john.burton at tsra.gov.au
Wed Sep 4 09:28:28 EST 2002
In Mount Hagen, the battery acid deal is a variant of _poisen_,
that is physical agents alleged to be added to food etc,
usually by wives originating in tribes one is currently at war
with, not sanguma.
I emphasise 'alleged', as the CUSO doctor working in casualty
admissions in Mount Hagen in 1987 had not encountered a single
case with symptoms consistent with the ingestion of acid in a
couple of years. Red frothy blood foaming out the mouth etc. I
suspect that in this time scores of people were alleged to have
been poisoned with it - why, in any single village there might
be half a dozen accusations a year.
Sanguma in Western Highlands and Simbu is believed to be a
more-or-less genetic predisposition. That is, it runs in 'bad'
families like a recessive gene until manifested in an outbreak
of sickening and dying people. The witch can either be accused
of devouring the insides of living people, of sneaking into a
place of mourning and knawing on the flesh of a corpse the
relatives have absentminded left unattended, or of digging up
and feasting on dead bodies. The worst case punishment is to
burn the witch alive inside the house - one sees media reports
of this on a regular basis.
Among the Watut of Morobe Province, on the other hand, sanguma,
locally known as _panga_, the method of attack is the devouring
the insides of living people type, but it is based on the
intent of the witch to cause harm. It is not clear that
WHP/Simbu sanguma witches are supposedly conscious of their
actions, though Reay describes a public confession in one
paper. Personally, I don't think this counts.
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