Witch doctors still prey on tribal superstitions

Witch doctors still prey on tribal superstitions



Frog’s tongue squashed in five drops of hen’s blood -- a remedy for epilepsy!! Passing a kid through a window formed over a door of the hut to cure  convulsion among infants!! And pricking the navel of a new born to prevent the baby from affliction to abdominal diseases !!

Is it the 21st century characterized by remarkable advancement in medical sciences or are we still stuck in the Dark Ages? In a sense, the tribal dominated tail of this part of the country seems to be frozen in time with  tribals  continuing to hook on a host of weird practices that their ancestors, steeped in superstitions, might have found indispensable in their times.

According to Dr Prakas Oraon, the Director,  Tribal Research Institute, a government institution, these actions are associated with an age old beliefs and tradition s of tribal society. He, however, has no qualms in accepting that  his navel was pricked with a  hot sickle when he was barely 21 days old.

According to this tribal tradition the day the newly born baby completes  21 days  an elaborate puja  along with  other rituals is performed.  Once the preliminaries are over, she heats a sickle  and then  pricks the baby to make at least twenty-one tattoos around the navel.   Thereafter the wounds  are treated with the tribal medicine to provide succour to the baby. “This tradition is still in practice in the Panch pargana area namely Bundu, Tamar, Rahe, Arki and Ichagarh of Jharkhand.    The Oraon, Munda and Panchbarganiya tribes pursue this tradition.  They beleive  that pricking an  infants’ navel prevents the child from  abdominal diseases, said Dr. Prakas Oraon talking to Deccan Herald.

For instance,  a pregnant tribal woman is told not to eat the papaya fruit. The popular belief is that it aborts a pregnancy. However, the woes of a pregnant woman multiply further towards  the date of her delivery. 

As her time for the delivery approaches, the mother to be is  offered  a garland of chirchiti, a wild plant around her neck. Her hair is tied to the roots of a banana plant; besides  her husband’s trouser  is hung in front of her face. “The popular belief in  these tribal societies is that such  gimmicks distract a mother- to-be and thereby reduces the intensity of labour pain , ” said tribal woman Etra Oraoin.

Woes of the pregnant woman does not end right here in case she gives the birth of a son. The mother has to undergo a three day long fast, which is further followed by a week long subsistence on rice and salt only. The rationale underlying all these practices are that it  would ensure the new born baby a long life. There are other modes of treatment prevalent in  tribal society as well. “We have come across several case studies when an epilepsy patient is offered a frog’s tongue squashed in five drops of  hen’s blood. The feedback from the patients’ attendants suggests that it is quite a popular.

Similarly to  cure epilepsy in a child, the patient is passed through the window formed over a door of the hut  in tune with age old beliefs,” said a psychiatrist attached to the Ranchi Institute of Neuro-Psychiatry and Allied Sciences.

Social worker Faisal Anurag attributes all such beliefs to the prevalent socio-economic  conditions characterised by poverty and illiteracy.  “Though we are into the twenty first century, the old time beliefs, herbal and superstitious methods of treatment still prevail  in an Adivasi dominated society and their caste neighbours. A majority of  tribals in remote villages are dependent on quacks for treatment and thus the acceptance of allopathic and other modern medicine is very low.

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