Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review of National Geographic's Taboos: Witchcraft S1E2

Review of National Geographic's Taboos:
Witchcraft S1E2
5 of 5 stars

Episode 2 of Season 1 focuses on Witchcraft, in S. Africa, Zimbabwe, Mexico, the UK & several covens as well as individual witches, witch-doctors or witch-cleaners, and "bad" vs. "good", are thoroughly dealt with, just the facts & no judgments cast.

Magick is energy that does not have any intention for good or evil, the actual results depend more on the intent of the practitioner, than on the energy itself. Wicca as well as Witchcraft, both ancient and modern, are highlighted from all perspectives, religious and pagan. Some of the history is given but not much, other than the Salem with trials though these were not given more than two minutes.

One man who is a solitary & hereditary witch admits to practicing "black" magic to harm when he was younger, but has changed his focus to "white" witchcraft now, and performs a protection spell using his blood to seal it. Later he's shown as part of a Beltane ritual where he represents Winter or Darkness in a nature ritual to welcome summer.

Brujas or Mexican witchcraft is covered quite a bit, with anthropologists having studied the markets there for many years, and one who didn't believe in true witchcraft until he disturbed countless black magic spells in an attempt with others to cleanse an area at the request of the towns folk. Upon releasing--or opening the containers the spells resided in--all of them fell ill and had to conduct cleansing rituals, for which he gained a new respect for the power he had previously underestimated.

Also shown was a man who combined catholic and pagan beliefs to remove hexes from those who believed they had been cursed or caused harm, and in this the psychological affect on the physical body was more than hinted at directly as the cause, and the cure nothing more than a placebo for the mind of the afflicted. These cleansings were demonstrated but of course we can not SEE the affect but only be told about it.

The witchdoctor/cleanser in S. Africa, would travel from village to village, testing for witchcraft in each villager, until several would confess, and then he'd cleanse them in such a way as to restore the village harmony & trust once again. Pointed out was the fact that once accused of witchcraft the villager had no other way to prove themselves innocent, since without the cleansing they would be banished & untrusted, disbelieved; so in fact confession was their only way to be restored into the village with a positive outcome. In one scene, a man had severed human fingers in a small baby food like jar, to which he gave to the witchcleanser, with his confession of jealousy & lust, and was cleansed, forgiven & welcomed back into the village with smiles, laughter & great relief.

However, in these villages, ANY negative problem was blamed on witches, such as a bad crop, or a string of bad luck, then the witchcleanser would be summoned to come root out the one causing the problems, to cleanse their village & restore it to only good results; to which we know is impossible since nowhere in life is there ALL good or all bad, so these superstitions have also caused over 5 families to be banished from a village, losing their land & property as well as family & standing within that village, all on the word of a traveling stranger and his supposed tools to root out the "witches" among them, such as balancing a stick on a person's index finger. If the stick fell, that person was a witch, if it didn't fall, they were innocent. This practice is still active NOW, despite all we know of such causes and "tricks" which did not work during the inquisition nor do they work now. In olden times, a person who sank in water was an innocent (yet a dead one) while the one who did NOT sink was a witch, so a drive to survive was rewarded with death and a death was rewarded with innocence a bit too late to matter.

I felt this episode tried to cover too much in a short time, glossing over historical bits that were needed for background, as well as the modern explanations for the circumstances in Salem (rye bread with LSD on it in a mold, for example, was NOT even mentioned) and no real scientific evidence--which I do know does exist--was provided in this episode. However, I would still recommend it to viewers with an interest in a general, well-rounded but brief delve into this topic, and for the nonjudgmental perspective of this series, so far. These were originally aired on cable TV, so try to find them in reruns there, or renting the series on DVD, or as I'm doing, watch them on Netflix streaming to TV or PC. 5 of 5 stars.

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