Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Keeping Witchcraft Alive

This is an article I wanted to share with you which I copied from, enjoy:

Keeping Witchcraft Alive

Mon at 12:33pm
While the practice of witchcraft is often viewed in a negative light within various cultures, at times erupting into horrible anti-witch violence in places like Tanzania and India, that isn’t the case everywhere. In fact, some cultures are trying to preserve their witches for the sake of future generations. That is the case with the Paiwan people of Taiwan, who are concerned that their long tradition of witches are fading away and have decided to do something about it.
“Witchcraft is an important part of the Paiwan tribe’s culture, but the number of practising witches it has produced has recently dropped sharply. The school, which opened last July, has ten students, but the organisers hope it will expand. Wong Yu-hua, a social affairs official in Pingtung county, where the school is based, told AFP: “We are witnessing the disappearance of the ancient ritual. We are trying hard to preserve it. The Paiwan tribe numbers about 86,000 people but has fewer than 20 witches, a decrease from more than 100 half a century ago.”
Naturally the term “witch” can mean many different things, so what exactly does a witch do within the context of this indigenous culture? Well, something that may seem rather familiar to practitioners of modern Witchcraft in the West.
“Paiwan witches are seen as mediums between gods and humans, and the school teaches pupils rituals for blessing people and protecting them from evil. Witches can use their powers to worship gods and ancestors, pray for weather and for their harvests and perform healing treatments and rituals for hunting and tattooing.”
For more on the Paiwan religion and culture, check out this report from the Digital Museum of Taiwan. As indigenous traditions of seership, witchcraft, shamanism, and magic become endangered through a variety of social, religious, and economic pressures it will be interesting to see how attempts to ensure their survival fare. Will the Paiwan witches dwindle to a mere handful like Japan’s itako, or will they experience a rebirth like the Yoruba priests and priestesses have at Nigeria’s Osun-Osogbo grove have? The outcome remains to be seen, but the opening of schools of witchcraft seems like a positive first step.

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