October 13, 2010
MIAMI–Like the seedling that first pierces its husk, pushes against the death-grip of the heavy earth, and labors to become a young sprout, Marizel’s journey on the spiritual path was fraught with trial. “I remember back when I was four years old, I started to see spirits,” Marizel recollects in the Healing Room at her Hialeah shop The Witch’s Garden, co-run with her husband Armando. “No one in my family believed me. They thought I had an overactive childhood imagination–or worse, that I was crazy.” Years of bewilderment troubled the young girl. It wasn’t until the passing of her great-grandfather at age 12 when clarity and yet more mysteries unraveled. “I had a vision just before he passed away. He handed me, well, like a ball, it’s hard to describe, like an orb. I reached out to accept his offering.” When Marizel told this to her mother, their reaction was worry and invalidation. “She flat out told me, ‘You’ve become too distraught, you shouldn’t even come to the funeral.’ I kept telling her that I could still see tatarabuelo, I could see his spirit, and he had an offering for me.”
Not fully comprehending the symbolism of her great-grandfather’s gesture, she now understands the orb to have been “the key to my own connection.” He was a central figure in her childhood, spending afternoons weaving tales of nature-lore and animal-kind for the girl. Some years later, other extended family members passed away. “As they neared their deaths, they would request my parents bring me by before they rode their last moments in bed. I found I could relay messages back and forth between the veils. I helped them cross.” Her family’s concern now turned into condemnation. “They said, ‘It’s not right for a young girl to be so involved with death. Don’t mess with spirits and magic, it’s all of the devil!’ Defiantly, I said to myself: I know who I am. I’m not going to deny my experience. I am going to go find myself.”
Frustrated, conflicted, and feeling like a stranger towards her own parents, she ran from home and hitchhiked to New Mexico, barely 14 years old.
“In New Mexico, I was able to befriend other spiritual-minded people at a Rainbow Tribe gathering. They were empathetic and listened, and let me speak of my gifts. They didn’t laugh or react. Most importantly, out there, I was able to connect with the land.” After her Westward sojourn in the Taos Mountains, she returned home to South Florida. “When I returned, I dedicated myself. I made a commitment to use my abilities to help people.”
Turning 15, Marizel embarked on another brief pilgrimage to Tennessee, this time with her parents blessing. She was taken under the wing of a Native American couple who were impressed with her craft-making skills, meeting locally at a native heritage festival in Broward. “They asked me, ‘How did you learn how to make these dreamcatchers?’ I told them, I taught myself. I do it in the ritual way, with sinew and wooden wreaths, and with respect for the animals, with feather and beads.” The couple provided her room and board in trade for Marizel’s handiwork, earning them a fair take. She was also initiated into much of their customs and ways, rising and sleeping with the sun cycle, and giving stewardship to land and mother nature.
Just shy of 18, she was hired by The 9th Chakra, a metaphysical shop on Miami Beach frequented by locals and tourists alike. Though demonstrating apt clairvoyance and mediumship, she was categorically turned down for psychic reading positions at the Lincoln Road store. “They told me I was too young. They said they believed in me, but customers wouldn’t take me seriously due to my age.” Some customers did take notice and began to recognize her precocious talents. After two years at the store, her own circle of clientele soon began to draw around her.
She had hoped to pursue a degree and a career in alternative medicine, “but my father would only help pay for a real medical degree. With that, I decided I’m going to do my own thing, stake my own path.” Marizel resigned from the South Beach storefront, and continued to focus on developing her praxis with her own clients. She describes her abilities as communing with spirits, entering mediumship, and working with natural herbs. While external teachers and tools are sometimes useful, she emphasizes that, “we must go inward to connect to our authentic teacher, our higher self.”
Cupid loosed his arrow upon groom-to-be Armando in her early twenties. “When we first met, I didn’t let on the extent of my intuitive abilities. When I started to reveal myself to him, I remember he was a little freaked out at first.” In time, their blossoming relationship proffered a mutual catalysis. “I awakened Armando to the spiritual dimension of life. And he became my foundation in making The Witch’s Garden manifest. He said, ‘You’ve always wanted to have your own shop and help others. If you want to do this, I’ll support you all the way.’” After the birth of their first child, Marizel’s inner knowing whispered, “Now is the time.”
