Allow me to explain the justice system we have here in the Philippines in hindsight.
We bring whatever injustices before the court of law and have the culprit answerable, though most of the time in pathetic vein. It is a long and tedious process that, most often than not, the complainants loose interest along the way and never bother to appear anymore before the courts. As a consequence, the non-appearance of the complaining party leads to the dismissal of the cases. Nonetheless, that is the procedure without any alternative. Anything that comes short from the given procedure suffers dismissal of their cases thru technicalities. For the vast unfortunates, sometimes the much awaited justice comes down the drain and the culprit walks out as a free man and unblemished.
But some chose to resort to a more morbid kind of retribution based on ancient practice of witchcraft, back magic, voodoos and potions under the principle of “an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth”.
This article is not intended to promote or encourage the practice but rather to give the readers insight on the unusual, and admittedly creepy, alternative that has been in existence since time immemorial. The Old Testament of the Bible tackles boldly its existence; the New Testament thereof preaches its condemnation and speaks out how Jesus and His apostles discouraged black magic as one coming from the devil.
The birth of this strange alternative remains unknown. What is clear is that it rises as the laws of the land even before civilization come into existence. Yet the recognition of its practice in our society remains in a distinctively secretive and low level.
And then there are the desperate few who resort to a yet another breed of alternative: potion. If you can’t have him, poison him. We read about it in books, have this as plots in movies, the favorite topic among the rumormongers. Yet a piece among us is dying to know how potions work.
Witchcraft; voodoos; spells; and potions: are they really from the devil or just another breed of alternative medicine? Is performing these practices against the unsuspecting oppressors can be called a rare form of retribution for the attainment of justice? How come ever since it came into existence such skill never received recognition both in society and the church?
In the Old Testament, witchcraft is being referred to as sorcery and was associated with heresy and apostasy and to be viewed as evil. As a matter of fact, this practice is being condemned in Galatians 5:20.
The condemnation in the practice was again repeated in the New Testament as found in Revelations 21:8; 22:15 and Acts 8:9; 13:6.
Even Islam condemns such practice. The best known reference to magic in Islam is the Surah Al-Falaq (meaning dawn or daybreak), which is known as a prayer to Allah to ward off black magic.
Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn From the mischief of created things; From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads; From the mischief of those who practise secret arts; And from the mischief of the envious one as he practises envy. (Quran 113:1–5)
Also according to the Quran:
And they follow that which the devils falsely related against the kingdom of Solomon. Solomon disbelieved not; but the devils disbelieved, teaching mankind sorcery and that which was revealed to the two angels in Babel, Harut and Marut … And surely they do know that he who trafficketh therein will have no (happy) portion in the Hereafter; and surely evil is the price for which they sell their souls, if they but knew. (al-Qur’an 2:102)
But before the Church or any religion condemns the practice, what prompted for the few to perform witchcraft?
During the primitive time, people believed that sickness and diseases were caused by bad spirits, curse or spells and to relieve the sickness or disease the bad spirits must be driven away, the curse or spell must be neutralized thru rituals and incantations.
In the same manner, those rituals and incantations can also be used to make people suffer from sickness and diseases.
At that time, it was the learned women who can make the alternative medicines and help cure the sickness. These learned women likewise functioned as midwives and assist in child birth. The word “witch” is actually derived from the word “wicca” which means “wise one”.
However, during the spread of Christianity across Europe, the clergy were not happy at all with the thought of these learned women helping to cure the sick and the ill. This thought runs counter during that time that healing must be done by the men and women were expected to play insignificant roles in the society. As far as the church was concerned, all healing should be done strictly through men in the church.
Also at that time, it was the utter belief that if a person was sick or ill it was God’s punishment for some sin committed and the suffering that came from it was just something that must be dealt with by the afflicted person. Soon thereafter, the healers (learned women) were accused of heresy, sorcery, paganism and devil worship because their practice contradicts the beliefs of the majority in the church.
Start of the Underground
Because of the protest of the church against such practice, the healers were drove further into hiding while some chose to live quietly in remote peasant villages. By the late 1400’s the church sowed fear among the people that led to hysteria. The healers were soon enough branded and were associated with the devil. Those who were practicing and accused of witchcraft were executed publicly in hideous and gruesome ways as a form of punishment.
Contrariwise, the banishment of the witches had actually little to do with the forbidden practice but more on inculcating fear, conformity and obedience of the general public. The truth, according to some source, is that the powerful religious men didn’t really like the idea of a strong woman having any kind of intelligence or aptitude in the community. It was said that the Church leaders were somewhat intimidated by these talented women and it may have been easiest to just eliminate the problem, emphasizing that the church was against black magic and evil, not medicine.
