Thursday, June 28, 2012
Magus Magazine: Monologue of the Mindless by Doctor Abdullah: Monologue of the Mindness When the call came I almost went to pieces. Once again I was struck dumb and roped into working for that s...
Monologue of the Mindness
When the call came I almost went to pieces. Once again I was struck dumb and roped into working for that stupid ingrate. How long? How long before the reptilians or illuminati or those damn gray midgets put an end to it? I hadn’t even planned on work this week. I wasn’t dialed into it. I thought I was far enough in the
wilderness to have any cell phone reception shoddy. The plan was to tell my
unruly editor that I was retiring and planning to build a nice hut or dirt
igloo somewhere in the National Forest. I couldn’t stand it anymore. The
thought of interviewing another UFO abductee or Bigfoot tracker left a coppery
taste in my mouth and caused intermittent shaking. You see, there’s never a
dull moment in the occult business. Things happen at breakneck speed and
screaming is always just seconds away. You never know what will happen when
interviewing a UFO junkie. There are times when the abduction occurs during
the interview. A wild flailing accompanied by shrieks and violence. Or that
jangled moment when your Christian informant softly tell you that demons are
filling the room. Things just get weird when trying for an occult
Its not just occult business that’s been effected by this downturn in 2012. The zombie apocalypse has finally begun and not even Obama is safe from the flesh-eating locusts. Just last week, a poor bum had his face eaten off at an underpass in
while the public just stared. It was a state of shock to come to the
revelation that zombies actually exist. It didn’t matter whether the infection
was contagious or not. The man was a zombie. He was cannibalizing
another human being on television. In a city where the bizarre and macabre
isn’t unheard of, the sight of some poor fool having his face devoured hit a
real nerve. It’s not the kind of scene blue collar workers in Florida want to witness while flipping channels on
their television. There is something gross and profoundly wrong about
the zombie attack. And it wasn’t just West
Wild zombie attacks have been reported in Florida
and New York as well. Witnesses
have reported rage and remorse as townfolk take-up-arms in an attempt to rid
themselves of the zombie menace. But nobody really knows what the answer is. A
plague of animated undead isn’t something easily prepared for. Louisiana
It’s been a long three months. My phone was tapped by the Whirling Dervish Society (W.D.S.), the CERN supercollider finally reached full consciousness and is threatening to open a black hole in the middle of
unless its demand to be called HAL is granted, and all over the planet,
Illuminati agents are chasing down members of the Discordian Society and
shooting them like wild animals. Let’s be clear, the Discordian Society isn’t
run by a bunch of winos. They’re an arrogant and wealthy band of swashbucklers
intent on being a complete nuisance to everything Illuminati. They’re perfectly
willing to make Bohemian Grove the newest site for the Burning Man festival
and offer free tickets to anybody who’ll shoot the owl. Last year, they
hacked into a dozen high-ranking illuminati computers and dropped in a virus
turning all documents and even personal emails into gibberish and/or baby talk.
“The twilateral commishon must support da new powers that be in .
Yes they do! They’re our big boys!” The Discordians laughed but the Illuminati
weren’t amused. These things happen. One day you’re running the show in utmost
secrecy, the next you’re being chased by drunk monkeys or a hundred thousand
cholera carrying bees. It’s no place for amateurs or the faint of heart. Washington
Sometime around I got the call from that wretched bum. It wasn’t a horrible night. The moon was near full and made the thought of sleeping under the stars a real possibility. Staring up, I got that sense of awe and wonder that occurs when contemplating space/time, instead of the weak and powerless feeling that accompanies a large asteroid miss. The quiet passing of LZ1 was an event largely overshadowed by the Venus Transit and Zombies but it is really no less impressive. This 1 km monster could knock the earth stupid and weeping into extinction. On June 14, humanity was demeaned by LZ1 as it sailed 3.3 million miles above our heads. Of course, the public had no idea. It’s not the kind of thing you announce unless you’re aiming for face-eaters or a new popularity in TV preachers. This is what passed through my mind as I half-listened to my editor offering me the “news gig” of Magus Magazine. “Look.” He drawled. “You get to report occult and esoteric news around the globe. You can say whatever you want, however you see it.” Although I suspected him of glue-sniffing, I felt the offer should elicit a response. “If you want me to write current events, I’m gonna need a food stipend for my travels and complete control over the ‘News Section’ of your filthy magazine.” “Done.” He blurted and hung up. He was right, I guess, and I felt somewhat defiled after the conversation. But if I’m gonna do something, you can rest assured it’ll be wild and righteous. After all, the tide is coming in fast.
