Thursday, July 5, 2018

Not So Bullet-Proof

A couple of people over the years have e-mailed me about making "bullet-proof charms" like those sold by traditional African healers. Since I'm not a spellcaster-for-hire or anything like that, I've corresponded with them and speculated a bit on the kind of magick that would have to be involved. I am of the opinion that it would be very difficult if not impossible to create a spell that would physically flat-out stop a bullet. The probability gradient there is ridiculous. On the other hand, a general protective talisman, bound to a spirit charged with keeping its owner from being shot by whatever means, could be effective in combat situations.

But even if your talisman works, the absolute worst case to defend against is a bullet fired at close range in a non-combat situation - as a traditional healer in Nigeria recently found out.

A self-styled traditional healer in Nigeria has died after one of his clients tested his "bullet-proof" charms on him.

Chinaka Adoezuwe, 26, was killed after instructing the man to shoot him as he was wearing the charms around his neck. Police in the country's south-eastern Imo state say the client has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Charms are popular in Nigeria, where traditional healers are consulted for cures for various ailments. But there have been several reports of people being killed after testing "bullet-proof" charms and medicines.

"A young man had gone to [the healer] to prepare bullet-proof charms for him, which the native doctor did," a villager told the Punch newspaper. "To prove the efficacy of the new charms, [he] positioned and handed over a gun to his customer. Tragedy struck."

My reasoning regarding combat situations is this: not only are most people terrible shots, combat is one of the worst places to be a shooter. It's chaotic, people are running all over the place, it's loud, and there are not a lot of opportunities to really set and line up a shot. Also, weapons are exposed to dirt and grime, and depending on the type of gun may become prone to jamming or misfiring. Finally, there are a fair number of people who just won't fire their weapons for various psychological reasons. All of those things are subject to magical influences at probability levels within a reasonable range.

Now I have no idea how this demonstration was supposed to work. It seems to me that if the healer was a fraud, he would not have deliberately handed the client a loaded gun. Maybe it could have been some sort of magic trick, like the famous "bullet catch" which is always faked - but sometimes in pretty ingenious ways. There have been cases in the stage magic world where people were accidentally handed guns loaded with real bullets instead of blanks, or where people brought up from the audience reloaded the gun without the magician's knowledge to "beat the trick." Or maybe the talismans these healers make are good enough that most of the time they work even under these testing conditions.

Whatever the case, I will say that it's dangerous to rely on a talisman alone to keep you from getting shot. Your best bet would probably be to wear body armor AND carry the talisman. That way the talisman can influence shooters around you so that, for example, a bullet heading directly for you might hit the armor instead of an unprotected part of your body. That gives it one more way to protect you besides keeping the shooters from targeting you and keeping you out of the way of wild shots.

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