This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Medieval Healing Practices

"There are so-called shamans claiming they can cure. A shaman should deal with the relationship between human beings and God, but fake shamans deal with the relationship between human beings and ghosts."
Shi Wenji, shaman, Jilin province, north-eastern China.

"She seemed OK at first. [Then] the screaming began. [He asked the two witch doctors to stop] But they said it was the sound of demons leaving her body."
"I looked at her face, and it was purple. She told me she wouldn't make it."
"I really didn’t have any other choice as I wanted my wife to be cured."
"I would have rather died than let this happen. How could I have intentionally killed my wife."
Yan Yingmao, Guangyan, China
  The barrel being removed from the steaming apparatus. The barrel being removed from the steaming apparatus. Credit: China News Service

Many rural dwellers in China believe in the supernatural. Ancient rituals still take place in the countryside. These practices are an embarrassment to the government of China which has made unsuccessful efforts to wean people away from these beliefs through an education campaign. Even Mao Tse-tung, as a rebel leader, attempted to eradicate feudal and superstitious beliefs in the areas he controlled, more than two decades before the Communists seized power in Beijing.

On the official Communist Party’s website there is a statement that the regime intends to "firmly crack down on those who used superstition to damage national interests, social stability and people’s life and property." Too late for Mr. Yan's wife. He had himself gone to Chinese witch doctors for help after previous rituals reflecting traditional black magic cures had failed to repress his wife's sickness. Two Chinese witch doctors assured him they would succeed where others had failed.

Their remedy was to steam the "ghosts" out of the woman's body. To do so they placed her in a wooden barrel that had been suspended over a vat of slowly boiling water. As the vapour from the scalding water passed through the barrel its heat was transferred to the woman who began to feel the pain of being burned by steam. Mr. Yan had been sent on an errand to fetch an exorcism needle. On his return he was greeted by his wife's agonizing screams. His reaction was to tell the witch doctors to stop.

"They said the ritual must be concluded, and that the screams from my wife was the sound of demons leaving her body", he explained later. He brought his wife out of the barrel, her skin blackened, to cradle her in his arms. Looking at her he realized he had lost her. At that point the witch doctors left, running toward the mountains surrounding the family home located in Sichuan province. When authorities entered the scene, the two were caught and arrested.
Mr Yao lives in a remote rural community
Mr Yan lives in a remote rural community Credit: Neil Connor for the Telegraph
In Mr. Yan's community most people believe in the beneficial power of spiritual healing to combat physical ailments. Some among them place the blame on "ghosts" or "devils" for health problems plaguing the human body. Three brothers were charged in 2013 with murder in the southern island of Hainan when they treated their mother's painful joints and succeeded instead in killing her. They had submitted to the legend of Gao Yongchuan, a healer.

This man claimed himself to be a "legendary doctor subordinate to the Jade Emperor, Taoist ruler of Heaven". He had force-fed the 61-year-old woman at the sons' request for healing, with a decoction of distilled liquor added to the blood of pigs, chicken and dogs. The woman fell into a coma, and the healer ordered the sons to beat their mother to death, to burn the body and bury it. That would enable their mother to clamber out of the ground, restored to life and full health.

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