Economics of Witch Hunting



I used to think black magic and mysticism were unique to small isolated communities. It seems that magic is something unique to human culture all over the world. One of the best such documentaries I’ve seen is the award wining National Geographic film, ‘The Great Indian Witch Hunt’. Apparently in the Indian state of Jharkand government had to enact a law banning witch hunting;

“In the interiors of states like Bihar and West Bengal, ‘witches’ or ‘dains’ and their children are still hunted and killed. Witch-hunting is one of the least talked-about acts of violence. The murder of individuals and entire families accused of witchcraft is common in other states too, such as Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. From 1991 to 2000, over 522 cases of witch-hunting have been registered in Bihar alone”.

The following is an official version of the trial of a black magician who was sentenced to death in the Maldives;

“The black magician's trial was held at the Civilization Club on Tuesday 7 April 1953; "The judge conducted a very broad and generous investigation, and the jury found that Huvadhu atoll chief Veeru Ali Didi had been murdered. He was given a mixture of brewed tea and poisonous fish. The tea had been prepared by Nilandhoo Hakeem Didi and Viligili Anees (who died before the trial). Acting under instructions, Anees had written an evil spell on very poisonous fish and boiled it in water. The water was then used to make the tea.

The truth of this incident was clearly proven to the jurors when Hakeem Didi repeatedly confessed without any hesitation. He said he had told Anees all about the black magic and how to do it. He knew the poisonous fish could kill a person, and that if a black magic spell was written on it and then the fish was boiled, the person drinking it would surely die."

Most intriguingly the puffer fish is also used by blacked magicians in Haiti and is associated with zombie magic. The poison found in the fish is said to cause progressive limb paralysis while maintaining consciousness- which has the potential to be used for future space travel!.

In Africa even the high profile believe in the power of witchcraft;

“A recent presidential commission on “satanism” in Kenya, headed by an Anglican archbishop, blamed the country’s floods and droughts on devil worship. Your correspondent once interviewed a defector from Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA movement in Angola. Having delivered a credibly detailed factual account of human- rights abuses by Mr Savimbi, this well-educated man declared that he now feared for his life because Mr Savimbi turned into an owl every night and was then able to fly anywhere in the world.”

The latest edition of the BBC series, ‘In Our Time’ discusses the role of fairies and magic in western culture; In what way have fairies changed in guise and purpose throughout history? How did ancient fairy lore sit with the Christianity of the Middle Ages? How were fairies appropriated for the purpose of the 16th century witchcraft trials? And why did fairies obsess so many Victorian artists and writers?

Related Links;

- Poverty is related to witch killings in Tanzania; The victims are typically elderly women and the killers are often relatives. Predictably enough, Edward Miquel finds that there are more witch killings when extreme weather conditions cause poverty. After all, witches are believed to cause bad weather. In Tanzania, witches are also suspected to cause disease, but an increase in disease does not seem to increase the number of witch killings. This raises the possibility that the women are not scapegoats. Instead, when times are tough, some women are being murdered to avoid the costs of supporting them.

- Some of the Horrors of Pre-Modern Society- a post by Tom Palmer

- A shocking video of an exorcism in the Maldives, it comes with the following warning;
“what you are about witness is real, horrific and a controversial video. This video should not be abused and must be used solely for educational and research purpose. It has been claimed that this is an authentic video of an exorcist practicing exorcism on a subject who has been a victim of an evil spirit. Heart patients should avoid this at all costs.” (browse down on the right side until you come to the post titled Exorcism Purification ).

- Poscast interview with Wade Davis, a noted anthropologist and ethnobotanist; it’s the most insightful podcast I’ve listened to, talks about such topics as how literacy can be a bad thing in tribal societies, the links between caffeine and industrial revolution, looks at American society and politics from an anthological lens and his comments on the drug war almost sounds like that of an economist.

- In the blogosphere I could find only two blogs that border on anthropology and economics; This Blog Sits at the and Social-Political Culture of the Muslim World. Comments welcome.


Jawaid talks little bit about balck magic in Islam in this post responding to question i raised;

Sick hindus, kill eachother because they are al with black magic


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on May 12, 2006 11:48 PM.

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