Friday, June 12, 2009

Suspected Albino Killers on Trial in Tanzania

The African nation of Tanzania is continuing its offensive against traditional witchcraft by opening five cases against suspects believed to be behind the killing of albinos for their body parts, which were then sold to traditional witchcraft practitioners for use in magical rituals.

State-run Daily News newspaper, citing High Court’s Senior Deputy Registrar John Utamwa, said the five cases started in Shinyanga, one of the regions worst affected by the killings in which over 40 people have lost their lives since mid 2007.

The newspaper said Utamwa would not give more details on the cases and did not say how many people were arraigned in court.

Daily News, citing Director of Public Prosecutions Eliezer Feleshi, said another five cases will be filed in Tabora, three in Mwanza and two in Kagera.

Tanzania is an odd case in that usually legal prosecutions of individuals connected with witchcraft in Africa are either persecutions of the falsely accused or prosecutions of vigilante mobs who decided to take "justice" into their own hands following the accusation of a neighbor. It sounds like the accused were not witchcraft practitioners themselves, but without the continuing demand for body parts they of course would have had nothing to sell and probably would have pursued a different line of work - though it may have been some other form of organized crime.

Trials were held earlier this year in neighboring Burundi related to the killing of albinos there, apparently for the Tanzanian witchcraft trade.

The trials follow similar ones that started in neighbouring Burundi in late May. At least 11 people have been killed in Burundi since last year. Authorities in the tiny central African nation say the murders were done at the behest of people in Tanzania, who use the genitals, skin and bones in witchcraft in the belief that this will bring prosperity in areas such as fishing and mining.

Hopefully most of the killers are now on trial and will be found guilty by the legal system. If the trade in albino body parts ends Tanzanian magicians might be forced to do some empirical research and realize that there is nothing special about albinos that makes their body parts especially suitable for magical rituals. It's not like the absence of a pigment-producing gene substantially alters the body's morphic field in any useful way. Better still, maybe the body-part-using magicians will be forced out of the business leaving only those who figured out a long time ago that you don't need body parts of any sort to cast a successful spell.

UPDATE: A group representing albinos in Tanzania and Burundi has called for more education about albinism to dispel the superstitions surrounding it, on the grounds that these prosecutions alone will not be enough to stop the killings. Sadly, they're probably right.

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8 comments:

Rufus Opus said...

oh... dude...

they kill albinos for magic parts?

I mean...

Couldn't they just use white people? LOOK at all the perfectly useless white people going around! The vibe can't be THAT different between an albino and a pasty geek boy fresh from his momma's basement, right!? Nothing a little bleach and a prayer or two to consecrate it wouldn't hurt.

There aren't enough albinos to go around, I get that, save the albinos: kill a geek.

Ananael Qaa said...

they kill albinos for magic parts?

Yeah, it's pretty amazing to me some of the superstitions that develop around the world. I guess the idea is that pigment blocks magick - or something.

Couldn't they just use white people?

You would think they could do that for any body part aside from the hair and eyes, since our skin pretty much lacks melanin as well.

One wonders, in fact, if this criminal organization ever tried that - killing a white person and then telling their client that the parts came from an albino. It would certainly have been a lot less work for them.

Rufus Opus said...

We apparently have larcenous occult minds. :-D

lsmft said...

"nothing special about albinos that makes their body parts especially suitable for magical rituals... "

I'm not certain that this is necessarily the case. While the morphic fields may not be usefully altered, I can see other views that might make it magically useful to use albino parts- try these on for the sake of argument:

1) Whereas in contagion based magick similarity is leveraged, in anti-contamination or "luck changing" magic difference is leveraged.

2) Rarity equates to value in other areas, and we see this in Western magick pretty regularly. The use of gold seals, rare woods and so on. This could well be applied to human parts. The use of the parts of miscarriages and deformed persons has a long history. If people-parts have value in magick, it is logical to increase that value based on the rarity of the morphology of particular humans.

What we really need is control and test subjects...

Ananael Qaa said...

Whereas in contagion based magick similarity is leveraged, in anti-contamination or "luck changing" magic difference is leveraged.

Could you elaborate on this idea a bit? I'm not familiar with it. Anti-contamination magick is pretty much just banishing, and luck magick involves invoking the forces that govern luck and commanding them to do your will. Or at least that's how I do it.

Rarity equates to value in other areas, and we see this in Western magick pretty regularly.

In psychology this is derived from the "just world assumption," the natural tendency of the human mind to assume that something is inherently more valuable because it is hard to obtain. There are a number of experiments in psychology that show how fundamentally wrong this idea is. It's like believing that a coin is going to come up heads on the current flip because on the previous flip it came up tails. It has no basis in reality, but it feels right according to common sense.

"Just world" is one of the biggest problems not only in magick and spirituality but also in our society as a whole. The idea that you have to work hard (as in endure suffering) in order to accomplish anything worthwhile is profoundly foolish, and furthermore in the world of business the idea that working hard gives what you do value regardless of whether or not it produces objective results has managed to poison most companies above a certain size. Does it really matter if your manager spends 80 hours a week in the office if all he or she is doing is playing solitaire on the computer? How about if he or she is making decisions, but they all are bad ones?

