yet achieved? Once the amount of money is determined, the psychic will talk about the need to break the curse, to purify the money. The psychic will blame the money, talk about its corrupting power. A great deal of talk goes into first convincing the person that all money is evil and corrupting, and then convincing them that this particular money is corrupting and evil. A lot of this talk of money will be done so that the words "money," "dollar," and similar terms are not used, merely calling it "the evil" or something similar. Sometimes, if there's no cash to be had, this great evil is attributed to jewels or some other pricey heirloom.

Then the psychic will explain that in order to purify it there must be a day-long or overnight ritual. Various ridiculous fees will be assessed for this, but that's not the scam (or at least, not the brunt of it—it's really just an insurance for the psychic who will at least get some benefit in case the whole swindle falls apart). The mark will be asked to convert the money to bills, to take it out of hiding or out of the bank and put it in its most evil form, cash.

Then there can be simple robbery, where the mark is mugged or the mark's house is robbed. But the more interesting variation is that the mark brings the money in. The psychic wraps and seals the money in a cloth, does various incantations and other rigamarole over it, and tells the mark to take the money home, to not open the package, and to sleep with it under the pillow all night (or under the bed). In the morning, or after a full day has passed, the mark can open the money. When they do, they find stacks of paper cut to the size and shape of money.

The psychic has done a very simple slight-of-hand with a bit of misdirection and substituted the fake stack for the real stack. A return to the psychic's chambers by the desperate mark will find that the psychic has cleaned house and vamoosed. The psychic probably left just minutes after the mark, since marks too often double-check the money bundle earlier than they're supposed to. Mugging the mark isn't as interesting but it's more effective.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:09 PM on June 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

"Magic and psychics are fake and I will not further promote this sort of stupidity"
posted by cellphone at 4:19 PM on June 27, 2006

Response by poster: Update: My repsonse was pretty much a slightly expanded version of jrossi4r's suggestion, with a couple of brief sentences explaining why I don't believe in the magic stuff any more, and why I think the psychic is a scam. It seems to have gone down OK; unfortuantely, she still insists something "magical" is going on, but she's no longer insisting I get involved. Hopefully some doubt has been planted in her mind.

Thank you all for your suggestions, much appreciated.
posted by andraste at 6:03 PM on June 27, 2006

Starting my own little crusade: could you add an "updated" or "resolved" tag? I would have emailed you, but you don't list an address.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:01 AM on June 28, 2006

Response by poster: CunningLinguist: good suggestion, and have done so. And I now have email listed if you still feel the need :)
posted by andraste at 3:55 PM on June 28, 2006

Glad it worked out, andraste. Thanks for the update.
posted by jrossi4r at 5:53 PM on June 28, 2006

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