Initiation Into Witchcraft

: Part VI.
: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

When girls are initiated into witchcraft they are taken away by

force and made to lead tigers about. This makes them fearless. They

are then taken to all the most powerful bongas in succession; and

are taught to invoke them, as school boys are taught lessons, and to

become possessed (rum). They are also taught mantras and songs and

by degrees they cease to be afraid. The novice is made to come out of

the house with a l
mp in her hand and a broom tied round her waist;

she is then conducted to the great bongas one of whom approves of her

and when all have agreed she is married to that bonga. The bonga

pays the usual brideprice and applies sindur to her forehead. After

this she can also marry a man in the usual way and he also pays the

bride price. When a girl has learnt everything she is made to take

her degree (sid atang) by taking out a man's liver and cooking it

with rice in a new pot; then she and the young woman who is initiating

her, eat the feast together; a woman who has once eaten such a stew

is completely proficient and can never forget what she has learnt.

This is the way in which girls learn witchcraft; and if any girl

refuses to take the final step and will not eat men she is caused to

go mad or die. Those however who have once eaten men have a craving

for it.

Generally it is only women who are witches; but there are men who have

learnt witchcraft and there are others who without being initiated

have kept company with witches. For instance in Simra village there

is Chortha who was once a servant of the Parganna. He says that the

Parganna's wife used to take him out with her at night. The women used

to sacrifice fowls and goats and make him skin them and cut them up:

he had then to roast cakes of the flesh and give them to the Parganna's

wife who distributed them among the other women.

Sometimes also witches take a man with them to their meetings to beat

the drum: and sometimes if a man is very much in love with a girl he

is allowed to go with them and is taught witchcraft. For instance

there was a man who had a family of daughters and no son and so he

engaged a man servant by the year to work for him.

After being some years in service this man servant one night was for

some reason unusually late in letting the buffaloes out to graze,

and while doing so he saw all the women of the household assembled

out of doors; they came up to him and told him not to be afraid

and promised to do him no harm provided he told no one what he had

seen. Two or three days later the young women of the house invited

him to go to a witches' meeting. He went but felt rather frightened

the whole time; however nothing happened to him, so he got over his

fear and after that he used to go with them quite willingly and learnt

all about witchcraft. At last they told him that he must sid atang

by "eating" a human being. He objected that he was an orphan and so

there was no relation whom he could eat. This was a difficulty that

seemed insurmountable; and he suggested that he should be excused the

full course and taught only a little such as how to "eat" fowls. The

women agreed but it was arranged that to deceive people he should go

for two or three days and study with a jan guru and be initiated by

him. Thus it would be thought that he learnt his magic from the guru

but really he learnt it from the witches who taught him everything

except how to "eat" human beings. He learnt how to make trees wither

away and come to life again; and to make rain fall where he wished

while any place he chose remained quite dry; he learnt to walk upon

the surface of water without getting wet; he could exorcise hail so

that none would touch his house though it fell all around. For a joke

he could make stools stick fast to his friends when they sat on them;

and anyone he scolded found himself unable to speak properly. All

this we have seen him do; but it was no one's business to question

him to find out how much he really knew.

Once at the shield and sword dance they cast a spell on a youth till

his clothes fell off him in shreds and he was ashamed to dance. Then

this servant had the pieces of cloth brought to him; and he covered

them with his own cloth and mumbled some mantras and blew on it and

the pieces joined together and the cloth was as good as ever. This

we have seen ourselves.

He lived a long time with his master who found him a wife; but because

his first child died he left the place and went to live near Amrahat

where he is now.

Another case is Tipu of Mohulpahari. They say that an old witch Dukkia

taught him to be an ojha. No one has dared to ask him whether he

also learnt witchcraft from her but he himself admits that she taught

him to be an ojha.

Although it is true that there are witches and that they "eat" men

you will never see them except when you are alone.

The son-in-law of Surai of Karmatane village, named Khade, died from

meeting witches; he told us all about it as he lay dying. He was

coming home with some other men: they had all had a little too much

to drink and so they got separated. Khade was coming along alone and

had nearly reached his house when he saw a crowd of witches under a

tree. He went up and asked who they were. Thereupon they turned on

him and seized him and dragged him away towards Maluncha. There they

did something to him and let him go. Next morning he was seized with

purging and by mistake some of the witches' vengeance fell also on

the other men and they were taken ill too. They however recovered,

but Khade died. If you meet witches you die, but not of course if

they take you with them of their own will and teach you their craft.