2000-Word Essay (50%)
2018-ANT3AWH (BU-1) – Anthropology of Witch-hunts
Dona Malaish- 18339167
Witchcraft and sorcery has been an important concept to many people and in the field of Anthropology that has always entertained and made academics curious to know its existence. It has formed an important part in the studies of magic, religion and science and several scholars like Malinowski and Durkheim have researched extensively over it. From the anthropologist point of view, the witch power is inherited and the sorcerer’s is learned. In this essay I will be discussing and comparing how ideas regarding witchcraft and sorcery fit into the larger society and culture drawing on all the sources in two of the following culture groups, Bali/ Lombok and Vanuatu.
Indonesia is a country that is rich in culture and customs, it is a country strongly influenced by various types of religion and magic. Magic is very strong on the island of Lombok and there are still ancient traditions present to this day and are being practiced. Generally, magic is handed down from father to son throughout the generations; but certain people are selected including women that interest them and feel like they will be willing to continue with the magic practices. Additionally Lombok is an island that lies to east of Bali in Indonesian archipelago. The people of Lombok are called the Sasak, the Sasak are classified into two categories, which is the Wetu Telu they are the traditional Sasak, and the Waktu Lima who are the Islamic Sasak. And their Balinese neighbours are the only individuals who continued to follow Hinduism religion. Additionally Sorcery is the number one practice that’s been done by many Indonesian’s that includes those who secretly denies it. Some of the practices can be found in the district of the Javanese of Banyu Wangi also refereed to as the “Stockroom of Sorcery”. In that community, everybody is able to perform some sort of magic. It could be as simple as palm reading, Card reading, and good luck charms while using the name of God to cover up their act.
The society mostly views magic or witchcraft as something of a physical creature, mainly stereotyped as women. The witches are also seen to trick and eat children, to fly with broomstick at night and casts spells. Although when it comes to the Balinese society, the important elements of their culture are the notion of religion that includes God, people, demonology and witchcraft. Magic seem to be an important aspect of the Balinese culture that controls almost most of the Balinese people, the threat of magic in that culture is seen through a person going to a Balinese with knowledge of sorcery or a shaman and they may obtain a magic prayer or a mantra, a stone or some other items of magic that will help protect and prevent the instruction of evilness. Some people also go to a shaman to instruct evil to someone they dislike or have hate or jealousy towards; that usually involves love magic or even death in the victim’s family. The Balinese people are somewhat closed off when it comes to discussing about witchcraft, mainly due to the fact that they believe witches are extremely obnoxious and can cause harm to their society. They believe taking their names can cause disaster and destruction in people’s lives. (Hay 2005).
Further more, it has been noted by anthropologists that many of the northern Balinese are very fearful of witchcraft and sorcery, which has influenced their social lives. The Northern Balinese are not very interested in black magic or anything to do with witchcraft, they are usually poised, well mannered and are afraid of such living. They refuse to participate with such practices; they are in fact regulated by joyful and cheerful practices so that they’re not captured by fear. Due to the fear of witchcraft many people from the northern Balinese society perform magic ritual on the daily unintentionally such as collecting their hair after combing to ensure that nobody is able to practice magic on them, and to also ensure that they do not offend anyone. Other fear that the Balinese are living with is that the unmarried as well as married people are afraid of the love magic, while nursing parent’s fear of their baby’s death due to witchcraft. They also believe that illnesses are the result of black magic and people die because of them (Wikan, U., 1987).
Moreover, when looking at Geertz book “Religion as a Cultural System” Geertz paid more attention to the ways in which religion is articulated, how religion connects with the spiritual aspects and sorcery, his definition of religion is that “Religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations”. He believes that moods are regulated by responds to the world, while motives are aspired by our values. The religious perspective is the conviction that the values one holds are grounded in the inherent structure of reality, that there is an inner connection with the way one should to live and the way things really are. Each person performs religious practices differently but the interpretation of religion is the one gets everyone confused. For example the Indigenous view dream time as a religion where they sing and write stories for generations, witchcraft and sorcery might also be viewed as a religion to some people and then we have Islamic and Christianity who also have their own beliefs and the affects it has on them. Some of the most important effects of the religious perspective come through a redefinition of our daily life in life of religious perspectives, as Geertz mentioned “”haunt our daily life and cast indirect light on it”. (Geertz 1973, clothing perceptions…”pp.24-35).
Additionally, In comparison to Linda H. Connor and Geoffrey Samuel’s book “Healing Powers and Modernity” focuses more on the indigenous healings and Islamic perception of sorcery. He believes that many people luck proper education in Indonesia therefore are unaware of western healings compared to the men’s who are educated. The connotation of illness still largely constituted through social relations that have persisted from one generation to the next. Sorcery has a continuity of meaning from pre-Islamic times to the present because it has always provided an explanatory link between illness and ever-present strains in village social relationships. From the villagers’ point of view, local variants of biomedicine are part of state-promoted modernist discourse. Until such time as a different engagement with the date evolves through redistributions of power and knowledge, rural people will continue to favour those healing resources that are given to them and that could involve sorcery in other hand sorcery can easily be accessed to compared to western medicine due to the cost of medication while traditional healing is less expensive or might even be free depending on agreement, which are embedded in the social field of the village.
