When I was a kid, a cousin of mine introduced me to worry dolls. Hand-crafted dolls traditionally made in Guatemala, they are usually only about an inch tall. But these colorful miniatures aren’t toys. Their purpose is to take your worries away, hence the name.
For a time, we thought they were the coolest things ever. We would tell them our worries (or wishes) and put them under our pillows when we went to bed. But as we got older and we realized they didn’t work like a magic lamp, we started to lose interest. We wanted instant gratification.
I hadn’t thought about those dolls in years, until I saw them in the little boxes they're packaged in at The Conjure Shop on 75th Street in Omaha. When I spoke with shop owner Nikki McDermott, she said a lot of people have that same misconception. They think conjuring can instantly solve problems. But, she said, that’s not how it works.
“You have to do the work,” she said. For example, McDermott said if a person is looking for a new job, or trying to get a promotion, the first thing she asks is if they’ve done what they need to do. Have they filled out the applications, forms and paperwork required to do those things. “Just because you light a candle, someone’s not magically going to go, ‘Perfect. You’re hired.’”
If they have put in the work, McDermott will “fix” them a candle. Fixing a candle involves her mixing specific herbs and oils together and putting them in the candle. She then puts a blessing or a prayer on it. Then the person writes what they want to accomplish on a piece of paper and puts it under the candle, which then needs to burn for a little while every day.
McDermott describes her establishment as a “working” shop. She said it’s not like walking in to other spiritual shops, where there are a lot of things that say they’re for certain purposes but the layperson won’t know exactly how to use them. At The Conjure Shop, you can get specific help with an issue, whether it’s a money candle or a full reading.
“It’s no different than when people pray for things, or wish for things. You’re putting it out there. You’re an active part of the process of things going in your favor.”
McDermott got into the conjuring business by accident. About 20 years ago, when her daughter was younger, she was a stay-at-home mom. She said she started out just mixing different herbs and plants with oils, mostly because she thought they looked really pretty or they smelled nice. She started out giving them away to people she knew, and now has her own line of candles, herbs and oils called Mama Izzy’s Hoodoo. She said she always uses her own concoctions in her work.
“There’s a direct correlation between the way the herb smells, the way it feels, to what you’re doing. It’s no different than say, Rachel Ray when she’s using dried herbs in her cooking and she’ll release the oils,” she said, while rubbing her French-tipped fingers together to demonstrate.
There are a lot of preconceived notions surrounding conjure work. McDermott, who was raised Southern Baptist, said she believes a lot of people are turned off by the non-traditional spiritual practices. But she believes conjure work directly ties in with upbringing and faith.
“I think now, more and more people are open to this kind of thing,” she said. “Once they find out that it’s not weird, and it’s not something evil or dark … once they figure out that it’s not what they thought it was, then they’re good.”
She said she’s had people walk in the door and immediately turn around once they saw the dolls and the décor. But with her cheerful demeanor and friendly manner, it’s easy to see how she is the perfect candidate to get people past that initial apprehension.
“It’s not like you see in the movies. These are just tools,” she said. “I just want it to be a place where people can feel a little better than before they came in.”
The Conjure Shop offers cleansings, readings candle burnings and clearings. They also offer different workshops, from container classes to Bowenwork healing classes. They also meet on the second Thursday of every month for "Coffee and Conjure." It’s an event McDermott really enjoys because “it’s just a huge support group” for people. “No matter what they have going on, they can come here and there’s never any judgement placed on them.”
The next Coffee and Conjure meeting will be Thursday, July 9, at 7 p.m. It's free.
*The Conjure Shop (www.theconjureshop.com) is located at 809 ½ , S 75th St., below Liquid Courage Tattoo.