WELLESLEY FALLS, Mass. Marci Scribner looks like a typical housewife in this affluent suburb of Boston as she climbs into her forest green Range Rover, Kate Spade handbag in hand. “I’m always on the go,” she says with a smile as she drives her 17-year old son Tyler to his weekly appointment with a tutor who she hopes will increase his SAT scores and get him into Dartmouth, where she went to business school.
But if that fails, Marci has an ace up her sleeve. “We know two other kids in Tyler’s class are applying there, and they won’t all get in.” So while Tyler studies, she’ll keep an appointment of her own with voodoo priest Togbui Assiogbo. “We need to use every trick in the book, because Dartmouth is Tyler’s ‘reach’ school.”
And what does the priest have in mind? “Let’s just say when he gets through with those other two kids,” Marci says with a sly smile, “their minds will function like they sniff a tube of glue for breakfast.”
“You got your kid an SAT coach? We’re trying something stronger.”
Voodoo, once confined to West Africa and the Caribbean, is spreading to American suburbs and displacing traditional Protestant denominations such as Episcopalianism as the affluent look for a religion that can give them tangible results, not the pie-in-the-sky of an afterlife. “The whole ‘turn the other cheek’ philosophy is a boatload of crap, if you ask me,” says Marci’s husband Dennis, a venture capitalist who works in the Route 128 technology corridor that rings Boston.
Other families are using voodoo for less intellectual pursuits. Alicia and Tom Phillips, friends of the Scribners in this town where fixer-upper homes start at $1.3 million, say they used Mr. Assiogbo last year when their next-door neighbor bought a new Jaguar. “We couldn’t stand how he looked down on us because we drove a two-year old Saab,” says Alicia. “Mr. Assiogbo gave us a menu of options ranging from a broken driveshaft for $1,000, a fender bender for $2,500, or the ‘VIP’ combo for five grand.” They opted for the most expensive package and were “extremely pleased” when the Jaguar was totalled and the owner’s golden retriever died mysteriously after chasing a tennis ball into a wooded area.
Local ministers say they will fight to maintain their congregations, even if that means incorporating some of the more dramatic elements of voodoo into their traditional liturgy. “If we have to add a little spectacle to your typical Protestant christening or a wedding to draw a crowd, that’s what we’ll do,” said the Rev. Oliver Westling, pastor of the United Church of Christ here. “I’m not above a little animal sacrifice, as long as it’s done tastefully.”
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Blurbs From the Burbs.”