Historically speaking, Marizel Almirall was not the first adolescent to ever feel "different." Nor did she pioneer the concept of the black-clad teenage outcast. But the South Beach native might be the only person in the world who can say she tattooed a large upside-down cross on herself at age 13 in tribute to Satan.
"I'm very hard-core," she says.
The 34-year-old and her husband, Armando, are the owners of the Witch's Garden, a "magick shoppe" in Hialeah that caters to people who identify as witches. The two favor the term "witch" because they don't dig the organized religion of Wicca. Neither of them wears pointed hats or navigates South Florida by broom — both have long, black curls and drive their two young daughters around in a silver minivan with a bumper sticker that reads, "Life's a Witch and Then You Fly."
Tucked away on the fourth floor of a giant rainbow-colored complex off West 12th Avenue, it draws no foot traffic. Sales come from a loyal customer base that's been gaining in numbers since 2004, when the couple started their business online. They graduated to a physical store three years ago and peddle all kinds of spiritual cleanses (white sage and palo santo tree bark), offer multiple discounts (senior, military, and student), and run a library that contains an array of bibles (both Satanic and King James).
Marizel, who is Cuban, says she's always been able to see and feel spirits. When she told her Catholic family about her gift, they thought psychic abilities were synonymous with being "of the Devil." Taking her mom's words seriously, Marizel began identifying as a Satanist and dressing head to toe in black.
Later, she became a witch, and within a few years, she could come up with spells and potions easily.
"Right when I met her and realized she was a witch, I started to view everything differently," her husband says. "I really started living."
Eventually, she recounted to Armando a bizarre encounter at a Southwest Miami-Dade Pizza Hut when she was 7. There was a boy playing music, and she just instantly felt he was a kindred spirit. For some reason, she never got the stranger out of her mind.
Immediately, Armando jumped in and finished the story. "Red Red Wine" was the song that kid had put on the jukebox, wasn't it? He remembered details from the chance meeting perfectly.
Even the witches are a little spooked by that story.