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Witch hunting alive and well in New Guinea
Posted: 08 May 2009 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Read the article HERE:

Witch hunts, murder and evil in Papua New Guinea
A tide of torture and killing of innocent women linked to ‘sorcery’ and the ‘dark arts’ is overwhelming the nation’s police. Ramita Navai, in Port Moresby, reports

Friday, 8 May 2009

Nearly all the residents of Koge watched as Julianna Gene and Kopaku Konia were dragged from their homes, to be hung from trees and tortured for several hours with bush knives. No one came forward to help. In the eyes of the villagers, the women were witches. They deserved to die.

“They used their powers to bewitch a man to death,” said Kingsley Sinemane, a community leader. “We had to get rid of them, as they could have killed others. We had to protect our village.”

<snip>

The homicide squad at Kundiawa police station in Simbu, a steep, rugged province believed to be the epicentre of the witch hunts, is struggling to cope with the surge in murders. Detective Inspector Blacky Koglame estimates there are up to 20 killings a month in this area alone, most of which are not reported. ...

Hard to believe these still go on, but they do. Superstition can kill.

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Posted: 08 May 2009 07:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It is interesting to note a pan-cultural aspect of witch hunting: its emphasis on female victims. There’s nothing intrinsic about a belief in witchcraft that requires its practitioners to be female. Yet the concept of the witch appears in a great many cultures and she is usually a woman. This suggests to me that there is something deeper going on. IIRC, most victims are unmarried. I wonder if the witch hunt is a means of enforcing an requirement that every woman have a male protector?

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Posted: 08 May 2009 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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That is so sad, Doug. Sad too, we still have people in the U.S. who believe in witches, demons, and exorcisms. Even at least two governors - Sarah Palin, who had ‘witches’ cast out of her in that infamous video that circulated during the election, and Bobby Jindal, who claims to have participated in/witnessed expelling demons from a person. And it seems every year in the news, there is at least one headline of some poor child, who dies during an attempt to expel demons from them, either beaten or suffocated to death. Right here in the U.S. How could anyone in this day and age still believe in witches and demons? It’s just terrible. Those poor people who were killed.

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Posted: 08 May 2009 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Chris Crawford - 08 May 2009 07:04 AM

It is interesting to note a pan-cultural aspect of witch hunting: its emphasis on female victims. There’s nothing intrinsic about a belief in witchcraft that requires its practitioners to be female. Yet the concept of the witch appears in a great many cultures and she is usually a woman. This suggests to me that there is something deeper going on. IIRC, most victims are unmarried. I wonder if the witch hunt is a means of enforcing an requirement that every woman have a male protector?

There has been a lot of sociological and anthropological speculation about the role of witchcraft in society. Usually the people picked out as witches are the least powerful and most marginal members of society. IIRC there is some speculation that it is used as a method to enforce social cohesion, as well as to reduce societal stress by giving otherwise insoluble problems a face and a method of extirpation.

Obviously, if you’re going to blame someone for otherwise insoluble societal ills (like unexplained sudden death), it’s much simpler to pick on the least powerful and most marginal to do so. Indeed, the practice most likely wouldn’t survive if it were to ordinarily target the most powerful members.

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Posted: 08 May 2009 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Chris Crawford - 08 May 2009 07:04 AM

It is interesting to note a pan-cultural aspect of witch hunting: its emphasis on female victims. There’s nothing intrinsic about a belief in witchcraft that requires its practitioners to be female. Yet the concept of the witch appears in a great many cultures and she is usually a woman. This suggests to me that there is something deeper going on. IIRC, most victims are unmarried. I wonder if the witch hunt is a means of enforcing an requirement that every woman have a male protector?

That is an interesting observation. I would bet that in at least some cases, a woman is accused of witchcraft by a spurned suitor. He feels humiliated and an easy way for revenge is to accuse her of being evil. It explains away her turning him down while allowing him to keep his honor (“She bewitched me! I could not help but propose marriage, then she turned me down. It was an evil trick!”)

Then again, young ladies competing for a certain groom could easily turn on each other in a similar manner (In Salem, were not some of the people accusing others of witchcraft teen girls who perhaps simply disliked each other?)

Alternatively, someone accused of witchcraft could easily accuse someone else to try and throw the suspicion off of themselves causing sort of a chain reaction. (“Confess who your accomplices were and we might spare your life!”)

But these are just some ideas. I don’t know enough about the culture in New Guinea to make such assumptions. In other countries weren’t men being accused of witchcraft as well, fairly recently? I seem to recall a news story that men were being killed after being accused of putting spells on people.

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Posted: 08 May 2009 07:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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dougsmith - 08 May 2009 07:10 AM

There has been a lot of sociological and anthropological speculation about the role of witchcraft in society. Usually the people picked out as witches are the least powerful and most marginal members of society. IIRC there is some speculation that it is used as a method to enforce social cohesion, as well as to reduce societal stress by giving otherwise insoluble problems a face and a method of extirpation.

