[NB] Stick to Your Witchy Guns

This is just a neat bit of folklore that I wanted to share:

“In Knott County, Kentucky, said to have been settled by emigrants from Virginia and North Carolina, a woman may become a witch by taking a handkerchief and a gun, ascending the highest neighboring mountain before sunrise, and proceeding as follows: ‘Just as the fiery ball appears above the eastern horizon, with uttered imprecations against Deity and prayers to the Devil, she is to shoot a bullet through the handkerchief as she holds it up toward the rising sun. If blood flows from the torn cloth, she is an accepted member of the witches’ crew.'”—Tom Pete Cross, “Witchcraft in North Carolina” in Studies in Philology 16:3, 1919 (232)

Since the ‘bleeding handkerchief’ is almost surely the the red light of the rising sun it seems appropriate enough to share after discussing Zehar-Absalom and the rising sun. The connection between gunpowder, the rising sun, and mountains has some interesting parallels with Kongo conceptions, though I am assuming it unlikely that they are historically related to each other. That there might be spiritual sympathies, though?

Anyway, mostly this is just a look-at-this-cool-thing post.

Triplicities & Pairings

I have seen more than one person praise geomancy for its clarity, for its utility in answering questions clearly and directly. No doubt, this is one of the system’s virtues, especially when you transpose the reading onto an astrological frame. The passing of signs and their affiliations with each other provides reams of information about opportunities and obstacles.

That said, that clarity rests partly upon a fixed pattern of meanings and associations which contain a fair number of presuppositions about what is good and bad, strong and weak. Some cross-cultural comparison can be useful here, because the values of the signs shift somewhat between cultures.

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Truth and the Market

Otit de ja, o ku ta; owo l’w li nra eke. (When truth is offered for sale in the market, it finds no buyer; but lies are bought with cash in hand.)

(Yoruba saying, quoted and translated by J. D. Y. Peel, Religious Encounter and the Making of  the Yoruba)

Okay, let’s turn our attention away from the witches a little (not too far, mind you) and talk a little more about the market that is the world. We’ve talked about how unsettling this association between market, wealth, and home really is, but this quote highlights another axis of concern, truth and lies.

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Witches and Markets

When I talked about the world as a marketplace, I was leaning heavily on a Yoruba conception. I want to keep leaning on that and start talking about an important aspect of the spiritual world in the marketplace: witches. The Yoruba imaginary associates witches with the marketplace and moreover with the women who circulate through it. The more esteem and authority a woman possesses within the market, the more likely it is that she will accrue a reputation for witchcraft. Some of this has to do with a simple distrust of excessive accumulation–they who have much are suspected of having supernatural power that makes their success possible (compare this with the Kongo conception of ndoki). I don’t think this exhausts the issue, though.

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