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 witch doctors Witch doctors, also called jujumen, obeahmen,

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MessageSujet: witch doctors Witch doctors, also called jujumen, obeahmen,   Dim 18 Avr - 11:36

witch doctors Witch doctors, also called jujumen, obeahmen,
root doctors, conjure men and leaf doctors, serve as
priests and physicians to African tribal members and to
believers in Vodun, Santería, the Mac umba cults in Brazil
and those who seek the healing powers of herbs.
As their name suggests, witch doctors in Africa treat
patients for witch-induced sickness, divining the witch
responsible for a victim’s illness or misfortune and curing
the patient by sending a counteracting spells. As their
power grows, the witch doctors can control entire villages,
convincing members they know the sources of evil and
how to use them. Among the old Zulu and Ashanti tribes,
women often served as witch finders, adorning themselves
in feathers and furs and smearing paint and white clay for
fierceness on their faces. After reaching a hysterical frenzy
brought on by drum beating and chanting, the witch
witch doctors 387
Witches cavorting with demons (Old woodcut)
finders would point to the witch perpetrators, resulting
in the condemned’s immediate execution (see Africa n
witchcraf t).
A witch-doctor general practitioner is called a nganga,
the same word used by the black witches in Santería for
their evil-spirit ca uldrons. The nganga divines the source
of a victim’s misfortunes by casting the hakata, or bones
(the “bones” may be seeds, dice, shells or actual bones),
interpreting the lay of the throws and offering prophecies
of good health or evildoing (see divi nation). Ngangas supposedly
use their power only for good, but they must be
familiar with witchcraft’s evil practices in order to combat
them. If a witch sends a ngozi, or grudge-bearing spirit, to
harm someone, then the witch doctor must know how to
send an even more powerful ngozi to the witch.
poisons provide powerful weapons for the witch doctor,
used to detect witches and perform spells. In a poison
test, the witch doctor administers a poisonous drink to
a suspect; if he sickens and vomits, he is innocent, but
if he tolerates the drink, he is an evil witch. Suspects die
during the ordeal, but their deaths are viewed as divine
justice. A variation on the ordeal is the benge, in which
poisons are given to chickens as the suspects’ names are
read; if a chicken dies while a name is called, that suspect
is guilty.
Used in spells, poisons can bring about the desired
effects promised by the witch doctor. One famous case
involved a root doctor, or specialist in herbal medicines,
named Dr. Bug. For $50, Dr. Bug guaranteed his patients
that they would fail their physicals when drafted into the
armed services. The willing clients took a potion and then
suffered from “hippity-hoppity heart syndrome,” thereby
escaping the draft. Doctors were amazed to find so many
sufferers of the condition, until one draftee took a double
dose to make sure he would fail the physical and died. His
autopsy showed the potion contained a mixture of oleander
leaves, which contain digitalis, and rubbing alcohol,
mothballs and lead.
Witch doctoring did not die with the modernization of
Africa. Now often called “traditional healers” to remove
the negative connotations of “witch doctor,” native practitioners
dispense herbal medicines, divine futures and
seek alternative methods of treatment for their clients,
many of whom have embraced other Western styles and
attitudes. In some cases, the healers, also called jujumen
(from the African juju, or fetish), have scored remarkable
successes, especially for chronic illnesses like high blood
pressure, asthma, mental illness and venereal disease.
In the Deep South region of the United States and in
Haiti, healers are known as root doctors, conjure men or
leaf doctors (dokte feuilles in Creole French). These people
practice herbal medicine, administering potions and
preparations to cure a variety of diseases, especially the
more mundane ones: colds, aching joints, headaches,
gastrointestinal complaints and minor “female complications.”
Although well respected for their knowledge, the
leaf doctors have no special access to the gods and cannot
treat the more serious illnesses brought on by spirit intervention,
spiritual disharmony and witchcraft.
The most famous conjure man in America was Doctor
John, a free black witch doctor in 19th-century New
Orleans. One of Marie Lav eau’s early mentors, Doctor
John controlled most of the blacks and a good deal of
the whites in the city with his powders, love potions and
amazing knowledge about their lives—usually gained
through a network of well-placed spies. He amassed a
large fortune by dispensing gris-gris but ended his life in
poverty after losing his property through fraud. His peers
said Doctor John had been “fixed,” or been the victim of
spells greater than his.
In his research on Jamaican native healers, called
obeahmen, Joseph K. Long asked why many people prefer
witch doctors to trained physicians. In some cases, he
postulated, witch doctors seem more sympathetic, gearing
their treatments to the societal norms of the community.
In others, the disease may be more a form of community
hysteria, and once fears are calmed, the disease
dissipates. Ultimately, however, he found that among
peoples who believe in magic , magic works.
In rural Appalachia, a witch doctor is one who breaks
the spells of witches. If one is troubled by bewitchment,
one seeks out the witch doctor, just as one would go to a
medical doctor for a physical ailment.
Further reading:
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among
the Azande. Abridge. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983.
Mair, Lucy. Witchcraft. New York: McGraw-Hill World University
Library, 1969.
Middleton, John, ed. Magic, Curing & Witchcraft. Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1967.
Parrinder, Geoffrey. Witchcraft European and African. London:
Faber & Faber, 1970.
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