Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beyond Bad Luck

Seeing as I haven't worked as a professional sorcerer, it never has occurred to me to think through what some of the hazards of the job might entail. This story from New York City highlights one of the potential problems with doing luck magick for clients - the people who need it badly enough to come to you are going to be profoundly unlucky. Reading it over I now have a much deeper understanding of why Jason Miller needs to be an expert at protection and reversal magick in order to keep his business going.

Candles ringing a bed in a voodoo ceremony that included sex ignited sheets and clothing strewn nearby and caused a fatal apartment fire last weekend, a city official said Friday.

The blaze started around 6:40 p.m. Sunday, when a woman visited a fourth-floor apartment in Brooklyn and paid a man $300 to perform a mystical ceremony that would bring her good luck, according to fire marshals with the Fire Department of New York.

The man was known in the neighborhood as a priest, and the two were either having sex, or had sex when the fire started from the candles on the floor, though it's not clear if it was part of the ceremony, said the official, who had direct knowledge of the case but spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

Instead of calling 911, the man first tried to put out the fire himself using water from a bathroom sink. As smoke began to gather, one of the other apartment occupants opened a window and propped the hall door open in an attempt to dissipate the plume. But instead, wind gusts shot the flames back inside, creating "a blowtorch effect" that pushed the fire into the hallway, the FDNY said.

The occupants fled as the flames spread. Several 911 calls were made, but it's not clear if the man also phoned. The blaze engulfed the fourth, fifth and sixth floors, causing the floor and part of the roof to collapse. It took nearly 200 firefighters about seven hours to bring the five-alarm blaze under control.

Such worst-case scenarios are why I keep a fire extiguisher in my temple, since it's always possible something as simple as a knocked-over candle can start a serious fire. But at the same time, you would think that anyone with ready access to water would be able to put out something as small as a candle flame starting to burn part of the floor - at least unless a whole lot of negative luck came into play. This toxic luck seems to have even extended to the emergency response, as dispatching errors are rare when the luck plane is behaving normally.

The FDNY is also reviewing a dispatching error that delayed getting water on the fire. One of the engines that had been sent to the fire was already at another emergency. The Uniformed Firefighters Association blamed the delay on recent firefighter staff reductions, though Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it had nothing to do with staffing.

As far as that good luck spell goes I'm guessing it didn't work. That means this particular individual is still out there somewhere and just as unlucky. So if you happen to be in New York City doing spellwork with candles keep the fire extinguisher close at hand.

You know, just in case.

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Anonymous said...

Is it bad luck, or poor fire safety?

I was actually thinking of writing an article about basic candle fire safety because of this. As a whole, the magical community tends to start more than its fair share of fires. Sadly this fire started because safety tips listed on just about every home insurance company and fire department website were not followed, and there's no reason for it. A capable magician should have been more than able to modify the spell to work within the environment of the space without starting a fire.

In this case, the candles were on the floor, which they shouldn't have been. They were lit near bedding, which they shouldn't have been. There was clothing strewn across the floor which caught fire, so the apartment wasn't kept tidy when they were playing with unattended fires. I'm also kind of skeptical about how much dust may have been in the apartment if it wasn't very tidy, and I doubt they squirted a water bottle around the area to remove dust particles that might carry small bits of flame. Finally the people who started the fire tried to put it out themselves instead of dialing 911 first. If they had done that, the building may have been evacuated sooner and the woman may not have died.

Even though I was a smoker when I was younger and everyone I know seems to love candles, outside of the magical community, I've seen one accidental fire started when my sister forgot to check the stove as a teenager. Inside of the magical community I've seen more than I can count, and most are due to a lack of common sense. People with loose fitting cloaks dancing around candles, candles lit where they shouldn't be, one time I even saw a candle holder get knocked over and lit candles roll underneath furniture during a ritual and I was told to leave it alone because they didn't care about the apartment's carpet and it could be taken care of after the morning after the ritual when it would be easier to see.

I understand that ritual requirements mean that we can't always follow candle safety to the letter, but a lot of people in the community lack basic common sense. It's sad that someone had to die to bring this to light, but hopefully it will help some people realize that open flames are very dangerous and simple precautions need to be taken when working with them.

Scott Stenwick said...

I think both/and is a completely reasonable interpretation. Unlucky people shouldn't exercise poor fire safety. For that matter, nobody should and this is an important issue that magicians who spend a lot of time working with candles need to pay attention to.

If they had not been using candles, if the candles hadn't been on the floor, if they hadn't been near bedding - all of those things conspire to bring the probability of a fire within the range of regular bad luck, let alone luck as bad as this person seems to have had.

Still, the whole thing about another resident opening a window at exactly the wrong moment and the fire department trying to dispatch an engine that was already at another emergency makes for a pretty unlikely "perfect storm" of failure that can't just be attributed to dealing with the candles in an unsafe manner.

Unknown said...

Bad luck is like tar; if you're not careful about cleansing yourself, sooner or later you'll end up worse off than the people you're cleansing.