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Day 17: Alto Paraíso de Goiás

Michael Palin - BrazilOn the carved wooden table beside my bed, one of a number of heavy, Hobbit-like pieces that furnish my room, the clock shows 5.15, as I eventually succumb to the combined shrieks of peacocks, geese, chicken, crows and toucans.

A few hours later we're into town to meet a witch called Tatiana. It's quite a disappointment. Tatiana and her fellow enchantresses are nothing like the pinch-nosed women in pointy hats and broomsticks with which we frighten our children. The witches I meet are sitting around taking tea in the wide, comfortable armchairs of a very big, very well-appointed modern house. They're well-travelled and well-off. Most are in their late thirties, early forties and comfortably rounded. It would need strong broomsticks to carry some of them.

Copies of Architectural Digest lie around and Tatiana's husband, a big, forceful man from São Paulo, is taking the crew on a guided tour of the house he's still building. I sit around with the ladies, talking about Celtic influences, the potency of Glastonbury and the Avebury Circle and I'm beginning to feel nothing more than mildly homesick. When Tatiana appears the atmosphere subtly changes. There is an aura of power in the room. Tatiana is a tall, striking woman with piercing dark eyes. Eyes that I can easily see blazing. She wears a turquoise-blue kaftan with a decorative band on her head. She clearly sets the agenda for the programme of rituals which have been taking place over the past few days. Today is called the 'Ritual of the Waters'. It's a celebration of the African goddess Yemanjá and involves a series of ablutions in which the basic chakras – liver, spleen, throat, heart, head, chest – will be cleansed one by one, as they process up a series of pools and waterfalls. The location is a nearby beauty spot called the Cachoeira das Loquinhas. The path alongside the seven waterfalls is well laid out, with wooden bridges and walkways. It's pretty rather than spectacular. As we walk I ask Tatiana if it's quite acceptable to be a witch in Brazil. She nods briskly. The Brazilians are very tolerant of witchcraft. In fact they're tolerant of almost everything. Especially in Alto Paraíso. 'It's very open-minded here,' she assures me. 'The Dalai Lama was here. We have ashrams, ayahuasca [the hallucinatory jungle drug], Krishnas. Mysticism in Brazil is very important.'

Modern witchcraft seems to be less about spells and cooking-pots and more about oneness with nature, of celebrating Gaia, the Great Mother, and the seasons and the solstice and the equinox. 'And the new belief of the new era that you have to respect nature.'

These wealthy witches sound an awful lot like the Wauja.
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  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 17: Alto Paraíso de Goiás
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Alto Paraíso de Goiás
  • Book page no: 80

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  • Miscellaneous
  • Day 3 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 34 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 22 
  • Pole to Pole