Witchcraft Accusations – Still Killing Women Over 300 Years Later

via Doubtful News

A crowd watches Helen Rumbali, a woman accused of witchcraft, being burned alive. Photo credit: Post Courier A crowd watches Helen Rumbali, a woman accused of witchcraft, being burned alive last February. Photo credit: Post Courier

A crowd watches Helen Rumbali, a woman accused of witchcraft, being burned alive. Photo credit: Post Courier

What is the cause of increasingly visible problem of witchcraft accusations in PNG?

Witch hunts in Papua New Guinea linked to jealousy – Yahoo! News.

There is no clear explanation for the apparent uptick in killings in parts of the South Pacific nation, and even government officials seem at a loss to say why this is happening. Some are arguing the recent violence is fueled not by the nation’s widespread belief in black magicbut instead by economic jealousy born of a mining boom that has widened the country’s economic divide and pitted the haves against the have-nots.

“Jealousy is causing a lot of hatred,” said Helen Hakena, chairwoman of the North Bougainville Human Rights Committee, which is based in the area Rumbali was killed. “People who are so jealous of those who are doing well in life, they resort to what our people believe in, sorcery, to kill them, to stop them continuing their own development.”

She said the witchcraft accusation against Rumbali was just an excuse.

“There’s no doubt that there are really genuine beliefs there and in some circumstances that is what is motivating people: the belief that if they don’t kill this person, then this person is going to continue to bring death and misfortune and sickness on their village,” said Miranda Forsyth, a lawyer at Australian National University who has studied the issue.

But she said recent cases in Papua New Guinea don’t appear to be motivated by a genuine belief in the occult, but instead are a pretext under which the wealthy can be attacked by poorer neighbors, and, many times, get away with it.

She and other experts on witchcraft in the Melanesia region believe Papua New Guinea’s newfound prosperity and the growing inequality in its traditionally egalitarian culture is a significant cause of the violence. Neighboring Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, where belief in black magic is also widespread, haven’t seen the same level of extreme violence against accused witches.

"More Weight" last words of Giles Corey - Accused Warlock

“More Weight” last words of Giles Corey – Accused Warlock

Today, June 10, is the anniversary of the first hanging in the Salem witch trials, Bridget Bishop in 1692. Yep, 321 years ago. And this is still going on in the world. For slightly different reasons. According to history, Bishop may have been accused because she was outspoken, she owned one or more taverns, played shuffleboard, and/or dressed in provocative clothing. The belief in Salem was more palpable then due to the strict religious belief and lack of contact with the larger society. In the case of PNG, we see the disparity between poverty and wealth. This piece notes that it may not be such a literal belief in the occult that is at the core of the issue but the fact that they can get away with it. However, a particularly violent form of black magic belief is spreading. The country is under pressure to stop this persecution. It’s doubtful that will happen fast. It is complex problem to solve that might only be fixable through strong cultural condemnation of the practice, and time –  for the old beliefs to fade away.

  • http://liminal-analytics.org/ David Metcalfe

    Very glad to see a news piece that addresses the actual drivers for this kind of violence, rather than getting caught up in whether witchcraft is real or not.

  • Guest

    This place is horrible and the people too. I seen real witchcraft and i can tell you this, that it is nothing to play with and can you really kill smeone who is a real witch?

    • echar

      I think someone is giving you the evil eye right now. You better get the salt!

    • VaudeVillain

      Which place is horrible? Which people?

      Honestly, I’m having trouble parsing your comment, I think the problem lies primarily in your punctuation.

      I believe that you assert having seen real witchcraft used, and warn us that it is very dangerous. Then, I’m not sure, but are you asking if a real witch can be killed?

      To that assertion, I respond that I too have seen “real witchcraft” and it is, for the most part, harmless. Obviously if somebody is, say, carving into human flesh with a big ass knife, that isn’t so harmless, but I can’t say that I’ve ever seen an actual witch do such a thing or met one who would even consider it. For reference, I know at least a dozen people who might, to varying degrees, be considered practicing witches, including an archdruid who is, almost certainly, the most dangerous individual I know (retired Force Recon).

      To the question: yes, or at the very least, none have yet be discovered to be immune to death. This isn’t Hocus Pocus we’re talking about, people are very much mortal, even if they consort with spirits.

  • Ted Heistman

    PNG has a high murder rate.

  • tdandy

    Its just good old fashioned class war with some spice.

  • Juan

    Usually when you see these kinds of incidents there are xtian evangelicals behind it. That was certainly thie case in the Amazon, where you had converted evangelicals actively going out and killing shamans because they were told they were “devil worshipers.”
    The author of this piece speculates that the cause is a recent mining boom. But, I wonder if there aren’t missionaries behind this as well.

    • echar

      Witchcraft is still being used as a weapon to get rid of someone though. As with the Salem witch trial. It’s speculated that some of the people were accused because of land deeds as well as being that odd person in town.

      Another speculation is that the women in the Quaker culture were so powerless, especially the young, that having the ability of playing God got out of hand. I wonder if this may happen in PNG?