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Superstition binds ethnic minority groups in spell of misfortune

Superstition binds ethnic minority groups in spell of misfortune

Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 14:26 GMT+7

Due to the belief that a ‘magician’ may cast an evil spell to kill someone he hates, villagers in the central highlands of Vietnam may blame a certain death on a spell and come together to beat up and drive away the so-called magician.

Such action is due to superstition, which is born of ignorance. Diseases can only kill an ailing villager, but superstition can put an end to any healthy one.

Yet, this reality has existed in this region and a few other areas of Vietnam for centuries. Superstition has added suspicion to individual relationships and caused problems in peaceful villages.

Usually, a normal person may fall victim in two typical situations – when he boasts that he is a ‘magician’ in the hope of gaining respect from others, or a coincidence causes villagers to put the label on a victim.

Driven away from the village

A young 24 year-old man named Chui in Plei Bong Village, Mang Yang District, Gia Lai Province in the central highlands is an example. He is actually an alcoholic and is not respected by villagers; as a result he is seen as below everyone else.

One day, he bragged about his ‘supernatural ability’ of casting a spell to kill a person. He boasted that he could make someone’s hand swell after he holds it and make fruits on a tree become rotten by pressing a tree.

He impressed some ‘innocent’ people heavily influenced by superstition. Some young male villagers even bought alcohol to drink with him so that he would not hate them, according to doctor Dinh Nam – head of the health department of Mang Yang.

Last year, Mr. Hai, a 40 year-old local villager, died. Chui was asked to help ‘drive away the spell from his body’ so that he could live a healthy life in the other world.

Chui massaged the dead body and drew out some stones and gravel. Witnesses admired his ability.

“In fact, he put the grains of gravel beneath the dress of the dead while asking witnesses to pray and bow,” revealed the doctor.

Soon after, the dead man’s mother-in-law passed away, and locals began suspecting that Chui had cast an evil spell on his family. Chui was taken to the village patriarch, who acts as the judge of the village, and he was ordered to pay a fine of a cow, a buffalo, and other offerings worth VND16 million (US$769) in total.

Chui was bankrupt after the decision, beaten up, and forced to leave the village, Nam recalled.

The doctor said he showed medical evidence and explained to the villagers that Mr. Hai had died of liver cancer, and his mother in law had died of kidney failure, but didn’t convince many of them.

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This man has to leave his village to work after admitting he has 'supernatural ability with spell' (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

Mang Yang District has 23 victims of the so-called evil spells who have been suffering amid indifferent and frigid attitudes from local villagers, thanks to the suspicion.

Another case happened after a drinking party between two young men in Lo Pang Commune in Mang Yang. M got drunk and staggered his way home. P soon left as well,d but realized that M was wearing his sandals. He went to M’s house and saw the sandals, but claimed in his drunkenness that M had stolen them.

P slapped M on his neck and went home.

A month later, M developed a skin disease on his neck. P was blamed for casting a spell on M, though local policemen and doctors interfered and explained what was really going on.

P was beaten up and driven out of the village, and his house and farm were destroyed.

Later, P was allowed to return to the village after he agreed to drink ‘a medicine to discard his spell ability’. The medicine, which is processed by locals, includes ingredients such as alcohol, water taken from a tomb, the bath water of villagers, urine from children, and a mixture of many kinds of bark.

Patriarch Lum, from Ko Tu Village, admitted that spells are just rumors to frighten others, not the truth.

“I don’t have spells and have never seen a spell,” he added.

Yet, the superstition has obsessed villagers for a long time.

Tuoi Tre

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