This vibrant young lady was the most impressive fortune teller I’ve come across in all my travels. My friend and I were taking a stroll through Porto Seguro on a warm summer night when I stumbled upon Tia Lulu. She was seated outside a small doorway with an old wooden sign reading “Tia Lulu De Ogum” and under her name said “Joga-se búzios” or “Cowrie-game” in English.

Reading cowrie shells is a tradition brought over from Africa hundreds of years ago with the slave trade and still exists in Bahia today. In throwing the cowrie-shells she summons religious spirits and depending on the way they land she interprets your past, present, and future. Tia Lulu De Ogum also used a crystal ball for good measure.

I’ve had my cards read in Greece, palm read in Bali, and coffee fortune told in Turkey, so I’ve heard it all before. Regardless, it’s still fun to see what they say and this woman with her colorful beads and wise eyes was just too good to pass by. Little did I know what I was in for!

We talked business and settled on 50 reias (about $30) before she brought us back through the small doorway and down a dark, smelly alley. I was rather petrified, thinking I’d just walked myself into some trap and would surely be kidnapped. Before I could panic and take off in the other direction she turned into a small apartment and waved us in. It was her apartment. Her entire families apartment in fact, all sitting on the couch watching TV. As you can imagine I was feeling very strange.

After she introduced us to everyone she brought us into her bedroom. Yes, her bedroom.

This photo was taken in front of her shrine and that orange blanket on the right is her twin bed. At first it felt awkward with her family listening and my friend translating but eventually it became bewitching. She told me things that still resonate in me to this day. The future is a secret but I will say my favorite prediction from Tia Lulu was that I would return to Brazil at least nine times. It was music to my ears.