Here's another related thought - if the magical value of albino body parts is rooted in "just world," would a body part from a white person still work if the seller told you it was from an albino and you believed them?

What we really need is control and test subjects...

Yup, empiricism is really the best way to resolve questions like this. Magick can only benefit from more rigorous experimentation.

lsmft said...

>>Could you elaborate on this idea a bit? I'm not familiar with it. Anti-contamination magick is pretty much just banishing, and luck magick involves invoking the forces that govern luck and commanding them to do your will. Or at least that's how I do it.

In the the Western systems, I agree that we pretty much treat banishing as the be-all/end-all of anti-contamination magick, because it works with a minimum of expended effort to accomplish the goal of getting rid of something. However, even from within the Western tradition, it is possible to conceive of more aggressive forms of anti-contamination magick: aggressive wards or servitors aimed to disrupt contaminative or unwanted forces. A Working that functions as inoculation would approach what I'm pointing toward.

As for luck magick, The usual western approach seems to be the banishing of "bad luck" forces followed by an invocation of "good luck" forces. I suggest that another approach is available, particularly when the source of the bad luck is known: the invocation of a luck-force determined by it's difference from that invoked by the source. If the "bad luck source" is associated with the color orange, than invoking the bejaysus out of blue luck forces would be a leveraging of such differences. again, this is a counter-invocation intended to either nullify or decimate and survive the force it is invoked against.

From my standpoint, both of these seem like more work than they would be worth, but they stand as potential approaches.

>>>Rarity equates to value in other areas, and we see this in Western magick pretty regularly.

>>In psychology this is derived from the "just world assumption," the natural tendency of the human mind to assume that something is inherently more valuable because it is hard to obtain.

I understand the nature of the ""JWA" - we use it in philosophy as well, and I completely agree it's a bogus assumption - it ignores that value also depends on utility. However, that doesn't mean that we (as a community) don't encounter it and even leverage it from time to time. Consider the baroque requirements of the French Abramelin translated by Mathers versus the relative simplicity of the German sourced Dehn and then again the even more simple Liber Samekh (Simple in form, not necessarily "easy", I mean.) If one finds the entrainment of complex labor useful, one would work from the French source, one who works well within the confines of his skull would choose Samekh. Dehn seems to split the difference.

The point I'm trying to make is that regardless of the fallacious nature of the JWA, if the JWA is part of an operator's worldview, the rest of my statement still follows readily making the Albino parts of more value than the standard issue ones, if only insofar as they effect the perception of a believing operator thereby aiding in the development of the working. It may in fact serve only as a placebo, but if it facilitates the attainment of the required states within and around the operator, then the albino parts will have had an effect. In such a case, white-people parts would certainly have served equally well when labelled as Albino parts- the effect is psychological, not magickal as such. Admittedly, arriving at such circumstances as using people-parts requires a radically different view than what modern Western magickians espouse, but would not a naive
reading of Crowley's "Of the Bloody Sacrifice: and Matters Cognate" produce such a view?

>>Yup, empiricism is really the best way to resolve questions like this. Magick can only benefit from more rigorous experimentation.

A white guy, an albino and a Tanzanian sorcerer walk into a bar....

Gordon_Finn said...

>>A Working that functions as inoculation would approach what I'm pointing toward.

This would be something you see in many occult healing practices, like reiki. You direct the energies into the past to stop the side effects they have caused you in the present. 'Preventing' your initial reaction heals you/makes you better and you direct it through that person's entire past up to the present moment.

>>again, this is a counter-invocation intended to either nullify or decimate and survive the force it is invoked against.

This isn't unheard of for me. For instance, when I've had some people go out of their way to be asses to me, I'll sometimes throw a love spell on them or use a spirit to fan the flames of their sense of guilt, professional responsibility, personal responsibilty, maturity, etc. and they self-censor their actions. Other times, I'll just use a spirit to fan the flames of their sense of guilt and throw a curse their way and they'll self-censor that way.

Ananael Qaa said...

However, that doesn't mean that we (as a community) don't encounter it and even leverage it from time to time.

Yes we do, but I strongly believe that we shouldn't. You'll never get at the truth by feeding falsehoods, no matter how helpful they might seem to be in the short term.

The point I'm trying to make is that regardless of the fallacious nature of the JWA, if the JWA is part of an operator's worldview, the rest of my statement still follows readily making the Albino parts of more value than the standard issue ones, if only insofar as they effect the perception of a believing operator thereby aiding in the development of the working.

And if this is the case, more education probably is the answer. The faster that educators and activists can get rid of those beliefs the better, especially for African albinos.

Other times, I'll just use a spirit to fan the flames of their sense of guilt and throw a curse their way and they'll self-censor that way.

Personally I would rather just create a material consequence that I see as appropriate to the manner in which I was wronged. Guilt is in my opinion a useless and thoroughly corrosive emotion, and creating more of it just makes the world a worse place in which to live.