Teacher Beheaded for Witchcraft; ‘A Swarm of Fireflies’ Said She’d Caused a Neighbor’s Death

Fireflies. They’re the new breadcrumbs.

A female teacher was publicly tortured and beheaded by a mob of villagers in Papua New Guinea after she was accused of using sorcery against a neighbor, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The villagers — wielding guns, machetes and axes — pulled Helen Rumbali out of her house, along with her sister and two nieces. They then burned down the house, the AP reported.


The assailants accused the 40-something schoolteacher of witchcraft, saying she was responsible for the death of a sick villager. They said a swarm of fire flies led them from the deceased person’s grave to Ms. Rumbali’s house, the AP reported.

After being slashed repeatedly with knives, the woman’s older sister and two teenage nieces were released following negotiations with police. Ms. Rumbali was publicly beheaded.

Villagers in India Hack ‘Witch’ To Death in Attempt to Appease the Hindu Goddess Kali

Kali is not the sweetest of Hindu deities. She’s usually depicted with tongue lolling, a garland of skulls around her neck, 4 to 10 arms flaying and dicing and chopping in a frenzy of perennial creation and destruction.

And depending on how you interpret her wiles, she may demand a little earthly help when it comes to the bit about dicing and chopping.

At least 18 tribal villagers in India’s northeast have been arrested for hacking to death a man they suspected of practising witchcraft, police say. They said they were told to kill the victim by a Hindu goddess who appeared in their dreams.


Mobs have killed at least 200 people over the past five years who they have accused of practising sorcery and witchcraft — mainly in tribal-dominated areas of western and northern Assam state, Indian police say.

The killing took place on Friday at a tea estate village in Assam’s Cachar district, 300 kilometres south of the impoverished state’s main city of Guwahati.

Cachar district police chief Diganta Bora said by telephone that the attack was “barbaric with a group of hysterical villagers sacrificing the man by piercing his neck with sharp weapons and chanting religious hymns”.

The villagers who took part in the killing of the 55-year-old man believed the victim was practising witchcraft and were seeking to “appease the goddess Kali”, the Hindu deity of destruction, Bora said. …

Police in the state have set up a program, called Project Prahari (Vigilance), that involves community policing and holding regular education campaigns among tribal chiefs and village elders.

“Simply enforcing the law and punishing the guilty are inadequate measures. There has to be an attitudinal change,” Saikia said.

That would also be a much-needed initiative in Papua New Guinea, where the fight against witches is ensconced in official law. No kidding. I refer to the

Sorcery Act of 1971, which acknowledges the existence of sorcery and criminalizes both those who practice it and those who attack people accused of sorcery. [source]

That means that boozy mobs in New Guinea’s hinterlands, when someone has a score to settle or a sickness to explain, frequently set upon lone women without male family members to protect them, and accuse them of witchcraft.

Notes Jo Chandler in the Global Mail [thanks to Nicolas Eyle for the link]:

Angela [an accused witch] was naked, staked-out, spread-eagled on a rough frame before them, a blindfold tied over her eyes, a fire burning in a nearby drum. Being unable to see can only have inflated her terror, her sense of powerlessness and the menace around her; breathing the smoke and feeling the heat of the fire where the irons being used to burn her were warmed until they glowed. Would she be cooked, on that fire? She must have known it had happened to others before — and would soon infamously happen again, the pictures finding their way around the world.

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.

The story, with good reason, casts a transported Swiss Catholic nun as the hero who helps fight the insanity and cares for the too-few victims who survive the ordeal.

Here at Moral Compass HQ, where we believe actual good works transcend verbal skirmishes between atheists and believers, we doff our cap to Sister Gaudentia Meier, and send her our sincere respect and best wishes for successful interventions.

Must-Watch: BBC Film on Present-Day Christians Treating ‘Witches.’ Many Victims Are Children.

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” — Voltaire

Previous Moral Compass piece on modern-day witch-killing for fun and profit here.

How African Witchcraft Courts Enrich Judges

Modern-day accusations of witchcraft often end in lynch mobs and terrible deaths. By contrast, accused witches in the Congo may be spared their lives, but not their meager savings.

“The Lucrative Business Driving Congo’s Witchcraft Courts,” via Worldcrunch:

In the Uvira highlands, the Bafuliru tribe holds Kihango court three or four times a month.

Men and women who are accused of practicing witchcraft are brought before the court to be tried. When a person is found guilty of being a witch, the typical sentence is forced exile, and at least three weeks doing forced labor for the Mwami – the tribal chief.

“The person must leave the community immediately. This saves them from being lynched,” explains tribal elder Edmond Simba.

In this remote Congolese region, many people still believe that sickness, death or accidents do not “just happen” – they are caused by individuals, that must be identified and neutralized. This is done through a tribal justice system based on traditional customs and superstition.

