Friday, April 22, 2011

Ram Sacrifices in Kyrgyzstan

In many parts of the world magick and politics engage in sometimes uneasy alliances. From hexing the forestry service in Uganda to the purple flame venerated by Romania's Social Democrats to prayer offensives in Australia the goal is always the same - to manipulate political structures, situations, and offices using paranormal forces. One hopes that anyone working such magick would be doing so in the interests of the common good, but like any other technology it is the intent of the practitioner rather than the methodology being used that generally determines the ethical status of the work.

The nation of Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet republic in central Asia that usually stays off the radar of our mainstream media. However, it was only a year ago that protests and riots rocked the country much like those currently going on in North Africa. These led to the collapse of an administration condemned by many around the world as authoritarian and corrupt. New elections were held in October and a new parliament was elected, establishing the first democratically elected government in the region. However, within the new legislature turmoil and disputes continued.

Kyrgyzstan elected a new legislature in October in a bid to build the first parliamentary democracy in former Soviet Central Asia, a region otherwise run by authoritarian presidents.

But the fragile governing coalition has come under threat after weeks of bitter recriminations and disputes in parliament, leading a senior government member to resign temporarily.

Kyrgyzstan, which lies on a drug trafficking route out of Afghanistan and hosts both Russian and U.S. military air bases, saw its president toppled by a violent revolt last April. More than 400 people were killed in ethnic riots in June.

Yesterday a group of lawmakers decided to turn to magick in order to rein in these disruptions, sacrificing seven rams on the lawn of parliament in hopes of banishing the "evil spirits" that they believed to be creating chaos within the government.

"We decided to resort to popular customs, in order for this building not to see bloodshed anymore," member of parliament Myktybek Abdyldayev told Reuters after the rams were sacrificed on a green lawn in front of the government headquarters.

Besides hosting the legislature, the Soviet-era white-marble building in the center of the Kyrgyz capital is the official seat of the president and government. Two presidents fled this building to escape violent popular uprisings in 2005 and 2010.

"We acted like those who light candles or fumigate their homes in order to banish an evil spirit from their conscience," Abdyldayev said.

The ritual of making a sacrifice is widespread in the impoverished, predominantly Muslim nation of 5.4 million. It is practiced mainly during funeral repasts and at solemn ceremonies of reconciliation.

"This is a popular ancient tradition, carried out in order to avoid a repeat of last year's tragic events and for peace and harmony to triumph," said parliamentarian Kurmanbek Osmonov.

Naturally, not everyone involved in the government saw it that way, prompting skepticism and outspoken criticism from one of the top opposition leaders.

But Ondorush Toktonasyrov, one of those who led last year's protests that toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, scoffed at the ritual as "a sign of backward mentality."

"Deputies have no idea about parliamentary culture," he told Reuters. "This is an official building where the president works, and the parliament slaughters rams!"

As I see it the real test is whether or not the ritual works, "backward" though it may be. The embrace of widespread cultural practices can certainly empower a government in the eyes of its citizens, even if no paranormal forces are involved. Furthermore, if such forces can be engaged the results can prove truly remarkable. Only time will tell if this ritual will help the government function with greater efficiency and less contention, and if it can accomplish these goals or even shift probability in the right direction I'm all for it.

Of course, the rams likely disagree.

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