Australia & China reset rocky relationship
The many complexities of Aboriginal heritage

The time when we were innocent sorcerers

The potion we received had five warheads: to make the person dumb, have the person drop dead at work, kill his wife, cause a car accident resulting in death and to have termites destroy his home



PANGUNA - Sorcery is a belief system that is as old as Bougainville itself. It’s an integral part of the Bougainville people.

People believe in it, talk about it, kill each other over it and our society periodically dissolves into conflict because of it.

I am a Kieta man. I grew up in the 1990s hearing tales and practices of sorcery from those around me.

We have ritual after ritual for protection.

I see people planting various herbs like ginger to defend against sorcerers. Some people process coconut oil with all sorts of substances in it for protection.

There is a lively cash trade in these protections.

People buy all kinds of potions to withstand sorcery attacks, going so far as to protect their vehicles.

Businesses employ anti-sorcery watchmen with good pay packets.

Although we live in the modern world, we believe that every death or illness is nothing but the work of sorcerers.

My wife and I hate to listen to the stories and other Melanesian nonsense around sorcery.

Little did we think that one day, I, my wife and our three kids would be accused of being sorcerers.

But that one day came. On 2 January my home in Panguna was trespassed by a person claiming my wife was a serious sorcerer the community must watch out for.

It was claimed that my wife was trying to kill this person with a multi-warhead type of sorcery supplied from the Nagovis area of Bougainville.

I was shocked and in disbelief. Thinking of my three children and wife in this context was really painful.

I hate that these perverse beliefs continue to exist in this Eurocentric century. Why sorcery when we have science? Why sorcery, when we have Western religion?

As I see it, we keep hanging onto sorcery because we are a confused people and society.

Anyway, back to my story.

My wife received a bottle, a bottle of sorcery, from Nagovis to be used against the accuser.

It turned out that the Nagovis person who supplied the potion had for years for unknown reasons been trying to kill our accuser.

The Nagovis supplier was repeatedly seen by our attacker’s witchcraft hunters (glasman and glasmeri) prowling around our accusers’ residences at night trying to place his sorcery potions nearby.

But this was not working, it seems because our attacker was so faithful to Jesus.

So the Nagovis person passed his killer potion to my wife as we were located nearby.

The potion we received had five warheads: to make the person dumb, to have the person drop dead at work, to kill his wife, to cause a car accident resulting in death and to have termites destroy the homes of this person.

Our little family was shattered.

We immediately left our home and took refuge with relatives who believed we were innocent and protected us.

For several months we lived in pain trying to figure out what was wrong with us.

Our three children were always crying for us to go back to our deserted home.

As parents to our three children (we now have four) we never, in one single moment of life, thought about obtaining an agent of sorcery.

We never sought or used anti-sorcery bottles of substances to protect our homes and yet, here we were identified and isolated as sorcerers in the eyes of the community.

The months of suffering passed, arrangements were made and eventually we could return home.  

Sorcery is nothing but a way for the strong in the community to remove from their midst the weak they really dislike.

Sorcery is the expression of intense hatred a strong person has towards the weak person they do not want to be around them.

In our case we were collateral damage.


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Lindsay F Bond

Leonard, if your society in the deep past, had a writing system there would have been produced a ‘bible’ and perhaps even more rigidity in matters of belief and (unfortunately most likely) controls.

Processing expectation for change in your society? Well, in Europe, that’s many centuries, and that would be without sorting out the nonsense peddled by regimes such as now still in Russia.

As with the need for electricity services in many African nations, and suggestion they leap ahead to science based improvement such as hydrogen, in PNG, the need is of education and uptake of science for which opportunities occur in every village.

All the best to you.

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