Here are a couple of recent articles here that show that the belief in witchcraft is still prominent in certain parts of the world.
The Islamic Republic News Agency reports that another man was lynched for practicing witchcraft in India’s northeastern state of Assam. Over the last 4 months, there have been 55 deaths related to witchcraft in the area. According to the article “about 200 people are killed every year in Assam by mobs who accuse the victims of practicing witchcraft or sorcery.” Here’s a snippet from the article:
“It is shocking that even in this age you find about 200 people killed each year in the region, inspired by superstition. The primitive practice of so-called witchcraft is common among the tribal people and is a cause of concern,” district magistrate of Kokrajhar, Hemanga Kishore Sharma told IRNA by telephone.
“We need to get rid of these practices and beliefs, to save innocent lives being lost.” The majority of tribal Bodos, who practice an indigenous faith called Bathow, worship trees. But superstitious beliefs, black magic and demonology form an integral part of tribal customs.
“Most of these bizarre killings are taking place within the Bodo community who believe in witches and their apparent supernatural powers that can be used to both cure ailments and cast spells on adversaries,” said Kanan Basumatary, a college teacher and rights activist in Kokrajhar.
In other news, there was a rather lengthy article in the The Independent on Saturday about witchcraft in Africa in light of a recent murder of an elderly couple.
African witchcraft – the belief that certain natural objects such as plants and animals, dead or alive, and even human body parts can be manipulated to produce an adverse effect showed its ugly face again this week when an elderly couple, Robert Myeni (86) and his wife Nomathamsanqa Qola (85) were attacked by an angry mob while sleeping in their two-room shack in the early hours of Sunday morning.
They were stabbed, wrapped in garbage bags and petrol was poured over them and around the house before being torched. Their terror-stricken grand-daughter, Zandile Sukude, fled and was only found on Wednesday.
One of the points the article makes is that it’s tough to police accusations of witchcraft. How do you prove the supernatural intervened and caused misfortune or death? The police can’t do anything unless the witch/healer has actually killed someone – either during a ritual or for their body parts. So, locals take it upon themselves to seek justice. They form vigilante mobs and go after the suspected witch.
Judge President of KwaZulu-Natal, Justice Vuka Tshabalala, said: “The question we need to ask ourselves is how do you prove that someone has cast a spell on you. It is an allegation that is usually cooked up in the community.
“It would be impossible to prove that a witch is responsible for your bad luck. That is the reason that these claims do not reach police and are dealt with by the community.”
On the other hand, when people believe so strongly in a set of beliefs in the supernatural, it’s difficult to break that belief. And because supernatural belief is so common among these people, lots of people end up involved.
Essay writer Richard Petraitis says “necklacing” of witches in South Africa’s Limpopo province was often caused by an accusation where someone says: “My neighbour caused the lightning which killed my cow during the thunderstorm last week. I know he is a witch, because once when he did not know I was watching him, I saw that he had no shadow.”
“In many cases, the victim’s entire family will be subjected to the same punishment, whether or not they attempt to protect him.
“Observers suspect that jealousy sometimes lies behind accusations of witchcraft: a disproportionately large number of victims of “necklacing” (defined) recently have been the most prosperous or successful or well-educated in their communities,” writes Petraitis.
The article lists a number of cases involving African witchcraft that have made the news in the last year.