Before giving me a demonstration of what the New York Post called "hands from heaven," Weger anoints me with some of his oils. In minutes, I smell like a Greek Orthodox wedding mass, with basil oil (for tendinitis), a fourteen-oil combo (for harmony and balancing the energy centers), peppermint (as an anti-inflammatory), and eucalyptus (for respiratory relief). Finally he dabs some white angelica on my back, which he says has been proved through Kirlian photography to alter a person's aura for the better almost immediately. He also says that certain oils applied to the soles of the feet travel to every cell of the body in twenty minutes. The massage is heavenly, but half a day and three showers later I still can't shake the scent. On the other hand, I haven't had the flu yet.
Donna Karan and Robin Quivers are a few of the devotees of Barbara Biziou, a ritualist who devises ceremonies for people who are grieving, terminally ill, or undergoing surgery, or who simply want prosperity and happiness. Biziou, a redheaded native New Yorker, also spent some time in California in the sixties and seventies, where she studied with a variety of spiritual teachers including Brugh Joy, a medical doctor and spiritual healer.
"What I do is in addition to Western medicine," says Biziou, who sees many cancer and aids patients. "People need both medicine and healing rituals. Some people who have, quote, terminal illnesses say their quality of life is so much better, they have more energy, they feel calmer."
A ritual, Biziou explains, can be anything from having a group of friends come over before surgery and give you gifts that represent their strong characteristics to writing down a wish and lighting a candle. It's about focus and intention.
"With cancer patients, the first thing I teach is how to calm down, center, and relax," she says. "We do breathing techniques that will immediately calm them down. Then we work out a ritual." For one lawyer who had colon cancer, she created a healing stick and had him visualize his favorite place -- a beach -- by putting on suntan lotion and using lamps and ocean music. The lawyer brings the healing stick with him to his chemo treatments.
"Every house has nine energies," says Alex Stark, a feng shui practitioner who uses geomancy to track down bad energy in houses and eradicate it. "What I do is like a CT scan, so you can say in this precise corner of your house the danger is greatest, and in this corner, you might want to put an altar to improve your relationships."
Stark, who has a large, global client list, is half Peruvian and half Swiss and grew up in a family that was open to notions of South American magic and ritual. He studied architecture at Yale, but in his mid-thirties he had what he terms an identity crisis and began to use his gift -- a gift that his fellow architects scorn, although he is respected enough that he teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design.
There are many feng shui practitioners working in New York (Donald Trump imports his from China), but Stark's method is more intuitive and magic-oriented than most. He not only operates on feng shui principles of directions but says he physically senses the earth's grid of energy. Where the lines of that energy intersect, migraines or damage to the immune system or other ailments can occur. Lay people cannot know whether their bed just happens to be situated on such an intersection.
Stark's geomancy has enabled him, he says, to ferret out a "black stream" beneath the bed of a woman who had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He is much in demand at $250 an hour among the well-heeled who want make sure, for example, that they haven't placed their bundle of joy's crib over an intersection of bad energy.
Over lunch at Zen Palate, Stark offers to give me a quick Chinese astrological reading, which would be the guide for how he would rearrange my living quarters if I had the $250-an-hour fee. I give him my birth date, and he consults a tiny chart in his wallet, then tells me I am efficient and organized and have a good head for business. "You have a very strong potential for happiness and prosperity," he concludes.
A guy who tells you that -- and convincingly -- is worth every cent of his fee. I can't wait to scrape up the funds to have him check my apartment for black streams.