In the area under her bunk bed, Narayanee Singaram has carved out a cosy space for herself. Curious trinkets adorn the area: A broom, dried baby’s breath flowers, and a strip of shed snakeskin hang overhead; on the shelves lie various crystals, figurines, and a large ostrich egg; an assortment of fabrics line the walls, creating an eclectic mishmash of patterns and colours.
The array of items, while seemingly random at first glance, each carry its own meaning and significance. For instance, Ms Narayanee explains that the ostrich egg symbolises fertility and endurance; a broom, protection; and the shed snakeskin is a common ingredient she uses in her crafts, as it signifies “abundance, protection, and renewal”.
It is this careful curation of items that enables her to maintain an abode where the energy is always “vibrant and clean”, an important aspect of her work, for in this space, magic happens.
Ms Narayanee is a self-professed witch. When she is not attending to feathered friends in her day job as an aviculturist, she spends her time meeting clients, conducting tarot or oracle card readings, crafting little spells in the form of mojo bags (pouches typically filled with crystals, herbs, and/or oil blends that help you manifest your intentions), bottles, or wearable oils, and conducting healing circles where she introduces dance into healing.
With her ecommerce platform My Grandmama’s Secret, Ms Narayanee strives to harness the latent power within Mother Earth, and channel it to help her clients heal and manifest their desires and intentions.
Contrary to myths and folklore, she does not present as a typical witch. There are no pointed hats and robes, boiling cauldrons, or voodoo dolls. And while she does indeed own a broom and cats (although neither of them are black), she welcomes us into her space with an air of blithe and warmth, openly sharing about her work and life.
In this instalment of In Conversation With, TheHomeGround Asia delves deeper into the enigma that is modern-day witchcraft, and learns about the inception of Ms Narayanee’s witchcraft journey, her identity as a modern witch, and why she continues to find magic in a secular world.
(NOTE: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
Narayanee Singaram: Growing up, it was kind of scary because I was very sensitive to energies, it was already something embedded in me. When I was very young, it was hard for me to explain that to my parents. We were a very religious household, so you talk about using methods to remove spirits and evil magic and all that, so it’s part of the ritual process.
Because I could feel and sense things, I was always very scared. It was very challenging. I felt like I was shunned for being very different.
I was born in a Hindu household, but in Hinduism, there were many things I didn’t understand. When my dad passed on, and we had the entire funeral ceremony, it shook me up, because there were just so many details to it and I was like, ‘I don’t get any of this’. Your grief becomes worse, because the way things are carried out makes it harder.
When my godmum passed, the funeral was a mixture. It was a Catholic funeral in a church, but then there was a lot of Guanyin (a Buddhist bodhisattva usually associated with compassion and mercy) talk in the church. So it was a bit weird.
With that, I had a perspective that religion is very structured. I find that it’s very hard for me to be in temples and not understand half the things the priests were chanting and all that. So I started feeling very detached from that, and felt that I would like to be in a space where I’m able to practise what makes sense to me.
TheHomeGround Asia: How did those fears transform to what you do today, as a modern witch?
NS: The only time that everything made sense was when I met my late godmother, Rosina [Maria Arquati]. Rosina is an animal communicator in Hong Kong. That’s how I met her, when she came to Singapore to hold a workshop. I got to know her and we started connecting and getting to know each other.
My godmother was born a Catholic, but she is very into everything to do with guanyin, angels, fairies and all that. So I managed to have a very nice perspective of very different religions and cultures around me. And finally, having to term myself as a modern witch gives me a chance to express exactly what I am very comfortable being.
THG: The term ‘witch’ typically comes attached with stigma and the perception of evil and fear, but what does being a modern witch mean to you?
NS: The term ‘witch’ is basically a lady who has magical powers, right?
The practice of burning witches started because there was a rise in a very masculine religion, which is Christianity. There was a reason why women were made to feel little. So anyone that has a birthmark in the eye, or has a funny eye, or anything like that is known as a witch. It’s just a way to instil fear. And for me, I feel like many religions, like Christianity, come with a lot of fear-based energy. Like, if you do this, you go to hell.
