A Spiritualist `School’ in Westbrook Offers a Metaphysical Menu That Includes Massages, Marriages and Helping People Connect With Their Higher Selves.
Ahura Zakhuur Di- liiza, known simply as “Z” to his students, says Westbrook has been welcoming and “pretty cool” ever since he opened Unicorn Cove, his “School of Metaphysics & New Age Supply Shop” on Main Street. Except, of course, for the people who come in and call him Satan.
It’s easy to see why his new place, which opened in July, might send some curious locals scurrying for the holy water. There, in the list of services listed on Diliiza’s brochure, is “Spellwork.” And some of the music he’s into includes chants in Latin.
But the offer of spellwork is followed by this disclaimer: “At Unicorn Cove we operate strictly in positivity and Light. NO curses, hexes or dark spells are performed here. We are here to help, not harm!”
The philosophies characterized as “New Age” take an eclectic approach to spirituality, borrowing a bit here and a bit there from different religious traditions, then adding a dash of quantum physics or other modern ideas.
New Age concepts are often criticized by intellectuals as pseudo- science with no basis in fact, and some Christians warn that the movement is dangerous because it promotes false teachings.
“The New Age has frequently been cited as among the most difficult of contemporary religious phenomena to comprehend,” said J. Gordon Melton, founding director of the Institute for the Study of American Religions, in a speech on the topic.
“The New Age was seen as having some relationship to the older world of the occult,” he said. “Historically, the world of occultism was not one to be understood but denounced.”
Not so much in Westbrook.
“The majority of Maine people I have found truly delightful,” Diliiza said. “Since I’ve opened the store, people have come by and tried to tell me how great they are. That’s good, you don’t need me then.
“There have been people who have come by and called me Satan,” he said. “Satan means adversary or enemy of God. I am no enemy of God. I serve God, so that’s incorrect.”
Diliiza, who is 46, does know something about hell. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles in a tough, very poor neighborhood.
“I’ve been injured a great deal,” he said, “and because of that I’ve been forced to heal myself so I can help others. I know hell because I’ve been to hell. I know the way out. I stand there and I stop people from walking in, if I can.”
The stately brick building that houses Unicorn Cove is a former funeral parlor that is surrounded by churches and smells of incense. While there are plenty of places in southern Maine that teach martial arts, or offer psychic readings, or the catch-all service of “energy work,” Di-
liiza’s place is unusual in that it offers such a wide variety of metaphysical services, some by donation and others for a fixed price.
The menu includes everything from massages to performing marriages and making “vibrational frequency” recordings used “to enhance and help connect a person with their higher self.”
And then there’s, gulp, “entity removal.”
When Diliiza says he does “house cleanings,” he’s not talking about mopping floors.
Maine has long been a haven for fans of New Age philosophies. There are about three dozen listings under “holistic practi-
tioners” in the Portland telephone book alone. Reiki healing and polarity therapy were common here well before they caught on in the mainstream.
Is it the energy here? Is it written in the stars?
Diliiza thinks it’s attitude.
“Maine has the attitude that will allow a person to grow, and I think because of that attitude, people feel a little freer,” he said.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Diliiza learned to keep quiet about his more unusual talents, such as seeing ghosts and spirits. He says he has always been telepathic, although reading minds is “against the law.”
“It’s metaphysical law,” he said. “You stay out of people’s heads.”
He is also an artist and musician who has a small music studio in the same room where he gives “telepathic readings.”
He says vampires exist, but is utterly disdainful of teenagers who dress in gothic style and run around claiming to be those very creatures, biting each other. Or, as Diliiza describes them on his Web site, the “teenaged angst’ers that have absolutely nothing to be angry about, that walk around looking like rejects from a low budget version of `The Matrix.’
” . . . if you really met up with a vampire, you’d pee your little leather pants.”
It’s hard to get a reading on Diliiza. One moment he is professing knowledge of vampires, the next he is offering common- sense advice. Got a problem with alcohol? Stay away from bars. Don’t take any drug that hasn’t been prescribed by a physician.
He says he got this practical bent from his own teacher, a woman from Long Beach, Calif., whom he knew only as “Shri.” Her first piece of advice to him was to find a job he could keep longer than two weeks.
“You can have all the faith in the world, but you’ve got to do something with it,” Diliiza said. “And that’s what I represent. Be something. Do something. Do something to make yourself better.”
It’s the reason he calls himself “the unicorn” and has images of the legendary animal, many of which he created himself, all around the building.
“A unicorn stands up for people who can’t stand up for themselves,” he said. “It’s a concept, if you will. In other words, I will do those things that other people are afraid to do and then teach them how to do it. There’s a way out of every single hell, no matter what anyone tells you. The last thing you should do is give up hope.”
COMFORTABLE IN MAINE
Before moving to Maine almost eight years ago, Diliiza lived in Oklahoma, where he says he lost everything there in a tornado in 1998. He had visited Portland once before to check out the music scene and liked the city because it reminded him of Seattle.
He worked as a waiter at Denny’s for a while. Then he opened a small store on the corner of Congress Street and Forest Avenue, where he gave readings and created clay figurines.
That’s where Beth Morill of Westbrook, one of Diliiza’s “core students,” met him three years ago. At the time, she was attending the Portland School of Art and “was in a negative place.”
Her teachers, she said, were telling her she was doing everything wrong, right down to the way she held her paintbrush.
“He helped me realize why I felt the way I felt,” she said.
Today Morill, who works in a hardware store in addition to being an artist, comes to Unicorn Cove every day to paint.
Diliiza’s wife, Sinari, and daughter, Evie, also work at the school.
On a recent Thursday, Danielle Bird of Portland stopped in for a meeting with Diliiza and a hula – yes, hula – lesson from his daughter.
Bird has been reading a book about “psychic self-defense” that Diliiza recommended to her and sits with him in his telepathic reading area by a window to ask him questions. She said she heard about him from her mother, who wanted her to take some martial-arts classes and other things in preparation for a trip to South Africa this fall.
“I want to be prepared,” she said. “I want to be a little bit more in tune with my body, my mind. I want to be able to focus and concentrate a little bit better than I currently do. My last year of college is coming up.”
Asked if there are some critics out there who might think that he is taking advantage of people, Diliiza replies, “How?”
“Money? My students don’t have any money,” he said. “Time? Make them do things for me? I do everything myself. What you see built here, I did. Me.”
Later, in the reading area, Diliiza sits with a visitor and takes some more questions. On a small table with a blue glass top are some Tarot cards, a candle and a bottle of bitter almond oil used for making the “prosperity oil” that he sells in his shop downstairs.
“You see, what people don’t know is that it’s their own spirit and their own body that will give them whatever they need, but everything has a practical step,” he said. “These oils make it possible for them to do so. Whether a person believes in it or not is irrelevant.”
At one point, he asks the visitor to tell him her birthday, and he throws back his head and laughs when he hears the answer.
“That’s funny,” he said. “That means you’re a bit of a universalist yourself. That’s very interesting.”
He reveals that his birthday is not only the same as his visitor’s, they are the same age. That means they were born the same year, on the exact same day.
Asked for some proof – say, a driver’s license? – Diliiza seems a bit offended but goes to look for his wallet.
The license shows he is telling the truth.
“I don’t lie,” he said. “I have nothing to lie about.”