Monday, May 16, 2016

Black magic in Batticaloa

So there are some interesting dimensions to the question (and the telling) of "black magic" in Batticaloa. Turns out, no surprise I suppose, that it depends who you ask. My first interlocutor told me:

1) it's about "sending your boys" to Batticaloa from Jaffna. 

2) it's about them "not being able to get off their mat" I guess this could be figurative or literal but 

3) it's interpreted as meaning (at least on the surface) that they'll fall in love with the girls here and stay

But this brings a lot of questions doesn't it? What does it mean not getting off your mat? I guess it can just mean not being able to leave. Or maybe that the boy will be subsumed into this culture. But it can also mean a kind of paralysis or even killing. Or impotence or lack of strength or kind of how a wasp stings its prey and lays eggs in it. 

So maybe it's about fertility? Or being absorbed? Or both? There seem to be simple explanations and "deeper" explanations. 

And then with a wry smile the most tightly wound person in Sri Lanka smiles a wry smile and says: we're much more relaxed here in the east, you see. And same person, highly caste-conscious tells me: we're not as serious about caste here as they are up north. 

So there you have the accounting of black magic, some conjectures about what it could mean, and "explanations" from the teller about how to interpret it. 

What do you think??? 

My second interlocutor told me, "it's not really something that happens in Batticaloa. It happens south of here in Kaluthavalai and some of the villages around there. People don't really do it that much any more but there are still some people who practice it. It's done when a young man wants to attract a young woman, prayers and incantations and offerings are made to particular gods, and sometimes a potion can be put in the girl's coffee. 

These same gods are thought to produce wealth and some people may bathe then in coins every morning.

There's also a "magic ring" that looks like the rosary. If you want a person to come to you you can gently twirl it on your finger. If you want a person to come around to seeing things your way, for example if you've had a business disagreement, a twirl of the ring will bring them around. 

Back to the gods, the stones, and the offerings, I asked whether black magic is a practice of Hindus only and he told me no, it is very much a Christian practice. "But not Muslims I suppose," I added. No! He said. The Muslims are the best at using the black magic!

The person who told me this, Jiit, ended by stressing that he believes in Jesus only, but finished off his monologue in a kind of grand question about how the war or tsunami could have occurred with the deity looking on. A big old question that kind of ends nowhere but does encapsulate the human condition in a real way. 

Interesting that in this case "black magic" is "used" in the opposite way--to attract females. 

Maybe it will be interesting to ask around some more and see what people concoct for me. 


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