No kidding:

To detect signs of witchcraft, the “judge” uses a nylon thread that is “extraordinary and resistant,” explained the tribal elders that we spoke to. The thread is put on a metal plate, which is heated with fire. If the thread breaks, the person on trial is a witch.


It should be noted that the witchcraft trials are not free, and are an important source of revenue for the tribal chiefBefore the dispute can be brought to the court, each party has to pay a mandatory fee of $200 – the price of a cow – whether they can afford it or not.

The headmaster of a primary school situated in Rubanga, 10 kilometers from the village of Lemera, says the witchcraft trials are just a way to exploit the local poor farmers in order to generate revenue for the tribal chief. “It would be naïve to think this is a real test of witchcraft. The tribal judges, who are pawns of the Mwami, are bribed to hand out false verdicts,” he says.

In August 2012, one of the judges admitted that he faked the result of the nylon test so that the woman on trial, the granddaughter of a friend, could be spared.

Being extorted and exiled is still preferable over the alternative, I suppose. Consider the fate of one accused witch from Africa, 15-year-old Kristy Bamu. For days,

Kristy was attacked with knives, sticks, metal bars, ceramic floor tiles, bottles and a hammer and chisel by [perpetrators] Bikubi and Bamu, who also used a pair of pliers to twist his ear. He drowned after he was placed in a bath for ritual cleansing.

Where do you reckon that lovely scene took place? Kinshasa? Kigali?

Try London.

[tip of the miter to John Zipps; image via Worldcrunch]

Jesus-Loving African Witch Hunters Target Kids

Via Hemant Mehta.

Witchy Woman

Irrationality and superstition just claimed another life:

A woman has been tortured and burned alive in Papua New Guinea after being accused of using sorcery to kill a young boy, local media report. The woman, a mother aged 20 named as Kepari Leniata, was stripped, tied up and doused in petrol by the boy’s relatives in Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands, said the National newspaper. She was then thrown onto a fire in front of hundreds of people. … In parts of the Pacific nation deaths and mysterious illnesses are sometimes blamed on suspected sorcerers. Several reports have emerged in recent years of accused people, usually women, being killed.


Tortured and Beheaded For ‘Sorcery’

A belief in invisible creatures and all kinds of supernatural evil produces evil of a very earthly kind:

Two elderly women were beheaded in Papua New Guinea after being tortured for three days, a report said Monday, the latest in a string of sorcery-related crimes.

“The two women were rounded up and taken to Lopele village after they were suspected of practising sorcery and blamed for the death of the former teacher, who was from Lopele village,” said [a police source].

witchcraft beheading - Google Search

They were tortured for three days, suffering knife and axe wounds, before being beheaded in front of the police who had been sent to the village to mediate, the report said.

The killings come just days after another report that six women accused of sorcery were tortured with hot irons in an Easter “sacrifice” in the Southern Highlands. …

There have been several other cases of witchcraft and cannibalism in PNG in recent years, with a man reportedly found eating his screaming, newborn son during a sorcery initiation ceremony in 2011.

Re: Adopted Kids. Here Are Mine. Any Objections?

Walter Olson’s guest post, below, hit a nerve with me — I guess because the sad trend he writes about casts my two adopted daughters, and my family, as both less whole and less wholesome than “regular” (biological) families.

Evidently, the National Organization for Marriage wants it that way. Although my own marriage (straight and strong, 18 years and counting) presumably passes muster with NOM, I don’t plan to sidle up to the organization anytime soon. I’ve written in favor of marriage equality many times, which presumably puts me on NOM’s shit list (and, not to be too holy about it, it is on my shit list too). That’s all fine.

But here’s my problem (and Walter’s): Big chunks of the religious right have gone from supporting adoption to using it as a opportunistic weapon against gay marriage. And that hurts families with adopted kids — whether the parents are gay or straight. That’s not fine. This one, for me, hits closer to home than ever.

So here’s what I’ve decided: If people honestly decide to argue that my family somehow falls short in moral standing, or lacks legitimacy in any way, I’d like to invite them to emerge from their digital lair and engage me and my wife and kids face to face.


Please understand that this is not a mere gauntlet slap, but an effort to exchange ideas and perhaps spread some clarity. How about it, NOM?

That’s a photo of my girls (and that’s me on the left). Look at their faces and then, any of you, please come to our home and explain to us why we are not a real family, and why my marriage isn’t as genuine as yours. Or we can do this by Skype, if you’d prefer.

Seriously, consider this a social offer. Come visit if you can. I’ll cook. We’ll talk. I will try to meet any of your objections with logic and reason; and when our brains begin to throb and our throats get sore, we’ll switch track, and the four members of my family, me included, will simply be living proof of our familial love. Observe us for a few hours. We won’t mind.

I hope you will then report back to your base what you found.

Open invitation. Anytime, anyplace.

