Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Black Magic and Indonesian Women



She knows it’s against Islam. But her husband spends too much time with some other woman. He denies it, of course. But she saw the text message, smelled the perfume. And she has mouths to feed. She mustn't lose him to her.

So, she visits the witch doctor and asks for a spell.

“Nothing too painful—maybe a sickness for the other woman? Just make the affair stop. And make my husband love me again.”

This week, we've looked at some of the struggles that Indonesian Muslim women face, and the realities from their lives. Today we'll talk about the influence of black magic.

This belief in and use of black magic is common in both Muslim and Christian circles in Indonesia, my friends here tell me. Witch doctors are ready to either give traditional medicine for a stomachache, or use “white magic” to get good things—wealth, success, love. Black magic is used to hurt people, and used by only some of the witch doctors, they tell me.

In a friend’s words:

“I heard a story of a woman who became sick with something that not even the doctors could cure. We all knew why. Someone had used black magic on her.”

A friend of mine—a woman who wants me to call her “Mama”—says a spirit gives her power as a witch doctor. She uses her magic for good—to supplement Allah’s working in our lives, she explains.

Look closely enough and you may see the physical manifestations of these deeply-held mystic beliefs. The talismans strung around a waist. The tiny scissors clipped to a pregnant woman—to protect against evil spirits. The collection of limes or special plants surrounding a newborn baby’s sleeping spot. The stories in the newspaper of widespread spirit possessions in a local high school.

Life is uncertain. Bad things happen. And these women do what they feel like they need to do to protect themselves and their families.

One woman's words:

"Muslims aren't supposed to use black magic. But here in Kalimantan, especially, people often visit the witch doctor and use spells and voodoo."

Another friend:

“When my child was sick, we got medicine from the doctor, prayed to Allah for healing, and asked the witch doctor for some good luck.”

Join me next time for more uncovering of issues in Muslim women's lives in this part of the world.

photo credit, Vanessa Pike-Russell

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