At one time or another, you’ve likely experienced that Psychological phenomenon known as déjà-vu, wherein you have the distinct feeling that something supposedly experienced for the first time has, in fact, actually, been experienced by you before, whether in this lifetime or in some other. Certainly, I’ve had more than my share of such experiences with places, people, and things.
At the end of my climb of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, I looked out over a genuinely familiar landscape wherein ruins were suddenly, momentarily, converted, as if by some complex mental computer, into the magnificence of their originally completed structures. While gazing over the escarpment at Machu Picchu in Peru, I had the distinct impression that I had been there before when I’d channeled the frustrations of Spanish conquistadors destined never to find me or the mountaintop whereon I hid. Within a ruined small temple enclosure in Olympia, Greece, I not only felt as if I’d been there before but actually imagined a foul-smelling mist and a drugged Pythia whispering in my ear, “You will write many books and lead an envied existence.”
Of peculiar interest, however, has always been the way by which I’ve found my knives for ceremonial procedures and/or for magical incantations. Or, rather, the way, they’ve found me. Or, rather, the way we seem to have found each other.
While perusing the goods and services available in a native bizarre in Fes, Morocco, I was possessed by the strange feeling that I was being called by someone from afar, the sound increasing and decreasing as I meandered this way and that through the maze of stalls, eventually ending up in a murky little backwater, in front of a small hole-in-the-wall establishment that seemed so familiar I felt as if I must have passed it several times before. Other than that, I couldn’t imagine it being of any real interest, unless I’d been in possession of some old pot, pan, or other metal kitchen utensil in need of repair. The proprietor, who sat at a small table, with hammer, pounding out the myriad dents of one metal container, looked up and said, “Ah, you’ve come to buy the Jambiya!” Before I could venture a contradiction, he got up, passed through the lone blanket that hung the doorway, in lieu of a wooden door, and returned shortly with a white metal-dagger, mounted on a wooden hilt, with engraved white-metal scabbard.
In a quaint English antique shop in Leeds, I came across a dagger with an ivory handle and four-sided blade. Drawn to it, as if I’d seen it somewhere before, I thought it was the store clerk who came up behind me to relate as to how the dagger’s blade had been specifically designed to inflict wounds that wouldn’t easily heal but would, rather, become infected, fester, and eventually be fatal. As it turned out, the clerk was across the room, at the time, no one at the counter in question but me.
In Monterrey, California, I stopped by a cutlery store, not because I expected to find a ceremonial dagger, but because I’d shopped there before and was on the lookout for a belated wedding gift. The store owner was amazed to see me, having just the day before thought he should contact me as regarded an ivory-handled custom-crafted dagger for which he’d been asked to find a buyer.
While strolling the streets of Bandung, West Java, I stopped at a crossroads that looked vaguely familiar, where I was almost immediately accosted by a little old lady who insisted she had a kris, owned by her late husband, and that the knife had literally spoken to her with instructions that she should turn it over to the man she would find exactly where I was standing, when I was standing there, the dagger having gone so far as to have described me as wearing an American “cowboy” hat (I was wearing my Stetson at the time). Thinking hers was merely a novel approach, compared to the other vendors out 24/7 to lure customers into their shops, I decided to go where she persistently tugged me, finding it wasn’t to a shop but to her home where the display case in which the weapon was positioned was quickly opened, the knife turned over to me. She refused any payment, saying the kris had chosen me and that was that. She gave the decided impression that she was actually glad to be rid of it, which had me uneasy for a very long period of time, knowing as I do that some krises can bestow bad luck on the people who possess them.
More recently, I attended a dinner party to which my cousin’s son brought a female “friend” who looked so very familiar that I thought I’d met her before, and she thought the same. Turns out, it hadn’t happened. She’d only been in town for a short while, having followed her boyfriend there, and she was in the process of packing up to head on back to Nevada, having decided the guy to whom she’d hitched her wagon wasn’t really right for her. She wanted to return to where she’d left most of her family and friends. Returning to Reno by plane, having driven out with her boyfriend, she was in the process of jettisoning much of what she’d brought with her by car. Spontaneously, I asked if she had any knives she planned to leave behind. As it turned out, she didn’t. However, the next day she called to say that, while packing up her things, she had come across the meteorite she’d found in Nevada, had brought with her, and had had all intentions of taking back to Reno with her, until she’d had this sudden inclination to call me to see if I’d be interested in buying it. On impulse, I did buy it, and, that very night, dreamed of how it should be melted down for its iron to make steel for the blade of a knife whose design hasn’t fully yet materialized but is getting closer and closer to doing so in my mind’s-eye.
Filed under: Articles, Column: Between Heaven and Hell, Magic, William Maltese Tagged: | daggers, déjà-vu, Egypt, Greece, Jambiya, knives, kris, Machu Picchu, meteorite, Morrocco, Olympia, Peru, psychological phenomenon, Reno, West Java