Obviously, if you’re going to blame someone for otherwise insoluble societal ills (like unexplained sudden death), it’s much simpler to pick on the least powerful and most marginal to do so. Indeed, the practice most likely wouldn’t survive if it were to ordinarily target the most powerful members.

Do you have a link on that info, the role of witchcraft in society? I would like to read up on that a little, it sounds very interesting.

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Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.    - Lex Luthor

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Posted: 08 May 2009 07:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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dougsmith - 08 May 2009 06:45 AM

Hard to believe these still go on, but they do. Superstition can kill.

I don’t find that hard to believe at all. We are talking about Papua New Guinea here, not the western society.

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Posted: 08 May 2009 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Jules - 08 May 2009 07:21 AM

Do you have a link on that info, the role of witchcraft in society? I would like to read up on that a little, it sounds very interesting.

Now you’ve asked me ... it was stuff I studied back in my university days. One option of a book to look at (I only have the first edition) is Max Marwick’s book Witchcraft and Sorcery, which is a selection of papers from anthropology and sociology.

Or you can check out the Wiki page on witchcraft and look for the citations and URLs that talk about anthropological and sociological analyses.

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Posted: 08 May 2009 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Jules - 08 May 2009 07:16 AM

In other countries weren’t men being accused of witchcraft as well, fairly recently?

I don’t know about the recent ones (I imagine it would be pretty hard to keep track as these things go on all the time in Africa and other such places), but the ratio of murdered men and women in Moravia during the seventeenth-century witchcraft processes was fifty/fifty. They started killing poor powerless women first, but ended up killing mostly rich men, only to confiscate their properties.

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Posted: 08 May 2009 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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dougsmith - 08 May 2009 07:32 AM

Now you’ve asked me ... it was stuff I studied back in my university days. One option of a book to look at (I only have the first edition) is Max Marwick’s book Witchcraft and Sorcery, which is a selection of papers from anthropology and sociology.

Or you can check out the Wiki page on witchcraft and look for the citations and URLs that talk about anthropological and sociological analyses.

No worries - was asking on the off chance it was a recent publication or link that you might recall. The citations on the wiki page should point me in the right direction. It’s the analyses I’m interested in.  smile

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Posted: 08 May 2009 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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George - 08 May 2009 07:51 AM

They started killing poor powerless women first, but ended up killing mostly rich men, only to confiscate their properties.

That is an interesting twist!

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Posted: 08 May 2009 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Jules - 08 May 2009 11:52 AM
George - 08 May 2009 07:51 AM

They started killing poor powerless women first, but ended up killing mostly rich men, only to confiscate their properties.

That is an interesting twist!

Perhaps not that much different from accusing the Jews of killing Christ to get their money.

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Posted: 08 May 2009 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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...or accusing Saddam Hussein of the possession of WMD to get Iraq’s oil.

[ Edited: 08 May 2009 12:06 PM by George ]
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Posted: 08 May 2009 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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That is a very sad topic for their community.  The article about
New Guinea, to me, just seemed like an article about crime, not
about the supernatural.  Criminals committing murder and trying
to dupe the masses into thinking that they are legitimate and
don’t deserve a trial.

A woman mentioned at the end of the article, Umame Gamano,
was accused by her family, then she said that, “I don’t know
why they think I’m a witch and I don’t understand why they
think I killed my husband,” she said. “I loved him so much.”
That inclines me to think that the criminals are happy that she
is dealing with the accusers because that will keep her quiet.
If witchcraft keeps the spot light away from the criminals they
are happy that it is happening.  “Branding someone a witch is
a crime, but Detective Koglame estimates that fewer than 1 per
cent of cases end up in court.”  She needs protection for the
criminals who killed her husband and her family accusing her.

I speculate that the most aggressive men in her society are the
ones who tend to make the accusation of witchcraft against women,
rarely anyone else.

If the woman in Papua New Guinea are interested in magic…
remember “... under the 1976 Sorcery Act. It permits white magic
(healing or fertility rites for example) but the so-called black
arts are punishable by up to two years in jail. This has resulted
in murderers alleging the use of black magic as provocation and
securing reduced sentences”... then aren’t the CFI Humanists
interested in helping women there with their pagan interests?
The law tries to parse the difference between a pagan rite meant
to cast a spell of either: healing friends, family, and themself;
or hurting others.  If our organization were to effectively
reach out to them, to convince them of monism rather than
dualism, the separation between the natural and supernatural
worlds, wouldn’t that help prevent them from getting further
accusations?  Couldn’t it help to make them less vulnerable to
the accusation-of-witchcraft crime?

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Posted: 08 May 2009 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I read that story, it is a very sad commentary on our societies. I parts of Africa, small children are being killed or turned out into the streets as ‘witches’. Often after the local ‘priest’ has fingered the child the family either believes or is to terrified to do anything other than abandon the child.
It seems that 17th and 18th century missionaries played a large part in reinforcing these beliefs that may have been endemic to the regions. I many cases, the concept of witchcraft (to me) seems to have been introduced BY the missionaries, and these cultures remain stuck in 18th century ideas of religion.

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Posted: 08 May 2009 04:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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The poor children! That is terrible.

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