Saturday, April 26, 2014

Healing Magic Utterance

Magic utterances (kombo-sufo) to the Nagum Boikens constitute sacred knowledge that demonstrates productive qualities of an individual. The performances of magic utterances display “networks of interrelationship and association in the act of expressive production" that are constructed by socially situated individuals” who are  "in the process of coming into being through...[a] process of "inner speech" and external dialogue” ((Bauman 1983; Graham 1992, 724).

Most healing magic utterances fall under the category of dialogic relations and discourse formations in a text, which are governed by rules of transaction and exchange. Organized performances involve ritualized language of illness and healing. Ignoring the requirements of these rules lead to difficulties in understanding ritualized language in many Melanesian societies.

There is a need for understanding how healing magic utterances work in traditional Melanesian societies. Cultural scholars consider such interplay of discourses as a linguistic phenomena, ascribing its greater value, in promoting the understanding of cultural knowledge systems.

Magic utterance text is viewed on the psychosocial level that constitutes the agency invoking such utterances and within the social and cultural field defining such performances….An observation that occurs widely in Melanesia, especially where magicians do not only “invoke the aid of deities or heroes but actively, imitate them” to secure a similar success as those achieved by the deities and heroes” (Williams 1928, 116; Young 1983). The transformation of a healer into the spirits and heroes evoked in the magic utterances, through trance, spirit possession, and public healing, a healer is immersed totally in the sacred knowledge employed at the moment of performance.

The transformation of a healer occurs at the level where the magic utterances generate a transposition of a healer to the level of the gods and spirit (i.e., through possession). In the transposition a healer loses the identity of an ordinary person and becomes a spirit embodied person. At that level a healer becomes part of the text given as a performative utterance. We could say that the text becomes the healer and likewise the healer becomes the text. There is a complete convergence of the healer in the text and the spirits or gods in the texts given as healing utterance. This level, however, is achieved only at the level of sacred ritualistic performances. There is a fusing of the worlds at the moment of performance (see Bloch 1989).

In healing rituals (kombo hlu) restoring a patient’s health is dependent on a healer’s total immersion in the healing utterance (kombo) employed at the time of performance. The same is observed when a performer employs magic utterances (kombo-sufo) to cause illnesses, for protection, and for preventions of possible visitation of harmful spirits and dangerous peoples. In shamanistic rituals, for example, a healer employs various techniques to activate an altered consciousness. As is observed of the Polynesian shaman systems, “the shaman was the nexus of interpenetration, and the shaman could act with respect to variety of interpenetrations” (Thomas and Humphreys 1997, 20).

An observation that relates to the Nagum Boiken healers of illness caused by spirits referred to as wali (subterranean spirit) nuwayafa (ancestor spirits), kamba (spirits of the dead) and saghi (forest spirits). These spirits evoked or not have the capacity to inflict illnesses on humans when rules of appropriate conduct have not been observed. A person who trespasses the inner circle (rusikn) of the village ceremonial space (hawo) can become ill with walin kombo, having trespassed into the sacred space of the village. Elsewhere in this book, more discussion on illnesses caused by the nuwayafa is given more attention to, as it reveals the ways in which healing is performed. The healing practice known as nuwayafa pombo allows the formation of different social and political relationships. Sets of relationships are immediately given more emphasis during the healing rituals. 

Through the text of the magic utterances (kombo-sufo) and the social contexts constituted by narratives, the Nagum Boikens use sacred knowledge as a deployment of productive qualities of an individual within a collective struggle against the forces of nature (e.g., physical and spiritual). Through the immediate interactions between the healer and the ill person this situation solidifies existing relationships.

In Nagum Boiken societies, individuals performing magic utterances (kombo-sufo) are often representatives of themselves and of others. In representing themselves the goal is both to protect and to cause illness to their adversaries. When a healer (kombonduo) represents others the primary goal is to secure social stability and continuity of life. The point stressed here is that healing practices observed as shamanism or magic, sorcery or witchcraft, stand out as “a collection of representations, parts of which appear here and there in the cultures of the region, and these pieces can be used by anyone in a variety of ways (in rituals, songs, dreaming, prophesy, mythic genealogy, and clan and state ceremonial, as well as in trance performances considered to be shamanic” (Thomas and Humphreys 1997, 192).

Scholars such as Thomas and Humphreys and Foucault see healing utterances or magic performances are “socially situated cultural practices…that systematically form the objects of which they speak” as observed among the Northeast Asians’ shamanistic practices (Thomas and Humphreys 1997; Foucault 192, 49). Healing ritual utterances (kombo), narratives, and practices of the Nagum Boiken enable multiple discourses to surface as a systemic arrangement of different types of knowledge, whether ordinary, sacred, or as verbally performed.

The magic utterances performed, verbally and nonverbally, are considered as important collective expressions, whether as ordinary dialogues (as in narratives) or as a hidden dialogue (as in magic utterances) that organize and produce knowledge in Nagum Boiken societies and in others.

The performance of magic utterances (kombo-sufo) are by "an individual--most are men, but some are women--who has the capacity in problem situations to improvise verses which have magical efficacy: they may turn inclement weather, drive away predators, procure food and other provisions in time of need, or vanquish adversaries" (Bauman 1992).

Magic is developed in response to the physical and spiritual needs of a society to enable restorative and productive values.

No comments:

Post a Comment