You know, we have a million and one reasons to talk to Sara Tilley.
She’s an award-winning novelist, founder of a successful feminist theatre company, a playwright, an actress, she spent six months mentoring with notable Canadian clown trainer Ian Wallace, and she’s the Executive Director of Visual Art Newfoundland and Labrador.
…But once a year, in an improvised performance to raise money for the Eastern Edge Gallery, she puts on a moustache and reads people’s fortunes using hot dogs and deli meats. And she calls this clown-man of unknown origin… Weiner Shaman.
Elling Lien contacted the Shaman by phone.
Photos by Ryan Davis.
Hello? Is this the Weiner Shaman?
How are you doing today?
I am very tired. Big, large parties in the baytowns of Newfoundland.
What are you doing out there?
I am …making wieners.
In preparation for the 24 Hour Art Marathon?
Yes. There is the making of special wieners of Newfoundland now, with things of the sea.
So you make your own? You go around the bay collecting things to put in the sausages?
Yes. Make them very special for special people that are coming to Marathon.
What can you put in?
Anything in 5 kilometers radium of sea can go in the wiener for Newfoundlander, that is my rule. And so now here we have… uh… horses, we have mutton, we have little dogs. Insects. Kelp.
Kelp is included, with the meats?
It is for sticking together the meats of the sea and the land.
It’s in ice cream too.
Ice cream! MMm! I like sugars as well as the meats. They are a magic food for the people, and that is why I like them.
So who are you? Tell me who the Weiner Shaman really is.
I am a magic person with special talking-to-dead-parts abilities. I can speak with anything that is cooked up and we want to eat. Because it used to be alive, and now it’s dead, it can tell us what is to come.
So rocks wouldn’t work.
Uh, I don’t know. Sometimes I have assistant shaman with rattles of rocks and so on, and that is good for amplifying the energy of the meats. Yes.
Uh, I can’t quite place your accent. Where are you from?
I am from far away. No country names necessary, but far, far. And cold.
Why come to Newfoundland? Did you experience some trouble back home?
Well, maybe, but not of large political sort, but more… uh… interpersonal fuck-ups. You know? What can I say? I am player. I can’t help but I like lady, and my wife are not happy with me about that. So I come here and I find the lady here is very beautiful. I like them to come down, give fortune, maybe I give them discount. You never know.
When did you first find out you could read fortunes?
Oh, I was a very small boy. It’s funny to think of it now. Small, small boy, and my mother made me a bowl of Kraft Dinner with little cute Vienna Sausages inside. She cut up the sausages very nice. And when she mix it up, some of the pieces they fall into a crumble of sausage! When I look, I hear the pieces is talking to me. I understand their shape, and they are telling me things about my mother and my father, what is going to happen in the future. It was a joyful experience for me. But when I tell my mother she got worried. She sent me to boarding school for bad boys, and I start my career there.
So what did you first see when you heard the meat talking to you?
It was funny, very funny, because I see my mother and father with many,many more little baby. And they are tired already, they do not want more. [laugh] I see this, and it come true. I usually focus on reproduction, because that is life. I want to know, are you fertile? And my mother, oh yes, very fertile.
Meat is life, life is meat.
And in between there, I tell future.
So how does a reading proceed?
I have many skills, so I have a sign that say “one dollar” and there are little things I can do for you, and then there are “five dollar” which are fancy things. But for one dollar I can do wiener fortunes. You take wiener, you squeeze wiener, you drop wiener, and I examine pieces where your hands have been and I can tell where the crags and crevice and falling apart, I can see your future. Meatball charm are for learning how many babies you will have. I love that one. I like the ladies to come over and do that one with me, because sometimes I give discounts, and I invite to private parties. But only the ladies who are pretty, 9+.
Have also made up gravy for love. A small gravy potion for putting in beer. She drink it and she love you.
What meat works best for love potions?
Oh, it’s always beef. Beef gravy, and for my amulets, which ward off whatever you want, for example, your ex-boyfriend, or mononucleosis. Some people are very afraid of the kissing disease.
For those I have salamis, I have hams, I have pepperonis, meat from deli, and I fashion a necklace, which you must wear until it falls off.
Why would people pick you over another fortune teller? Say, someone who does regular tarot card readings.
Because I am powerful. These other people are very small. I am a big power because I have this special talent. In my culture, there is only one wiener shaman every fifty years, so it is unique. People here may not understand how special I am, but the ones who come, they will never forget the thing that I tell them.
Are you up for a reading right now? Do you have any meat there now?
No, I do not.
But! The second most precious thing for fortune telling, because is dead, like meat, is plastic bag. Because is made of oil, and because oil is made of dead. So in a pinch, we use a plastic bag. We crumple, crumple, crumple. We throw the bag in the air. We chant. And when the bag has landing, we look at the shape and structure of the energies of the plastic, and we will see the future that way.
So because it’s the 25th anniversary of the Eastern Edge this year, could you give a reading for them?
Yes, I have bag ready, and I am now going to focus energies on bag. I am thinking of gallery now, and throw, and look. You may hear noises, so do not pee your pants about this…
PPppffff… eeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhh… Ahhhhh… AhhH!!
I am seeing a lot of cracks. A lot of deep cracks in a big tall shape like a mountain, okay? And I think this is talking about the unknown, the darkness, but also very majestic!
Oh! It is beautiful and shiny! The energies of the artists are going to be there forever. These people are making us happy because they are making their art. The bag is very tiny at top, but underneath is very solid. Very solid, not going to fall over. I see many years. There is at least 35… 38, maybe more. Is very healthy. I feel is so shiny people will love it every time they see it.
Well, thank you Weiner Shaman. I’ll see you at the Eastern Edge.
Thank you, and God bless.
Weiner Shaman will hold his fortune-telling sessions starting at 6pm, Saturday, August 22, outside of Eastern Edge Gallery, 72 Harbour Drive. Don’t tell anyone, but all the Shaman’s meats are, in fact, vegan.