Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Smoking Vulture Brains?

The World Cup means it's time for more soccer magick.

I've heard stories about people taking various drugs in order to access psychic powers, but this is the oddest one yet. World Cup gamblers in South Africa have taken to smoking vulture brains, which they believe give them the power to see into the future.

Gamblers seeking to beat the bookies are smoking dried vulture brains, believing it will give them the power to predict match results, it has been claimed.

As the brains in question are those of the endangered cape vulture, conservationists are alarmed rather than amused by the rise of this practice.

Conservationists believe the growth of ‘muti’ magic in South Africa ahead of the World Cup has seen a surge in poaching of Cape vultures, already at risk from lack of food and poisoning.

‘The harvesting of the bird’s heads by followers of muti magic is an additional threat these birds can’t endure,’ said Mark Anderson, of BirdLife South Africa.

Steve McKean, from KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, who has been studying the decline of vultures due to muti magic, said: 'Our research suggests that killing of vultures for so-called "traditional" use could render the Cape vulture extinct in some parts of South Africa within half a century.

I'm thinking that this would be pretty easy to test if one had access to enough vulture brains to go around. All you really need to do is compare the betting results of "smokers" versus "non-smokers" and see if there's any statistical difference. Unfortunately gamblers tend to be a superstitious lot, and if a practice seems to work for them once they will usually repeat it regardless of the overall effect on the odds.

Much of muti magic seems to be based on the scarcity of the materials used. Albino body parts seem to be prized by unscrupulous practitioners simply because albinism is a rare condition and few such parts are available. Similarly, the cape vulture is endangered and as a result its brains are going be hard to come by. One wonders how much of the muti tradition is rooted in the "just world" assumption that anything hard to find is intrinsically more valuable and how much of it is based on empirical testing and observation by practitioners over many generations.

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1 comment:

ChandraNova said...

Those stupid fucking vuvuzelas, they piss me off.

Everyone's all "oh they represent the vibrancy of south African football, it's our culture, we're all special and poor, don't dare comment" - well fuck that.

My English footie culture is, get pissed, and glass and stomp any bastard who isn't on your team.

Think the sponsors would be all so liberal guilt-trip if the World Cup was hosted here?

Think the world's broadcasters would go to such tolerant lengths to screen out the violence (and blood, don't forget the blood) in that case?

I don't care that a silly plastic trumpet isn't quite the same as grievous bodily harm - shut those fucking things up, they're not small and they're not stupid, and they're not big and they're not clever: they're ANNOYING - so, you have been told, world.