Saddam will be found dead, says 'personal wizard'

A man who says he was Sadddam Hussein’s sorcerer predicts the Iraqi dictator will be found dead.

The 62-year-old sprays perfume around the sparse, dingy room – “it smells nicer than incense” – then holds out his hands and feet for a visitor to bind, instructing him to knot the cloth three times and blow on it.

The lights go out, and small red flashes appear beneath the black cloak that covers a bowl of magic powders and water. Something pokes at the visitors - “birds,” the wizard says – and water splashes from the bowl.

The genies have arrived, and the questions begin.

Will Saddam be found? A genie answers in the old man’s voice: “Yes.”

Dead or alive? “Dead.”

And the 25 million question: Where is he? ”Dhuluaiyah,” he says, a village 55 miles north of Baghdad.

Coming from this man, the words carry special meaning. This isn’t just one of the thousands of magicians, fortune tellers and faith healers that are part of the forbidden fabric of Iraq. This is Saddam’s own wizard.

The sorcerer asks that he not be identified – for now, at least – and will not even pronounce the name of the man he once served.

“That man is still alive, so I’m afraid,” he says. “I helped him, his sons, his ministers, his wife, his cousins, but I can’t mention names. When he is dead I can talk about him.”

According to the magician and several others interviewed in Baghdad, Saddam was a firm believer in magic, and even applied himself, with modest success, to “studying the sands” and summoning genies.

He consulted frequently with two magicians from Iraq, one from Turkey, one from India, a French Arab and a beautiful Jewish witch from Morocco, the wizard says.

Saddam is still protected, he says, by a pair of golden statues imbued with magic. The deposed president speaks daily with the king and queen of genies - the same ones who provided the information on his whereabouts.

Other magicians also talk about Saddam, some describing fleeting meetings in which the president measured them up. Several said he has a powerful stone – a few described it as the bone of a parrot – implanted under the skin of his right arm to protect him against bullets and to make people love him.

Maher al-Kadhami, a Baghdad faith healer, repeated a story often told in post-war Iraq: Some years ago, a fortune teller told Saddam he would fall on April 9, 2003. Saddam flew into a rage, killed the fortune teller and launched a violent campaign against all those dealing in the occult.

And yet the magicians thrived – in part because of his oppressive rule, academics say.

“When you are weak, when you are oppressed, where can you go? You can’t go outside. You go inside yourself,” says al-Haareth Hassan al-Asadi, who studies parapsychology at Baghdad University. “You stimulate the superstitious part of your psyche, which is there innately.”

He says at the very least 60% of Iraqis use some sort of magic – probably many more. A tour of magicians in Baghdad bears out his words. To many Muslims, magic is ”haram” – a cardinal sin – but a visit to a magician is also the ultimate guilty pleasure.

Unannounced storefronts across Iraq boast a rich smattering of psychics, fortune-tellers, healers and spellmasters, most of whom invoke the Islamic, Christian and even Jewish holy books in their bids to control the genies, or spirits, that many Iraqis believe rule their lives.

Saddam’s wizard says he has been studying magic since he was 10, learning from his aunt’s husband. Now he is one of the most revered magicians in Iraq.

He shows visitors a guestbook of other powerful clients: a Saudi prince who paid 20,000 riyals (€4,900) for a spell to make a woman love him, a Jordanian businessman who wanted his daughter to divorce her abusive husband and a Syrian singer who wanted more success.

For Saddam’s family, he dealt mostly with issues of love, faithfulness and sexual prowess. He said he was once imprisoned for six months when Saddam suspected his wife of having the magician throw a spell that made his leg hurt. The magician was pardoned.

He occasionally dabbled in politics as well. But his last attempt to advise Saddam on strategy, just before the war, met with failure.

“I told him through (his son) Qusay’s assistant that he faced great dangers in the war,” he says. “I told him that for a Rolls-Royce and 100 million dinars (€55,000) I would give him the specifics. I would show it to them on the wall before it happened, but they just laughed. Qusay said the old man had gone crazy.

“I only wanted 100 million dinars. That’s what they gave their belly dancers.”

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