Thrive Global
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Thrive Global

Amazing Links Between Burning Witches And Climate Change

Just in time to reflect upon Halloween, Witchcraft, and its Origins

Photo by Zachary Kadolph on Unsplash

Connect the dots and burn the witch

If you connect the dots, it’s clear how droughts and crop failures create conditions for misogyny and the torture of women in many impoverished parts of the world. Torture of witches, often done with white-hot steel machetes, and beating sticks in India, sometimes ends with a tragic witch burning.

These days, it happens most often in rural in parts of India, Africa and Papua, New Guinea, (PNG).

Accusations of real witchcraft even occur in first world nations, although less frequently.

As the world grows warmer and droughts and famine are more common, the most traditional human reaction is often to look for scapegoats — witches — and punish them.

This is not at all the most outraged form of “witch hunt” we hear about on a daily basis. The kind of witch hunt we most often read about is some powerful man decrying the media. That type of witch hunt is most frequently reserved for politicians. Some leaders, ironically mostly men in power, are often ignorant that a real witch hunt involves real harm and even death. Real torture and death among real people affected by drought, water shortages and accompanying diseases, are much more than mean words from ‘fake news.’

When it’s time to vote, people very often ask which issues should voters be most concerned about. The question itself carries the implication that one issue is somehow separated from the others. If you say the economy is a bigger priority that than climate driven weather disasters, or that healthcare is a greater issue than marriage equality, you are taking part in a false assumption. Although we can have separate words and definitions, of course, there is nothing in world reality that is not linked to all other things.

Everything has everything to do with everything

In those places where equality is not yet achieved, a crop failure is often blamed on witchcraft. Superstition, tradition and inequality are commonplace. Usually, just as in the European witch-craze that took more than 40,000 lives, women are specifically singled out in almost every case. Her family is often abused, but it is she who is seen as the source of damage. This is because, just as we see walking through the poorer sections of any urban center, the more vulnerable are targeted for our disdain. In most cases of scapegoating, the target for all ills is marginalized people, often women, immigrants, mentally ill people, and those without power. An exception to this rule, however, occurs in India where superstition runs deep. A well do do widow, left with her own plot of land, is seen as a pariah to the local economy. A land grab, for the many who would benefit by controlling her property, materializes. Often, all the is needed is an accusation that the witch has “tried to eat the soul” of another person. The witch, known as Daayan in India and Pakistan, is more typically accused of conjuring a crop failure, unexplained death of child, or livestock. When set upon by a mob, she conveniently disappears; then her land is taken by someone with more authority. In New Guinea, a powerful man known as a “Glass Mary” can diagnose and direct a witch to be beaten on the head until the evil is purged. In Africa, there is much more diverse lore, often based on female sexuality and misogyny. Here, there are many paths to identifying, accusing and dispensing with the witch.

It is clear to see how shortages and plagues increase conflicts with climate change. People that are not informed and educated, or regulated by local government will suffer most. Men and women, rich and poor, who are not represented equally by police and other governing officials, will skew toward abuse and misuse of authority.

These links are more than just superficial. How we express equality and democracy in the west slowly but surely influences other nations, and other policies. It is also true that when we value science and literature over superstition and scapegoating, we have beneficial influence on other places. Inclusion has more value than exclusion. Equality has more value than scapegoating.

How and why we confront a warming planet, and how we treat the coming refugees matters.

It is a lesson the world desperately needs to begin to comprehend. Where (or if) you earn wages, what you eat, how you find medical treatments, what social justice we allow, and what culture and color you are will affect everything in your life. That, “Everything has everything to do with everything,” is the way it is best expressed, and famines or droughts in other parts of the world are going to have an affect on what we do and don’t do in the west.

Newly frequent climate change driven storms affect local economy, and therefore jobs, and therefore manufacturing, and therefore health, family and marriage, and more.

We in the west, celebrate the fun aspects of witchcraft. We honor nature-centered religions as a free expression. We dress up as sexy witches, and entertain ourselves with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings wizards and sorcerers. But we should never ignore that once upon a time witches were burned alive by the thousands in the name of God. We should never forget also, that in some parts of the world the light and hope of equality and democracy shed mere flickers that can brighten into enlightenment. We can help bring a more connected world to a vital defense of our shared biosphere and humanity.



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Christyl Rivers, Phd.

Christyl Rivers, Phd.


Ecopsychologist, Writer, Farmer, Defender of reality, and Cat Castle Custodian.