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October 24, 2003

Magic & Machine guns

This article relates to the discussion in my last post on Africa:

To glimpse the depth of magical thinking, of spiritual vision, that lies beneath the cannibalism, I arranged for a display of spiritual power. In khaki slacks, a neatly pressed white dress shirt and a gaucho-style hat made of ''witch material,'' Vita Kitambala, a Mayi-Mayi military general and traditional priest, demonstrated his capacity to deflect bullets. The strength he claimed was not due to cannibalism, as far as I know. He would not reveal the rituals or substances that allowed him, according to his troops (who ranged in age from 8 to adulthood), to make his soldiers fly or to make himself invisible. He would agree only to give evidence of his ability. So, one morning, he directed one of his soldiers to set a green flip-flop on the patchy grass of his Mayi-Mayi garrison. Amid the rectangular huts, another gunman shook a black jerrycan. With AK-47's and grenade launchers, a great crowd of troops had gathered in the sun, amused but not terribly excited. Water from the jerrycan was splashed onto the flip-flop -- the same sanctified water, blessed secretly by the general, that the soldiers had often splashed on themselves.

What would the warriors and druids of Queen Boudicca have done with access to cellphones and modern weapons? This article kind of reminded me of the counter-factual novel Island in the Sea of Time by S.M. Stirling, which involved the transport of the island of Nantucket to the world of 1200 BCE. In India, people might be refactoring your old code-base, but there is still an odd human sacrifice or two. Recently Deutschland has been gripped by the account of occult cannibalism (with similarities to the Congolese kind), and of course, the local wiccans here in Imbler also practice magick, though the white kind (so they say).

Posted by razib at 09:00 PM

It's like an African version of General Boykin! The degree of superstition differs, to be sure...

Posted by: bbartlog at October 27, 2003 02:42 PM