So I used to have a lot of fear with the term Lucifer and the devil, until I met my godmother, and then it made sense that it’s just a manifestation of fear. At the end of the day, when we die, do we really know where we go to – heaven or hell?
Being termed a witch gives me power. It gives me a chance to take back my powers and say that yes, I’m a woman, and I’m empowering what I’m doing. When I term myself as a ‘witch’, I work a lot with Mother Earth and her energy, the moon, the sun, and we create manifestations. Magic spells are basically manifestation and intention-setting. So when you put all that together, a witch doesn’t even sound bad, it just sounds like a very empowered woman.
And I know they like to associate witches with looks like, oh, ugly, and pointy nose and all that, and it’s only because you want to make someone who’s empowered feel a certain way. So for me, I always try to look very put together. And I will still say that I’m a modern witch, because I’m trying to tell you that, it’s not the looks but it’s the energy that you channel to what you are doing and what you can create for a person.
Another thing I like to associate with, is also witches having to be healers. We are actually bringing good to the world and there isn’t a reason why we should be shunned away. So it also challenges society to think that women can create empowerment without being looked upon a certain way.
It’s crazy, but there are still women who are classified as witches, in some villages in India, that are being killed, by stoning and burning. It’s still happening now. So this is just a small movement to just challenge society a bit as well, that we are doing good.
THG: So it’s a way for you to reclaim the identity of a witch?
NS: Yes. I’ve a very cute belief, but I think it’s true. They say that sometimes when you have birthmarks, it’s how you died in a previous lifetime, and I have a birthmark at my stomach area. While growing up, I used to have a lot of fear of fire. Even now, I don’t like to be close to fire.
In my belief, it might or might not be true, but I feel like maybe I was burned before. So there’s a lot of memories from DNA, life, and mind and everything. And now that I’m given this body in this space to talk about witches, I’m going to do it. So I think that it’s also kind of embedded in that. I’m feeling very empowered when I even talk about it. I want to bring justice to it.
THG: You grew up in a very spiritual environment, within a religious household, a godmother who was an animal communicator, and a grandmother who was a witch-doctor. How did all that evolve into you creating My Grandmama’s Secret?
NS: My Grandmama’s Secret started off with the intention of feeling better. I was hitting a very low point of my life, and was at the cusp of almost resigning from my job. And then I decided, okay, why not I start doing [tarot card] readings for people.
Then, I remembered that when I was about 14 or 15, I had a crush on this boy. I was into spells and all that from a very young age, so I remember going through books, and vaguely recall that if you carry a pouch filled with rose quartz and rose petals, you can actually attract him or get to know him. It was very teenage-y stuff. But when I looked across the table, that little mojo bag [I made at the time] was still there, all dirty and old. I thought, ‘Oh, why not create mojo bags for people [as well]?’
Just nice, everything fell into place, I created small little pouches, and had the readings. For those two days, the love card reading had a long queue, the mojo bags, almost three quarters of it was all gone. And soon after that, it became another booth, another event, and another event.
Another thing about My Grandmama’s Secret is that my godmother was diagnosed with colon cancer about six years ago. So after the first stage of her final chemotherapy session, I decided to go to Hong Kong to visit her. And that’s how I started travelling to Hong Kong a lot to spend time with her. She lived through stage four cancer for three years, that’s when she started handing down a lot of her things, her cards, her knowledge down to me.
I felt this importance in My Grandmama’s Secret, that she is still in the essence of it. She lives in the craft that I do. It’s about continuing her legacy.
THG: As part of My Grandmama’s Secret’s offerings, you do many things: Animal communication, card readings, spell weaving, so on and so forth. How do all of these different activities tie in together?
NS: Tarot card and oracle card readings are divination methods, and a way for me to guide people. Usually, when I meet someone, I can already pick up energies. Based on the energies that I pick up, I channel whatever messages they need to know right now. And the cards kind of come off as a presentation. So it just helps you to like, you see, this is what I’m talking about. Okay, look at this, this is what I’m talking about. And with that, at least they have a clearer understanding of what is required.
