Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Voodoo Death

Voodoo Death

In my book, I discuss several different aspects of Voodoo Death.

Spells, curses, black magic etc.

"It has been authoritatively related that on one of the South Sea Islands where voodooism is practiced, strong, healthy young natives died a few weeks after they had been told that a gum-tree image of themselves had been fashioned by a voodoo priest, thrust through with a sharpened twig and melted in a flame." (Yawger, 1936, p. 876, quoting Strecker and Appel)

"The witch doctor is the arbiter of life or death, for not only is the victim he selects led away to drink the ordeal, but so implicitly do the people believe in him that, when he says his patient will die, this invariably happens, as his friends at once begin to prepare his funeral, and instead of feeding the patient, they dig his grave and send to call his relatives to the obsequies. The medicine man has said he will die, so what is the use of wasting time and food on him." (Yawger, 1936, p. 876, quoting Weeks)


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"In Lasinsky's voyage around the world, there is an account of a religious sect in the Sandwich Islands, who abrogate to themselves the power of praying people to death. Whoever incurs their displeasure receives a notice that the homicidal litany is about to begin; and such is the effect of the imagination that the very notice is frequently sufficient, with these people, to produce the effect." (Yawger, 1936, p. 876, quoting Reid)


"Years ago, a medical periodical in India published an article entitled 'Killed by the Imagination'. In substance it stated: A celebrated physician, author of a work on the effects of the imagination, was permitted to try an astonishing experiment on a criminal who had been condemned to death. The prisoner, an assassin of distinguished rank, was advised that, in order that his family might be spared the further disgrace of a public hanging, permission had been obtained to bleed him to death within the prison walls. After being told 'Your dissolution will be gradual and free from pain', he willingly acquiesced to the plan. Full preparations having been made, he was blindfolded, led to a room and strapped onto a table near each corner of which was a vessel containing water, so contrived that it could drip gently into basins. The skin overlying the blood vessels of the four extremeties was then scratched, and the contents of the vessels were released. Hearing the flow of water, the prisoner believed that his blood was escaping; by degrees he became weaker and weaker, which, seemingly, was confirmed by the conversation of the physicians carried on in lower and lower tones. Finally, the silence was absolute except for the sound of the dripping water, and that too died out gradually. 'Although possessed of a strong constitution (the prisoner) fainted and died, without the loss of a drop of blood.'" (Yawger, 1936, p. 875) (See also the 'famous experiment in Montpellier' (Liek, 1933, p. 81).)

Magical influence upon and/or reversal of the Voodoo Death process

"Dr. S.M. Lambert of the Western Pacific Health Service of the Rockefeller Foundation wrote to me that on several occasions he had seen evidence of death from fear. In one case there was a startling recovery. At a Mission at Mona Mona in North Queensland were many native converts, but on the outskirts of the Mission was a group of non-converts including one Nebo, a famous witch doctor. The chief helper of the missionary was Rob, a native who had been converted. When Dr. Lambert arrived at the Mission he learned that Rob was in distress and that the missionary wanted him examined. Dr. Lambert made the examination, and found no fever, no complaints of pain, no symptoms or signs of disease. He was impressed, however, by the obvious indications that Rob was seriously ill and extemely weak.. From the missionary he learned that Rob had had a bone pointed at him by Nebo and was convinced that in consequence he must die. Thereupon Dr. Lambert and the missionary went for Nebo, threatened him sharply that his supply of food would be shut off if anything happened to Rob and that he and his people would be driven away from the Mission. At once Nebo agreed to go with them to see Rob. He leaned over Rob's bed and told the sick man that it was all a mistake, a mere joke - indeed, that he had not pointed a bone at him at all. The relief, Dr. Lambert testifies, was almost instantaneous; that evening Rob was back at work, quite happy again, and in full possession of his physical strength." (Cannon, 1957, p. 183)

"The importance of self-confidence for him who strives after the realization of supernatural acts has been duly stressed by Jhavery (p. 12f). This Autor distinguishes the following principal conditions as a "triple key" for "Attainment" (doubtless his translation of the word siddhi ); 1. An intense desire for the goal strived after; 2. An earnest and confident expectation that it will come to pass; 3. The persistent concentration of the will towards it. On p. 16 he considers Desire and Will as the two poles in the performer's mind which cause his "mentative energy" to succeed. They enable him to execute acts of magic which are white as well as black. Webster (p. 79ff.) discusses the importance of "imperative willing" as a condition for success in magic in primitive societies. Such will-power, when combined with an intense concentration of the mind upon the result wished for, creates "the faith that moves mountains" (Webster). The mere act of such "thinking" can sometimes suffice to create all kinds of afflictions for a victim, even his death." (Goudriaan, 1978, p. 247-248)

Important pathogenic factors involved in the Voodoo Death process

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Cannon, W., B. (1957). 'Voodoo' Death. Psychosomatic Medicine, 19(3), 182-190.

Goudriaan, T. (1978). Mâyâ Divine and Human: A study of magic and its religious foundations in Sanskrit texts, with particular attention to a fragment on Visnu's Mâyâ preserved in Bali. Delhi, Varanasi, Patna: Motilal Banarsidass.

Liek, E. (1933). Die Welt des Arztes: Aus 30 Jahren Praxis. Dresden: Carl Reißner Verlag.

Yawger, N. S. (1936). Emotions as the cause of rapid and sudden death. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 36, 875-879.

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