From humble beginnings, their garden has steadily grown. “Our first business, Zelies Creations, was a small table with handcrafted items at the April 2004 Psychic Fair at Coral Castle,” a Homestead tourist landmark known for its enigmatic coral rock monoliths. A year later, she changed the name to The Witch’s Garden, explaining the strategy to overcome negative and erroneous stereotypes about witches. “People liked our products and services as Zelies Creations, and they came to know us as an average, normal family, first and foremost. When we went public with The Witch’s Garden a year later, people generally responded well and we didn’t lose any customers when we came out of the broom closet. They said, ‘Oh my, you’re witches! Well… it all kind of makes sense now.’”
“We approached Coral Castle in 2006 to be our host sponsor for the Moonfaire, where we achieved our goal of providing space for the Pagan community to gather.” The family friendly Moonfaire celebrations showcase vendors, musical performers, and artists catering to the metaphysically oriented. Conceived and run by the couple as a quarterly event for the last five years, the now annual Moonfaire festival is scheduled for Yule of 2011. They continue to vend at the Coral Castle Psychic Fairs on the first Saturday of every month.
The tumultuous family relations that embellished Marizel’s childhood have eased over time. “A few years ago, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She now put all her trust in me, after seeing me grow from a runaway teen to an entrepreneurial woman and caring mother. A very specific herbal tincture came to me in a vision, and we used it to manage her chemotherapy side effects. Today, she is alive and cancer free.” Her parents have now become her biggest cheerleaders. “They’ve been extremely supportive and we’re now closer than ever. They gifted us a van and trailer for our mobile shop, and they watch the kids when we’re working. I’m lucky to have their support. They are constantly advertising for us despite the stares they get handing around little brujeria cards in Hialeah!”
This year, The Witch’s Garden opened to the community as a brick and mortal store on February 13th beneath the hush of a dark moon. Located in the colorful Celis Art Building one block south of Gus Machado Ford, the urban structure houses free parking and other modernities that contrast the rustic ambience of the community shop. Armando tells his clients, “When you get off the elevator, just follow the wisps of incense down the hallways.” Patrons will find the main shopping room ceiling-packed with goods lovingly arranged, and a smaller Healing Room for private consultations. “The store has been doing well, even in the down economy. All the money we earn we continue to reinvest in the store. It feeds us and we feed it.” Marizel also adds, “I believe that the love and the energy we put out will attract the people who can most benefit from our services.”
The Witch’s Garden shop and online store offer handcrafted besom brooms, cauldrons, candles, oils, and dried herbs–everything mystical practitioners might need. Marizel applies a strict rubric when it comes to her products. “All the wares in the store have a little piece of me about them. I’ll always do special orders for customers, but if an item doesn’t feel like it has the right energy, I don’t stock it.” In addition to her famous dreamcatchers, Copper butter lamps from Tibet, Ganesha statues and Nag Champa soaps from India round out the more exotic items on offer.
The couple has future plans of opening a ‘witch’s kitchen’ that will feature home-brewed dishes infused with special ingredients for relieving the symptoms of colds, coughs, and whatever ails you. “We want to serve Pagan soul food.” They also have aspirations of establishing a community center, a public community garden for cultivating herbs, even a witch’s bed and breakfast. Marizel sees the possibility where Pagan jobs can be created if such ventures are started and managed well, which would further support and give back to the community.
“As I said earlier, we specifically chose the word ‘witch’ because we want to be out there and show this is what we are about. There is nothing to fear and or hide. Our hope is that people will come to see witches as not something negative. We are a loving family, and we are one among many who strive to heal, serve, and build community.”
Marizel’s initial years of rejection and chaos have now become the driving force of her personal redemption and her families’ success. Her account makes for a compelling glimpse into those who hold steadfast and true to the yearn inside their own hearts. “Sometimes Armando and I will come and open the store in the evening, and just stand there and ask, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’ It’s like a dream come true.”
Friends, customers and the local Miami Pagan community eagerly anticipate the next crop of fruits to be borne from The Witch’s Garden, Hialeah’s foremost public witch family.
The Witch’s Garden is open Tuesday–Friday mornings 10am–1pm and evenings 7pm–9pm, and Saturday Noon–4pm (except first Saturday of the month). Housed on the fourth floor of the Celis Art Building, the address is 1275 W. 47th Place, Suite #432, Hialeah, FL. Business phone: 305-953-5546.
On the first Saturday of the month, their mobile market shop is found at the Coral Castle Psychic Fair, located at 28655 South Dixie Highway, Homestead, FL.