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.

witchpot

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.

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.

Congo

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]

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.

goddess-kali

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.

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.

Jesus-Loving African Witch Hunters Target Kids

Via Hemant Mehta.

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.”

adam

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]