I was barely twenty-five when I first heard of ngải. I had no idea what it was, or what it did. The only thing I knew about it was that it was a spooky thing some people kept in their homes when they wanted to be granted a favor. A friend heard that I had never seen this plant before, so he offered to take me to the home of his cousin, who actually had a ngải living in her house. I agreed immediately, as curiosity is a Tao Babe’s middle name.
He took me to a normal looking house in the crowded chaotic city of Garden Grove, California, where I met his cousin, Ann, a pleasant Vietnamese woman with kind eyes and a fiery, quick-witted demeanor. She showed me around her home, which looked like the average house that one would find in southern California, complete with a palm tree in front and hibiscus bushes bordering the neighbor’s lawn. Inside, the house looked quite ordinary. I could not sense that there was anything strange about it at all— until I was shown the room that the ngải was in. The house was a three bedroom ranch. The two children, ages ten and twelve, occupied one of the smaller bedrooms and she and her husband slept in the other small bedroom.
I asked her where the ngải was, and she pointed to the last door, at the very end. It was the master bedroom, and it was occupied by the ngải. She gave me a look that said nothing, yet filled me with dread. We filed into the room, one by one, and stood in what looked like a beautiful bedroom, complete with king-sized bed and magnificent furniture. Against the wall, there was a pot of summer crocus on a table. In front of the table was a bowl that held an egg and a bowl of rice.
Ann went to the table and picked up the food. She turned back to me and handed me the egg. It was empty. My eyes grew round with incredulity. The egg was perfectly untouched, yet it was as light as a ping pong ball. Ann explained that the egg had been consumed by the summer crocus ngải, and it was getting bigger, so it ate one every week, whereas previously, it only needed one egg a month. I asked her to explain what it was, and this was what she told me.
Ngải is a Vietnamese word for a plant that has absorbed the energies of a spirit. Sometimes, the spirit is benign. More often than not, it is malevolent. It can be a happenstance situation, where a wandering soul is drawn into the ngải plant because it needs a physical body to inhabit in order to remain in the third dimension. It could also be called forth from another realm and then purposely placed in the plant by a black sorcerer who understands how to command these spirits. The plant is then placed inside the home of a person who needs to be granted a boon. Often, it is to seek something or someone, and other times, it is for a successful business venture. It looks like a gentle flowering plant, but looks are deceiving.
Ann then told me a story of a doubting family member who visited her home one day and needed to spend the night. She offered him the sofa, but he wanted to spend the night in a proper bed. Seeing that the master bedroom was empty, he wanted to spend the night there. Ann tried to discourage him from using the ngải’s bedroom, but he was adamant. He was a Christian, and Christians didn’t believe in black magic. He insisted that there was no such thing as black sorcery and he was going to prove them wrong.
As the family settled in for the night, all was peaceful. A bit past midnight, there came a loud thump from the master bedroom. A scream followed, and then a slamming of the door. Ann and her husband ran out of their bedroom to see the man, wild-eyed and panicked, running towards the kitchen. He told them, in between screams, that he had been picked up by a powerful energy surge and thrown against the wall, and then was told in a horrible unearthly voice, to get out of the room. Needless to say, the man left that very night.
I looked at the pot of flowers on the table and had the sudden urge to leave the room. It looked so benign and completely harmless. Yet, it had eaten the entire contents of the egg that I was holding in my hand. It chilled my blood, and I shivered, in spite of the heat of the summer day.
I turned to Ann and thanked her for showing me the ngải, and then I left. As I turned to go, I caught a whiff of the hauntingly sweet scent that came from the petals of the ngải. The scent is very unique, and very peculiar, almost like freesias. The memory of that scent still haunts me to this very day.
For more information about this plant, go to Black Sorcery and Ngai Plant 2 where I have detailed what I could, of the plant itself.