Monday, September 8, 2014

SEA Magic In Academic Perspectives (学术界对巫术的看法)

Lately I had some opportunities to have some length of discussions about SEA magical practices with some of my academic friends. There are some interests to document what is left of today’s SEA magic and of no lesser interests are of the mentality of the folks engrossed in magical works.


Not that I want to throw wet blankets on these academic enthusiasts. After about 30 years of mingling in magical world of SEA, my only conclusion is that SEA magic as a whole is pretty unreliable. Not only the effectiveness of magic practices is questionable; the magicians are generally a problem for actual ritual narrations.


Anyone who deals with magicians will aware that the character of a magician tends to flip-flop and this unique character makes the recording of a ritual extremely difficult. Perhaps it is a secret ritual that this magician wanted to keep a secret; or perhaps he/she is not sure of what the actual ritual is.


For example: I spent plenty of time in getting a Snake Ngai right. I was intrigued by the claim that the Snake Ngai can cure snake bite and revive a dead snake bite victim even after 18 hours or so.


The first time I received this snake ritual the magician asked me to get a snake and plant a white turmeric rhizome. But the ginger rotted with the decaying of the dead snake. So, this doesn’t work.


The second time I return to the magician, he asked me to put a copper plate talisman under my turmeric plant; but the ginger also died with the oxidation of copper plate. That too didn’t work out.


The third time I put a paper instead and this time the turmeric plant grows pretty well.


Now I search the intranet and found out that in Thailand, folks use white turmeric to cure snake bite victim. Perhaps this is the origin of Snake Ngai or perhaps it is not. There is no way to find out.


It is indeed very difficult for a researcher to coax any secrets from a magician by a single review; more so that there is no written records archived anywhere. The best way for an academician to experiment with actual magic and record down whatever records there may be before drawing conclusions.


Of course, it is still my personal interests to study the psychology of a magician in detail when my hit rate goes 1,000,000 times!

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