CHICAGO LAWN — When a candle ignited a small fire in a Chicago Lawn shop on Aug. 29, firefighters came to the scene, put it out and found something curious that needed a second look.
So in came the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, the county morgue.
Upon further review, what at least one witness thought were human bones turned out to be just chicken bones, blood and goat hair — all part of High Priestess Alyce Chiprez's ingredients to ward off bad luck.
Chiprez, the owner of the Botanica Universal store at 2915 W. 63rd St. where the fire started, also says she can create love spells and protect people from evil.
She's a high priestess practicing Santeria, a religion that mixes Yoruba beliefs and Roman Catholic elements. It’s also known as La Regla Lucumi or the Rule of Osha. It was born out of the slave trade in Cuba.
“We use chickens, not all the time, but once in a while,” Chiprez said last week. “We do sacrifices with chickens to clean people, to get rid of their bad luck.”
The religion deeply intertwines with her family’s lineage. Chiprez said her great-grandmother was an African slave.
“I’m the fourth generation in my family,” she said. Her business has been in the community for 15 years, but she has been practicing Santeria for more than 30 years.
Most people know what she does, she said, but there are still some who are suspicious.
"Some people might call me a witch doctor," Chiprez said.
She encourages people to come in and give her a try. Chiprez will travel to people’s homes in and out of Chicago.
Her shop also sells incense, oils, candles and more.
"It’s a pharmacy for different religions," she said about her shop.
Botanica Universal is open Monday –Friday, 3-6:30 p.m. and Saturday 10-3 p.m. Chiprez can be reached at 773-476-5583 or 773-510-8453.
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