Healing and power in Indonesia are formed into two medical systems, which are the biomedicine and indigenous medicine. The, Elah villagers have access to both. The Indigenous healings are made through body customary medical practices performed by numerous skilled Belian. The curing practices of Belian originated in the Waktu Telu religion. There are thirty seven Belian in Elah, both men and women, most in their forties or older, some people of that region might be dealing with infectious diseases and illness, they are treated differently with magic practices, they prone to treat teeth, illnesses, deliver babies, produce love magic and sorcery, (Hunter 2001). Even though there is other safer ways to delivering baby apart from using magic the Belian still choose to do sorcery because they believe it works better and most people feel that its cheaper to access.
In regards to John P. Taylor’s book, he describes Nakaemas, which is another word for sorcery/witchcraft in the Vanuatu society to be resonated in an everyday life of people in Vanuatu. Nakaema is not defined as broader practice of magic that involves discussions of sorcery or witchcraft in the academic literature but rather a wicked practices that is seen mostly in the North Efate, some of the practices includes poisoning, bodily possession, transforming people into certain animals such as Dogs and sometimes transforming them into devil itself, they control human body and mind and even death can occur through Nakaemas. Throughout the text Taylor had mentioned that victims are usually attacked due to jealousy, wealth, gossips and ownerships. He believes that those practices are a combination of physical, moral and sacred force.
Furthermore, the anthropologists believe that when taking a spiritual belief one has to search and know which agency they are from and who it affects. They believe that humans are both the sources and bearers of agency, individual such as politicians, lawyers, and presidents also undergo self-protection and secure themselves from the forces attacks of witchcraft; those protections are done through a spiritual healers called “Klevas” who uses multiple traditional medicine such as plants and other healing practices to protect the individuals from witchcraft. Klevas also helps reveal the causes of Nakaema, protect people from a curse and also bring an end to a curse and other form of Nakaemas power. (Taylor ADDIN EN.CITE <EndNote><Cite ExcludeAuth=”1″><Author>Taylor</Author><Year>2015</Year><RecNum>1299</RecNum><DisplayText>(2015)</DisplayText><record><rec-number>1299</rec-number><foreign-keys><key app=”EN” db-id=”zp9xdax5dx9pwuedvr2xrfw3z9es52xtvdxf” timestamp=”1424499131″>1299</key></foreign-keys><ref-type name=”Journal Article”>17</ref-type><contributors><authors><author>Taylor, John</author></authors></contributors><titles><title>Sorcery and the Moral Economy of Agency</title></titles><dates><year>2015</year></dates><urls></urls></record></Cite></EndNote>2015). Taylor describes Kleva as the personified embodiment as the ‘Janus faced’ relationship between the sacred power of Christianity and sorcery with their combined powers of ‘black’ and ‘white’ magic.
The context of witchcraft in Vanuatu is very different to that of Balinese culture due to many of the women in Vanuatu being accused of practicing black magic unlike Bali people who has a range of diverse beliefs and notions of witchcraft and sorcery. The Anthropologists were finding it hard to tackle the different practices done by the Vanuatu community, but the process of colonization increased some movements in Melanesia, which is the main island of Vanuatu. Magic in the Vanuatu region is described as a medical term in Melanesia Island, for instance when an individual is ill, it is instantly seen as an attack witchcraft How ever, when the colonization has ended, the cases of witchcraft in that community had failed due to the western education and medication and people started to find free enterprise more smart and for that reason people of that community had reduced their dependency on sorcery (Tonkinson, R., 1981).
Moreover, sorcery was considered as a legislative institution in the Vanuatu region, people believed that it helped to control the society and win over feuds with other villages. It was also seen as the social status for example those who had access to sorcery were seen as though they have a high importance, they believed that people with sorcery have a special power to control people’s lives and their communities as well. Little do they know that witchcraft doesn’t determine a person’s status it’s rather a harmful practice for both the sorcerer and the victim it has a negative affects on people’s lives. Some of the affects includes, sacrifices, death within the family, or major illnesses that contributes from the witchcraft practices. When Christianity was introduced in the Vanuatu region, it took control mainly over the Melanesian culture in a positive way and had made them realize the different religion around the world that doesn’t involve sorcery. In this case, sorcery has created a stir in Vanuatu and resulted in continuous social change (Rio, K., 2014).
Additionally, people of the Vanuatu region are now less fearful of the practices associated with the nkaemas it is no longer viewed as a power regulated by powerful men and it is also easily accessible in a lot of places particularly in the urban areas. The nkaemas are known to be out of control due to people no longer view sorcery as an act of power. (Rio 2002:131) In conclusion, the ideas of witchcraft and sorcery have impacted Bali and Vanuatu considerably and the lives of people have influenced in such a way that dark magic became an important element of their society. The comparison shows different ideas of witchcraft in different society shapes their social lives and alters the lives of people to a large extent.
Rio, K., 2014. A Shared Intentional Space of Witch Hunt and Sacrifice. Ethnos, 79(3), pp. 320-341.
Tonkinson, R., 1981. Sorcery and Social Change in Southeast Ambrym. Social Analysis, Volume 8, pp. 77-88.
Wikan, U., 1987. Public Grace and Private Fears. Ethos, 15(4), pp. 337-365.
Hay, Women Standing Between Life and Death: Fate, Agency, and the Healers of Lombok.
Glifford Geertz, Religion as a Cultural System.
Hunter Sorcery, Healing Powers and Modernity, Traditional Medicine, Shamanism, and Science in Asian Societies.
Taylor Vanuatu Sorcery, Sorcery and the Moral Economy of Agency: An Ethnographic Account, Jone P. Taylor