• Well, it looks like they’re still burning witches


    Hugely NSFW story here.

    It’s 2013. It appears that over in Papua New Guinea, they’re still burning “witches.”

    According to a horrific article published earlier this year in The Global Mail, whenever something goes amok, women are often “blamed, accused of sorcery, and branded as witches.” Here’s an example of a “trial.”

    Two days earlier she had tried to rescue Angela (not her real name), an accused witch, when she was first seized by a gang of merciless inquisitors looking for someone to blame for the recent deaths of two young men. They had stripped their quarry naked, blindfolded her, berated her with accusations and slashed her with bush knives (machetes). The “dock” for her trial was a rusty length of corrugated roofing, upon which she was displayed trussed and helpless. Photographs taken by a witness on a mobile phone show that the packed, inert public gallery encircling her included several uniformed police.

    Sadly, even the folks with a modicum of education believe in sorcery. (Heck, I now a few rural Minnesotans who would bet their bottom dollars that magic, fairies, curses, angels, devils and demons are real.) The number of women accused of sorcery are unclear.

    Despite a lack of data and the suspicion that only a fraction of incidents are ever reported, the 2012 Law Reform Commission examination of sorcery-related attacks concluded that they have been rising since the 1980s. It estimated about 150 cases of violence and killings are occurring each year in just one volatile province, Simbu — wild, prime coffee country deep in the nation’s rugged spine. Figures vary enormously but volumes of published reports by UN agencies, Amnesty International, Oxfam and anthropologists provide unequivocal evidence that attacks on accused sorcerers and witches — sometimes men, but most commonly women — are frequent, ferocious and often fatal.

    As always, there’s definitely more to this phenomenon. It’s this:

    Instead reports indicate tradition has in places morphed into something more malignant, sadistic and voyeuristic, stirred up by a potent brew of booze and drugs; the angry despair of lost youth; upheaval of the social order in the wake of rapid development and the super-charged resources enterprise; the arrival of cash currency and the jealousies it invites; rural desperation over broken roads; schools and health systems propelling women out of customary silence and men, struggling to find their place in this shifting landscape bitterly, often brutally, resentful.

    Yeah. I figured. The process these women go through is beyond horrific.

    The photographs witnesses took of Angela’s torture are shocking, both for the cruelty of the attackers and the torpid body-language of the spectators. Stone-faced men and women and wide-eyed children huddle under umbrellas, sheltering from the drenched highlands air as Angela writhes against the tethers at her wrists and ankles, twisting her body away from the length of hot iron which a young man aims at her genitals.

    Luckily, the woman profiled in this story was spirited away before the mob could kill her. But, how many women aren’t as lucky? Today, she remains in hiding.

    And that’s just part of the story. Check out the entire essay after the jump.


    Category: In the News


    Article by: Beth Erickson

    I'm Beth Ann Erickson, a freelance writer, publisher, and skeptic. I live in Central Minnesota with my husband, son, and two rescue pups. Life is flippin' good. :)