Monday, December 11, 2017
Gateway to Sikhism

The Folk Beliefs : Witchcraft

Of the many types of magic there is one which is performed for the general welfare of the community. It is harmless and benevolent. It helps in curing diseases, raising crops and warding off evil spirits. It is known as sympathetic magic. But there is the other type of magic-black magic-which is employed for anti- social purposes. It is performed with the evil intention of taking revenge, causing harm to someone, promoting a split in the victim's house, or ruining someone completely. In the Punjab, a woman expert in witchcraft is called a dain. The witch develops certain occult faculties through incantation and possesses power over an evil spirit which obeys her commands. It is believed that her evil look is very effective and can do.immense harm to its victims. That is why mothers hide their children from the gaze of such women.

In the Punjab there are people who still believe in the cure of a person supposed to be possessed by an evil spirit, by exorcism or conjuration. Among the erstwhile low castes of the Punjab, if anyone has a disease which cannot be diagnosed or cured in spite of treatment, or if he is a mental case, the villagers straightaway begin to believe that he has been to some haunted place and has been possessed by some evil spirit. The Chellas (disciples) remove the spirit from the patient's body by exorcism. Sometimes they even threaten the evil spirit by torturing the patient. They beat him or apply red hot iron bars to his body. The belief is that the victim is only a medium and no harm comes to him; it is the evil spirit who sulters. The spirit gets frightened in this way and deserts the body. When the evil spirit escapes, it either knocks at the door or breaks some object in the house.

Women who have no children adopt many magical remedies to cure themselves of barrenness. One of the methods is that a barren woman beats water at might over the burning pyre or a young bachelor, washes her hair with it, then cooks rice on that fire and cats it. All this time she keeps reciting a charm. It is believed that in this way the soul of the dead man enters the womb of that woman. This spell can be made ineffective, if the burning body is moved with a stick and some part of the body is broken. If some ashes from the pyre are given to someone to cat after uttering a charm, it is believed that he would become an invalid and die of a wasting disease. These ashes are known as kacha masan. Those women, who cannot perform the above spell, wait for some auspicious day, go to a road crossing, bathe there at midnight under the light of the stars, sacrifice a goat and recite some charm.

Those who happen to be at road crossings in villages in the morning can even today see sometimes multi-coloured threads, earthen lamps, mutton, etc., lying all over. If a person steps over these things, he exposes himself to much harm. Charms performed on road crossings are supposed to be very efficacious. Sometimes the witches collect foodgrains from seven houses or water from seven wells to cast a spell. Spells are also easily effective on locks of hair, nail pairings, castaway clothes, or the dust of feet. That is why villagers do not throw these things out in the streets, but they bury them in ditches. When a child's tonsure ceremony is performed, the hair is wrapped in dung and buried deep in a ditch until it can be disposed of in sacred waters.

Some witches in the Punjab are said to possess power to extract the liver of a person by just one glance. Such a witch is known as kaleje khani (liver-eater).

In the folk-tales of the Punjab there is frequent mention of witches who pull out a man's or animal's liver and eat it. They are ultimately caught and punished for their acts. They are also supposed to possess power to open or patch up the sky, turn stones into wax, set fire to water, and turn human beings into any shape they choose.

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