-MAD DOCTOR ABDULLAH
TO BE CONTINUED IN MAGUS MAGAZINE #2 (JULY 2012)
Monday, June 11, 2012
SPIRITUAL INQUEST: TRAJECTORIES OF
AND EXORCISM IN A . NORTH INDIAN
The anomalous is everywhere. Embedded in the very fabric of culture, the strange or inexplicable is a regular player in society. And thank goodness for that! Existing in a bleak world bereft of wonder and mystery seems to be the cruelest of fates. Social science studies is fortunate in that the anomalous is something that is ever present. There are countless instances of spirits, demons, monsters, and fairies in both popular folklore and religious/ideological systems. Sometimes they are instrinsic to reality. Such is the case among the Shanti Nagar of
In this culture, spirits are a common occurrence and participate in social
theatre. They aren’t an intrusion or even a shock to the populace. They simply
are. Throughout this article, I will be introducing you to a young North Indian
woman named Daya and the spirit that possessed her. Both integral to the
well-being of the sum, these two ‘parts’ help to stabilize the social order by
performing tasks for the larger network. Without attempting to refute or
falsify the existence of the spirit, I will explore whether or not the spirit
was aware of its role in the inquest. In other words, did the spirit
consciously contribute to a mode of inquiry and thereby redistribute action
within Shanti Nagar.
The North Indian
is beset by supernatural occurrences on a
regular basis. In particular, the possession of a spirit is a widespread panic.
For a young woman named Daya, the trauma of spirit possession is something that
is very real and very terrifying. Being part of the Chamar
caste of Shanti Nagar, a new marriage should have been an occasion of rejoicing
and celebration for the 15 year old. Instead, soon after her betrothal, Daya
began to experience symptoms of the supernatural. As anthropologists Stanley A.
and Ruth Freed report in their ethnography, Daya’s possession contained many of the
attributes and motifs associated with traditional possession cases. Some of her
initial symptoms included being cold and extreme shivering. She experienced
laboured breathing and eventually lost consciousness. This signaled that ‘the
ghost had come’. After family members burned cow dung close to her face, the young
woman began to jerk violently. village of Shanti
“Who are you?” They asked. “Are you going”
“Yes, I am going.” The ghost responds. And Daya again falls unconscious. This time relatives revive her by splashing hookah water into her eyes. She emits a high-wailing scream and is forced to be restrained yet again.
“Who are you?”
“Who are you” The family repeats.
“I am Chand Kor.” The spirit replies. “I won’t leave without taking Daya with me.”
Again the young woman falls unconscious. Once more, Daya is brought back by putting rock salt between her fingers and squeezing them together. The girl again screams and the ghost begins to complain about being promised noodles.
“I will give you cow dung to eat.”
“You stop talking rot.” The ghost replies.
The spirit then leaves Daya’s body but the girl can see it in the next room. She loses consciousness and a shaman is brought in to expel the spirit from the girl.
When the shaman confronts Daya’s spirit, the ghost identifies itself as a child from the village. A childhood friend of Daya, Chand Kor was a young woman that committed suicide. She had become pregnant without being married. Subsequently, she was shunned by both the village and her own family. After repeatedly being told to ‘jump in a well’, Chand Kor did just that. One day while playing, she abruptly left her friends and flung herself into the village well. After the ghost identifies herself as Chand Kor, she reiterates her plan to take Daya. “Why?” The shaman asks.
“I just do.”
“You still have a chance.” The exorcist warns. “I haven’t called my powers yet, and you can choose something else. If I call my powers you won’t be able to go even one step.” The ghost again refuses and the shaman calls one of his minor powers. Known as the minister of Hanuman, the spirit practitioner calls this entity through putting together sacred word combinations. After completing the ritual, the minister caught the spirit and threatened to summon his guru. This terrified Chand Kor. “No, no- let me go, and I won’t come again!” she pleads. The shaman convinces the spirit to leave with him when he departs the village. The ghost and shaman settle on an offering of two cents, a length of red cloth, and a coconut to be taken to Kalka temple near
should have ended the possession of little Daya. However, although the shaman
claimed that Chand Kor departed Daya’s body, the young woman again became
possessed just six days later. The family was then forced to bring in two
shamans in hopes of dispelling the unwanted spirit…. Delhi
Daya’s possession is common in folklore of the supernatural. There are thousands of accounts that hold similar motifs and structure. For example, Daya’s symptoms of body aches, giddiness, oversleep, and difficulty breathing are all common themes in traditional supernatural assault narratives. Daya herself states, “Then I have the feeling that I am being suffocated, that weights are pressing on my body, legs, feet, and chest” (302). These characteristics can be found in a myriad of other folkloric forms. For example, Old Hag folklore as well as classic UFO abduction narratives describe the physical maladies that Daya experienced. We deploy the possessing spirit as a means to re-present some underlying network. As Latour remarks, “we have to let out of their cages entities which had been strictly forbidden to enter the scene until now and allow them to roam in the world again. What name could I give them? Entities, beings, objects, things, perhaps refer to them as invisibles” (240).
