Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Witchcraft Beliefs and Cultural Paranoia

I've often commented that I'm glad to be living in the United States instead of Africa, particularly those countries where belief in witchcraft and magical practices is widespread. As a practicing magician I put a lot more stock in the effectiveness of magick than most Americans do, but at the same time it's clear to me that in societies where most people share those beliefs the results can lead to witchcraft accusations and vigilante actions against completely innocent individuals. Because the effects of magick are subtle it can be hard to tell who might or might not be using it, so a sort of cultural paranoia can arise surrounding such practices. This recent article from Kenya advises readers on what to look for in order to spot people who might be using magick in the office, and is a perfect example of the sort of thinking this paranoia engenders.

Do their moods change inconsistently without reason, sometimes friendly, other times incredibly hostile? Do they fall asleep on their desks, looking dazed, as the boss waits for that time-barred assignment?

Do you have workmates who carry the same bag everyday, mostly yellow or brown in colour even if it is dirty and torn and belongs in the dustbin? And why has this other one been wearing the same green coat for the last ten years, or that greyish old sweater the whole year, whether it is hot or cold?

Do they reject a hug or handshake all the time?

Do they refuse to take office tea and always remove their shoes and walk around the office bare foot? Do they visit the toilet more than three times a day? Do they sneeze whenever the boss summons a colleague to his or her office? What about the male colleagues who never wear socks?

It could be a coincidence, but chances are one or all these people have been visiting a witchdoctor and the witchdoctor has given them strict instructions on what to do to survive at the office.

Instructions may include the colours to wear to work to please or confuse bosses and what to put under his or her carpet to earn promotions, office trips and excessive per diem at the expense of others.

See the pattern? In effect, anything even marginally unusual or out of the ordinary in terms of one's office behavior can constitute "proof" of witchcraft-related activities. This includes financial trouble of whatever sort, since maybe the person in question is just not doing well enough to replace his or her coat or bag with a new one. Even if many people here in the states think I'm crazy to believe in, let alone practice magick, I'll take that over my co-workers scrutinizing my every quirk for evidence of magical manipulation any day.

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