After the card reading, you have an idea of what’s happening with your life. And then if they want to move forward, I usually craft them either a mojo bag, or bottles. I also craft wearable oils. So that is more of your love aspect. So I guide people into creating the manifestation they want.
I don’t like to be like, hey, you pay me this amount of money, I will do you the spell. I’m not that kind of witch. How I work with people is that okay, this is what you want. This is how we’re going to create it. So I actually hold people’s hands and guide them through the journey.
THG: The work that you do is clearly very different from the stories that we hear in books, such as witches brewing potions in cauldrons, flying on brooms, and so on. Are any of these tales reflected in modern-day reality?
NS: The request that I always get is love, right? So they always associate witches with love spells. So I feel like that’s one thing that hasn’t changed.
From storybooks, to Hollywood, to movies, to everything. Everything that has to do with witches is them asking them to do them spells and favours, which is the same thing that’s happening now. It’s just a very different way now; the modern thing is that I actually create something so that they can manifest their reality. Different witches use different ways. Some use candles, some use this, that, the different goddesses they evoke. But for me, my comfort is working with the elements.
THG: With all the things that you do, what is the favourite part about running My Grandmama’s Secret?
NS: Meeting different people. When I get to meet different people, I get to learn a lot about different minds, different approaches to life, and even different circumstances. Suddenly, your entire world has a different filter. I feel like My Grandmama’s Secret has made me grow into exactly who I am intended to be by the universe. Suddenly, there was a lot of spiritual development, spiritual movement, and spiritual talk, and that has made me who I am now.
The best thing is also getting to actually help people. It gives me the chance to make people feel better about their lives and their situation, or get a better clarity. I’m very surrounded by this whole idea of wanting to help and nurture people. And because I was doing that, my mood got better and I started having a wider perspective on life.
THG: You’ve talked a lot about wanting to help people. How do you feel your work at My Grandmama’s Secret does that?
NS: We come from very different journeys. And each journey comes with very unique traumas, experiences, and sets of problems. As a child, we grew up with all of this. We are constantly on this journey, because at the end of the day it’s the physical body that is holding the soul. So everything comes down to a very Earthly thing.
The more we embrace this journey, the more it makes it very easy for us to elevate to whatever higher consciousness we are intended to go to. What I like to do is to be able to help people through the journey, to help them and then inspire them through that. It also inspires me. And then we just keep making this little ripple, and we keep moving forward from there.
THG: Can you share more about some of the most fulfilling moments in your role as a modern witch? Are there any instances when you have helped others that were particularly memorable or meaningful?
NS: I have so many clients that turn into friends. And it’s been an ongoing journey. I’ve literally seen them from different f*ckboys to finally meeting potential [partners]. That whole journey becomes so fulfilling for me. Throughout the years, I’ve seen so many girls grow up, I’ve seen so many different inspirations.
Another thing I feel like sometimes I do with people is that I spark inspiration for them. Recently, I have a lot of people that come to me for life and soul purpose readings, because they feel very stuck during the pandemic, and do not know how to go forward. What I help them do is that when I draw the cards, I actually inspire them that ‘Oh, maybe you want to do this, you want to do that.’ And then suddenly, they’re awakened, and they realise that this is something they’ve always wanted to do.
I’m glad that at least I’m helping people through difficult times, in whatever ways possible, and making them feel better about whatever is happening around them. I feel like I’ve encouraged a lot of people to keep going forward.
THG: You’ve mentioned that in a way, My Grandmama’s Secret is about carrying on your godmother’s legacy. What is the legacy that you are hoping to leave behind?
NS: In this lifetime, I would like to bring a more conscious awareness, healing and love. I think that’s what Mother Earth needs now. And if I can continue doing that for Mother Earth, that’s the greatest gift.
I feel like, the more I can continue doing what I do, the more I can inspire people, especially women and younger girls to come out from that little bubble we sometimes live in. In Singapore especially, because we are living in a very boxed up space, it changes our perspective. What I would like people to do is to have more freedom in what they believe, what they practice, and how they can come out to empower themselves.
I want to continue being able to heal people and put them on a healing journey. And whoever I get to spark this in, it’s going to just keep sparking, and keep going on.