Why Women As Witches?
As discussed above, the discrimination between sexes was prevalent during the pre-Christian period. The usual know-how of curing illness thru natural method was viewed before as witchcraft specially if practiced by a woman.
Society at that time was not inclined to accept contributions of women in any aspect —even if it will be beneficial to the society as a whole.
In the book of Linda C. Hults of “The Witch as Muse —Art, Gender, and Power in Early Modern Europe”, the author mentioned that the discourses and practices surrounding the persecution of witches were linked to men’s efforts to gain power and status which were informed by contemporary masculinity. She further stated that the social forces that came into play as witches were accused, tried and executed were informed by gender at every level (the village, the local court, the state). According to her, the psychological and social impact of this extraordinary negative female stereotype, although difficult to isolate, was surely enormous.
Note however that while most of the accused witches were female, many of their accusers, including those who confessed guilt, were also women.
The witch-hunt in Europe during the 1600s proved that even innocent women were brutally killed by the mere baseless accusations of other jealous or envious women who cultivated grudge against them. Sad to say, the hunt was used as leverage by resentful and spiteful women as vindication against other women.
In 1992, Christian Day tried to explain the origin of why more women were linked to witchcraft compared to men. In his article entitled “The Vulnerability of Women to Witchcraft Accusations”, Day wrote the following:
“In the earliest European societies, dating back prior to four thousand B.C.E., people were grouped into tribes. Life was organized around survival. A male’s ability to hunt was integral to the societal system, but far more important was the power of women to give birth, thereby sustaining the continuity of the tribe. Women were also the healers of these early European societies. It was primarily the women who tended to the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of their people. Often, women were the religious leaders of their tribes, guiding people through the different stages of their lives. The diverse abilities of women were thought to be sacred. These sacred female powers became personified into the figure of a goddess, a deity thought to be the mother of all life. It has been established by scholars that a goddess was probably Europe’s primary deity until as recently as three thousand B.C.E.
“With the beginnings of the warrior classes that arose circa four thousand B.C.E. in Europe and the Middle East, a new ethic regarding women began to take shape. The diverse roles of women became limited to a few. The family line was converted, region by region, from a matrilineal to a patrilineal one. This was done because it made sense to the establishment of the time that the wealth amassed by male warriors should be passed on to future warriors: their sons. To keep pure a patriarchal blood line, women had to be controlled by their husbands in order to prevent extramarital sex, thereby inventing the concept of sexual monogamy. A wife’s infidelity would threaten the legitimacy of a son’s paternity, now so important to a society increasingly focused on war, wealth, and inheritance.
“Myths were written and rewritten to explain women’s basic nature as inherently evil. In the Western civilization this is most explicit in the story of Adam and Eve. Layered over far older Middle Eastern legends, in which Eve appears before Adam, the newer myth portrays Eve as born from Adam’s rib; consequently, she is subject to him. Even more sexist is the idea that because of Eve’s surrender to the temptation of the serpent, she is somehow responsible for all evil in the world; that “The pangs of childbirth and the subjection of women to man are among the penalties for. . .[her] crime”. According to one witch hunter’s guidebook, “. . . the [biblical] scriptures have much that is evil to say about women, and this is because of the first temptress; Eve, and her imitators”. The serpent was certainly a powerful symbol in stories about the fall, and in some of the paintings of this event, including Michelangelo’s within the Sistine Chapel, the face of the serpent is female”.
How Does One Acquire The Knowledge or Skill
Unfortunately, there is none which boldly speaks of how one acquires the knowledge or skill. In Philippine folklore, the skill is believed to be inherited from a dying relative who practices the skill otherwise known as black magic. When refused by a relative or nearest of kin, the skill was passed to another thru “lipad-hangin”; only then the mangkukulam or mambabarang dies peacefully.
Other information led to the belief that organizations, religions or even reading materials teach tricks and spells and even potions.
Lest it be forgotten, the practice was originally viewed as alternative healing practice until the persecution came and the practitioners chose to live underground or in discrete so as to evade punishment.
To be continued….
The Holy Bible
The Witch as Muse – Art, Gender , and Power in Early Modern Europe
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), by Linda C. Hults
The Vulnerability of Women to Witchcraft Accusations by Christian Day (1992)
Alexander Butler (fineartamerica.com)