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Initiation Into Witchcraft

Category: Part VI.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

When girls are initiated into witchcraft they are taken away by
force and made to lead tigers about. This makes them fearless. They
are then taken to all the most powerful bongas in succession; and
are taught to invoke them, as school boys are taught lessons, and to
become possessed (rum). They are also taught mantras and songs and
by degrees they cease to be afraid. The novice is made to come out of
the house with a lamp in her hand and a broom tied round her waist;
she is then conducted to the great bongas one of whom approves of her
and when all have agreed she is married to that bonga. The bonga
pays the usual brideprice and applies sindur to her forehead. After
this she can also marry a man in the usual way and he also pays the
bride price. When a girl has learnt everything she is made to take
her degree (sid atang) by taking out a man's liver and cooking it
with rice in a new pot; then she and the young woman who is initiating
her, eat the feast together; a woman who has once eaten such a stew
is completely proficient and can never forget what she has learnt.

This is the way in which girls learn witchcraft; and if any girl
refuses to take the final step and will not eat men she is caused to
go mad or die. Those however who have once eaten men have a craving
for it.

Generally it is only women who are witches; but there are men who have
learnt witchcraft and there are others who without being initiated
have kept company with witches. For instance in Simra village there
is Chortha who was once a servant of the Parganna. He says that the
Parganna's wife used to take him out with her at night. The women used
to sacrifice fowls and goats and make him skin them and cut them up:
he had then to roast cakes of the flesh and give them to the Parganna's
wife who distributed them among the other women.

Sometimes also witches take a man with them to their meetings to beat
the drum: and sometimes if a man is very much in love with a girl he
is allowed to go with them and is taught witchcraft. For instance
there was a man who had a family of daughters and no son and so he
engaged a man servant by the year to work for him.

After being some years in service this man servant one night was for
some reason unusually late in letting the buffaloes out to graze,
and while doing so he saw all the women of the household assembled
out of doors; they came up to him and told him not to be afraid
and promised to do him no harm provided he told no one what he had
seen. Two or three days later the young women of the house invited
him to go to a witches' meeting. He went but felt rather frightened
the whole time; however nothing happened to him, so he got over his
fear and after that he used to go with them quite willingly and learnt
all about witchcraft. At last they told him that he must sid atang
by "eating" a human being. He objected that he was an orphan and so
there was no relation whom he could eat. This was a difficulty that
seemed insurmountable; and he suggested that he should be excused the
full course and taught only a little such as how to "eat" fowls. The
women agreed but it was arranged that to deceive people he should go
for two or three days and study with a jan guru and be initiated by
him. Thus it would be thought that he learnt his magic from the guru
but really he learnt it from the witches who taught him everything
except how to "eat" human beings. He learnt how to make trees wither
away and come to life again; and to make rain fall where he wished
while any place he chose remained quite dry; he learnt to walk upon
the surface of water without getting wet; he could exorcise hail so
that none would touch his house though it fell all around. For a joke
he could make stools stick fast to his friends when they sat on them;
and anyone he scolded found himself unable to speak properly. All
this we have seen him do; but it was no one's business to question
him to find out how much he really knew.

Once at the shield and sword dance they cast a spell on a youth till
his clothes fell off him in shreds and he was ashamed to dance. Then
this servant had the pieces of cloth brought to him; and he covered
them with his own cloth and mumbled some mantras and blew on it and
the pieces joined together and the cloth was as good as ever. This
we have seen ourselves.

He lived a long time with his master who found him a wife; but because
his first child died he left the place and went to live near Amrahat
where he is now.

Another case is Tipu of Mohulpahari. They say that an old witch Dukkia
taught him to be an ojha. No one has dared to ask him whether he
also learnt witchcraft from her but he himself admits that she taught
him to be an ojha.

Although it is true that there are witches and that they "eat" men
you will never see them except when you are alone.

The son-in-law of Surai of Karmatane village, named Khade, died from
meeting witches; he told us all about it as he lay dying. He was
coming home with some other men: they had all had a little too much
to drink and so they got separated. Khade was coming along alone and
had nearly reached his house when he saw a crowd of witches under a
tree. He went up and asked who they were. Thereupon they turned on
him and seized him and dragged him away towards Maluncha. There they
did something to him and let him go. Next morning he was seized with
purging and by mistake some of the witches' vengeance fell also on
the other men and they were taken ill too. They however recovered,
but Khade died. If you meet witches you die, but not of course if
they take you with them of their own will and teach you their craft.

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Previous: Of Dains And Ojhas

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