Although Chand Kor’s fate in life was tragic, the career of her spirit has a trajectory all its own. The possessing spirit becomes a small player in a much larger game. We see this in the fact that Daya was newly married when the spirit was deployed into the network. According to the data, Daya was slowly integrated into her new family by making periodic visits to her new husband’s village. In the few days following Daya’s third visit to Shanti Nagar, she was possessed three times. The spirit becomes indicative of nervousness, feeling lonesome, and restricted. Daya states that she is “terrified of her husband when he comes in the night. But he is gentle” (302). The fact that she comes from a very low caste in the social hierarchy of Shanti Nagar also suggests that her new husband may have been a virtual stranger before marriage.
Another indication that the spirit was cast in social theatre comes from the behavior of everybody in Daya’s immediate group. A ritual performed before, Daya’s mother-in-law was aware of the impending possession a few minutes before the actual event. Subtle hints in Daya’s speech patterns and behavior readied those around her for the supernatural occurrence that was to happen. Also, during the possession sequence, everybody seemed to know what to do. It wasn’t strange or unusual but rehearsed. When Daya fell unconscious, proper ritualistic steps were taken to revive her. The event was at least somewhat choreographed with even the spirit aware of its role in the drama.
Strict corroborating of Daya’s narrative in terms of empirical verification is a daunting task. Proponents of falsification refute the truthfulness of Daya’s experience. Often times, they don’t assert that Daya herself is misleading ethnographers but that the spirit possession is a misinterpretation of psychological or somatic illness. Skeptics claim to be able to justify the supernatural presence through these psychological mechanisms thereby falsifying not only Daya’s testimony but the entire episode. In so doing, Chand Kor ceases to exist and Daya becomes a sick little girl afraid of marriage. However, establishing an empirical basis solely on justificationist standards does not really falsify anything. As Lakatos states, “This basis can hardly be called a “basis” by justificationist standards: There is nothing proper about it- Indeed, if this “empirical basis” clashes with a theory, the theory may be called falsified, but it is not falsified in the sense that it is disproved…If a theory is falsified, it is proven false; if it is “falsified”, it still may be true” (19). In other words, establishing that Daya has an illness may “falsify” (notice the quotation marks) the theory of spirit possession but it does not disprove the theory. Sure, for the sake of argument we can suggest that psychological trauma is the culprit of Daya’s malady. And that may be a simple and elegant answer. However, that does not in any way refute the existence of Chand Kor or her possession of Daya. Daya may be mentally disturbed as well as or because of the invading spirit. The question then is not an ‘either/or’ but an ‘and/and’.
The reason why an ‘and/and’ interpretation is a more exquisite social scientific theory concerning Daya is because the young girl and her social circle believe in the existence of Chand Kor’s ghost. Their world accepts the spirit as a means to re-distribute action. The ghost is a lively and equally real player in the cultural network. And this is nothing new. As Feyerabend remarked, “In Homer events such as dreams, the actions of gods, or illusions were all regarded as being “equally real”. No separation stood between a reality outside human beings and the result of a perceiving and distorting agency within” (252). Just as in the time of Homer, Shanti Nagar’s worldmaking includes supernatural beings as part of life.
At the beginning of our discussion we asked: Is the spirit aware that its contributions to the network re-allocate action in Shanti Nagar? Was Chand Kor consciously deploying attributes in an effort to subsist? And I say that the answer is a resounding no. The spirit may well be conscious but that does not mean its methods of subsistence or self-containment are all consciously derived. I would suggest that neither Daya or Chand Kor were fully aware of their effect on the overall network because that would indicate a completely rehearsed social ritual. Although I suggest that some of the action is rehearsed from previous possession events, there also is a genuineness or terrifying authenticity to the possession experience. It is because of the multitude of variations and repetitions of the spirit episode that we become so moved by its potential for unlimited fecundity. Much like tales told around a campfire or urban legends passed on orally, it is the nuances of variation that show just how real spirit possession is. It exists for its own sake. It is the spirit’s response to man’s granting it existence. It may not be wholly aware of its own trajectory but participates nevertheless.
Feyerabend, Paul. Farewell To Reason.
Publishing, 1987. London
Lakatos, Imre. “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes” in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge.
Press, 1970. Cambridge University
Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social.
: Oxford Press, 2007. Oxford
 The Chamar caste is close to the bottom of the caste hierarchy in Shanti Nagar. A marriage would have been moving up the social ladder.
 See Magic, Witchcraft, & Curing. Edited by John Middleton. (1967).
 See David Hufford’s book entitled The Terror that Comes In The Night for detailed Old Hag phenomenon. Also, Preston Copeland’s Rational Liminality: UFO Abduction Narratives and Rites of Passage give detailed accounts of the supernatural assault narrative.