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In A War of Witches: A Journey Into the Underworld of the Contemporary Aztecs, anthropologist Timothy J. Knab strenuously avoids the academic. Instead, he regales readers with spooky stories about Mexican curanderos, or traditional healers, who perform black magic on the side. What Knab’s conversational prose lacks in polish it makes up for in colorful material—while researching his subjects in modern Mexico, he learns to enter the underworld through dreams, and gains firsthand experience in poisonous potions, soul stealing, and ritual animal sacrifice. He lectures at 8 p.m. at the Ripley Center, Room 3037, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. $13. For reservations call (202) 357-3030; Knab also reads at 5 p.m. June 24 at Borders, 1201 Hayes St., Arlington. FREE. (703) 418-0166. (Nathalie op de Beeck)