Witchery, Angry Peasants and Pre-Mortem Burial

When I initially saw this story, I intended to do a little piece about how I like hearing that there are pockets of the world that still embrace ravenous superstitions. While more often than not it doesn’t serve them well, it is nice to know that that type if life hasn’t been consumed by progress entirely. I stand by that belief, but this story is an excellent example of what can happen if you can’t move beyond that system and I think probably also offers a look back in to the not to distant past for the rest of us.

Papua New Guinea is an isolated South Pacific island off North Australia, in which some tribes had their first contact with the outside world in this lifetime. There are approximately 800 languages spoken among the tribes scattered in pockets across the island. It is one of the last seats of true primitivism that exists on the planet. Papua New Guinea has a vicious HIV crisis, and the public has taken to blaming it on witches. They determine whether one is a witch in some cases based simply on how they walk. Once you have been fingered as a witch the flailing mob takes over and vanquishes the witch in some pretty heinous ways.

This is from a report in the Khaleej Times
“There are reports of women being tortured for days in efforts to extract confessions,” wrote research fellow Miranda Tobias.

“Women have been beaten, stabbed, cut with knives, sexually assaulted and burnt with hot irons. One woman had her uterus ripped out with a steel hook.

“It is estimated that there have been 500 such attacks in the past year,” the independent think tank said.

Since I read all of this, I’ve seen two additional articles detailing just how bad it is there. A recent report from The Scotsman explains how a former British teacher living in Papau New Guinea had had repeated burglaries into his home there and so turned to “black magic” to protect it… Basically he had a local witchdoctor cast a protection spell on his house. When the locals, who were also the burglars, caught wind that he’d been cavorting with witchdoctors (something apparently quite common) they hacked him to pieces with both a hatchet and a machete.

In addition to all of the witchy shenanigans, fear mongering and violence, the people who are actually stricken with AIDS are being buried alive with the hope it will keep the disease from spreading. Buried Alive. Sick but still very much alive, and often crying out in protest they are thrown in a hole and buried. There was an article on this as well but I forgot to hold onto the link.

So yes, I like knowing that there are corners of the world where the bogeyman is real, but science clearly has its benefits too.

– Prof. Gruntsplatter