Voodoo Death And The Mechanism For Dispatch
Of The Dying Essay, Research Paper
Voodoo Death and the Mechanism for Dispatch of the Dying in East Arnhem, Australia
This article talks about how among the Murngin of Australia, many illnesses and death are caused by witchcraft or sorcery. Voodoo death has seemed to be the most common usage and it is said that sorcery may be associated with this practice. The term voodoo death is usually referred to as psychocultural or death by suggestion.
In the past, many reports on voodoo death have been anecdotal because they were not being observed first hand and so Eastwell came up with a method in which he could accurately observe the concept of voodoo death. He would make several visits at psychiatric clinics and at these clinics, there were 12 female health workers, and 3 male workers who were in their 30s. Each one of them came from entirely different communities, and along with their tasks to do, they also had to attend the dying. Most of them were not Christians and were not particularly acculturated and when asked about topics of death, they found it highly distasteful.
In East Arnhem, most people had a fear of death from sorcery which caused them to be restless, be more careful at night, sweat more often and continuously be in terror. Some even armed themselves with weapons such as guns, knives, or spears. The best treatment for this syndrome was to use tranquilizing drugs and since this was supposedly suspected of sorcery, western treatment was not given. This syndrome was said to be the result of the evidence for sorcery in the sudden death of a clan relative in which all clan members then feel that they are endangered from sorcery. In this clan, only two patients died. The first one died from a panic attack in which he was so tremulous that he could not take his tranquilizing pill. His father was accused of making a mistake in a ceremony, and so his family moved to Numbulwar to reduce the sorcery risk, but he still felt that he deserved punishment and was always fearful of what might happen to him. Studies show that he might have had sudden death under stress due to abnormality of the adrenal glands. The next guy had a dispute with his wife’s lover and this was something that brought about the fear of sorcery syndrome, and so he was referred for treatment. When he had tubes inserted into his veins, mouth, and bladder, he was frightened because he thought that his life essence was draining away through them and so he escaped from the hospital. He returned to his parents, but he had kidney and heart failure, so he died shortly after.
One woman named G, refused to marry a tribal elder as his third wife, and so it was expected the he retaliate with sorcery because he had paid the bride price and it could not be repaid. G’s relatives then wanted to save her soul, so they restricted her water. Due to this, she was near death from dehydration and was sent to a hospital, but recovered after a few months. One man named M, was dancing in a ceremony of sorcery, and had a severe stroke. 1 year later he was still chanting and singing with his relatives and was taken away to get treatment and he recovered, and tried not to return to singing but eventually did, and he passed away.
Dehydration from confiscation of fluids is the common factor and the ultimate cause of death. Deaths were said to take place 24 to 36 hours after total restriction of fluids. The relatives of a sick patient take away the right for that person to eat or drink, and if anyone tries to give food or drinks to that person, they get really angry. It was tradition to do this, and so if anyone would disturb them in this practice, they would even threaten to knock you down.
The continuing concept of voodoo death as caused by suggestion, that is, by the victim’s belief in sorcery and the conviction of the victim’s own demise, speaks to total involvement in his or her assumptive world.