Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Magick in the Middle East

I suppose it's no surprise to see this article discussing the widespread belief in magick throughout the Middle East. After all, Saudi Arabia is the only country I know of that has its own anti-witchcraft squad and witchcraft persecutions are common in the region. What I was not quite aware of, though, is the degree to which accepting the existence of magick is an integral part of Islamic belief. In Christianity and Judaism there seems to be a lot more flexibility on the issue, especially in Western nations. Whether or not that's a good thing is open to interpretation - I work magick so I know that it exists, but at the same time there's a lot to be said for living in a country where I'm not going to be hounded out of my home, assaulted, or even killed because of my practices. If I were living in Saudi Arabia, for example, I would need to keep my practices secret for fear of attracting attention from both my neighbors and the authorities.

Belief in black magic runs deep in Saudi society. The issue was raised last month when the quasi-legislative body Shoura Council granted permission for Moroccan women to work as maids in Saudi households. Hundreds of Saudi women complained to the Council that granting Moroccan maids permission to work was tantamount to allowing the use of black magic in their homes to steal their husbands. Saudi wives complained the issue was not lacking trust in their husbands, but their men were powerless to ward off spells.

While greeted with skepticism in western societies, Saudis would no more question the existence of black magic than they would Islam. Two surahs (chapters) in the Qur’an under Al Mi’wadhatyan address black magic and are often recited during or after prayer. Simply, part of being a Muslim is believing in the existence of magic.

In April of this year, members of the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice underwent special training in the Eastern Province to investigate black magic crimes.

Although also found in Christianity and Judaism, casting spells is particularly common in Oman, Sudan, Yemen, Morocco and Indonesia. Turkey is a secular Muslim country, but protection against evil eye is deeply rooted in virtually all aspects of daily life. Tools of witchcraft include using lizards, dead birds, photographs, hair, thread, dirt, blood and red ink. Hiding places to place the “spell” may be in bedrooms and under beds. Written spells generally contain the intended victim’s name and one or two words to state the intention to do harm.

This article also answers a question I asked in the original anti-witchcraft squad article - if magick is officially forbidden in Islam, how does the anti-witchcraft squad go about breaking spells? The answer is that there are particular passages from the Qur’an that are believed to counter spells, so these passages are "read with reflection" in order to mitigate or remove the effects of negative magical influences. Which I would refer to as magick in its own right, of course, but as in many other religious traditions Muslims draw a line between magical operations that are sanctioned and those that are not.

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