Invasion of the Penis Snatchers

On second thought, we’ll call this one “Dickless in Gaza.” Or maybe “Acockalypse Now.” Heh.

Academics observing reports of penis snatching on the [African] continent have previously deemed it an urban phenomenon — a manifestation of the anxieties that arise when a village becomes a city and rural people find themselves living among crowds of unfamiliar people. So a U.S. anthropologist was ‘intrigued’ when she arrived in the tiny hamlet of Tiringoulou in the Central African Republic, to find two villagers claiming to have been the victims of genital theft. Previous instances have been reported in crowded centers like Lagos, Nigeria, or Douala, in Cameroon.

Louisa Lombard, a postdoctoral fellow in geography at the University of California, Berkeley, said villagers in Tiringoulou told her of a traveller [who], upon arriving on a Sudanese merchant truck, removed two men’s penises with a handshake. The academic was told the stranger had targeted a tea seller in the market and a second man. … “After handing over his money, he [the stranger] clasped the vendor’s hand. The tea seller felt an electric tingling course through his body and immediately sensed that his penis had shrunk to a size smaller than that of a baby’s. His yells quickly drew a crowd. Somehow in the fray a second man fell victim as well.”


Several eyewitnesses assured her the “appendages did indeed shrink dramatically.”

Ms Lombard described victims “on both sides” of the phenomenon, which she [said] was linked to a “general resurgence of witchcraft” in Africa. Having visited one of the so-called victims and finding that he “clearly seemed to be suffering” as he lay listless in the shade at his home, the academic was later told that the alleged penis snatcher had been executed by gunshot by members of the armed rebel group that governs Tiringoulou.

The locals claim that Western medicine can offer no remedy to victims of this terrifying magic. The best solution is (but of course!) to kill the alleged penis snatchers. Mobs in Africa frequently do exactly that.

[image via The Punch]

Meth Priest

Need crystal meth? Dildos? Leather masks? Porn mags? Call 1-800-PRIESTS.

But seriously: Even by the perennially messed-up standards of the Roman Catholic church, Monsignor Kevin Wallin is, as they say, a piece of work. The New York Times explains:

One church worker told diocesan officials that parades of men were visiting Monsignor Wallin at the rectory at all hours. The diocese looked into it, and, as [church spokesman] Mr. Wallace said, “We heard enough to believe that he was engaged in sexual activity in the rectory.” Other church workers said he was also involved in cross-dressing, as were some of his visitors.

When his colleagues decided to look a little closer, they

…found a bag stowed in the rectory containing adult pornographic videos, sexual toys and leather masks.

Then things got weird. Like, all druggy and stuff.

[Wallin] was living in a snug apartment in a matter-of-fact two-story building in Waterbury, in a humble neighborhood of shoebox-shaped apartments. He was also renting the unit across the hall from him, where authorities said a confederate lived. This was his new demarcated principality, where law enforcement officials said he sold crystal meth. At least once, they said, he hid drugs in a magazine and made the exchange in a parking lot. An informant told agents that the priest was also an addict.

So Wallin at least wasn’t addicted to prepubescent cock, for a change. Good. I like a man who doesn’t bow to peer pressure.


New York drug enforcement agents got on to him from a New York drug distributor who said he met the priest at a party in early 2012 and began buying from him. The man became an informer. New York agents tipped off Connecticut agents, who enlisted help from the State Police. An undercover officer, according to authorities, made six drug purchases from Monsignor Wallin. …

Neighbors said men streamed into Monsignor Wallin’s apartment, many of them arriving in cars like BMWs and Corvettes. Sounds of sex could be heard. He stored cases of good wine in the basement, as well as glass pipes and bottles of butane. He was seen doing his laundry, which included lace panties and other articles of women’s clothing. Officials said Mr. Wallin was buying an adult toy store in North Haven called Land of Oz and Dorothy’s Place. Authorities suspect that he wanted to use it to launder drug money.

Through it all, the Bible kept exerting a certain, um, influence on Mr. Wallin.

Presumably to make the purchase, he incorporated a business called Rahab and Endor. Rahab was a woman mentioned in the Book of Joshua usually described as a prostitute. Endor may refer to the Witch of Endor, a sorceress identified in the Bible.


“You looked at him like he was God, practically,” said Charlie Hall, a Danbury parishioner who lives in a shelter. “But now you realize, he’s just human, like all the rest of us.”

Aye. I would hope that that’s his flock’s takeaway. Teaching them to see the man behind the curtain may be the best thing the Monsignor has ever done.


Note 1: Kevin Wallin is innocent until proven guilty.
Note 2: The drug war is stupid.
Note 3: I don’t personally care whether priests make the beast with two backs, or with whom, and how, as long as their partners are consenting adults.
But if the allegations prove true, did Mr. Wallin break his priestly vows, and violate all Jesus-y decency he told his colleagues and parishioners he stood for? Yessum, that he did.