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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 675


Witch Stories

Book Name:

Folklore of the Santal Parganas

Tradition: India

I will now tell you something I have seen with my own eyes. In the village of Dhubia next to mine the only son of the Paranik lay ill for a whole year. One day I went out to look at my rahar crop which was nearly ripe and as I stood under a mowah tree I heard a voice whispering. I stooped down to try and see through the rahar who was there but the crop was so thick that I could see nothing; so I climbed up the mowah tree to look. Glancing towards Dhubia village I saw the third daughter of the Paranik come out of her house and walk towards me. When about fifty yards from me she climbed a big rock and waited. Presently an old aunt of hers came out of the village and joined her. Then the old woman went back to her house and returned with a lota of water. Meanwhile the girl had come down from the rock and sat at its foot near a thicket of dhela trees. The old woman caused the girl to become possessed (rūm) and they had some conversation which I could not hear, Then they poured out the water from the lota and went home.

On my way home I met a young fellow of the village and found that he had also seen what the two women did. We went together to the place and found the mark of the water spilled on the ground and two leaves which had been used as wrappers and one of which was smeared with vermilion and adwa rice had been scattered about. We decided to tell no one till we saw whether what had been done was meant to benefit or injure the sick boy. Fifteen days later the boy died: and when his parents consulted a jān he named a young woman of the village as the cause of the boy’s death and she was taken and punished severely by the villagers.

It is plain that the boy’s sister and aunt in order to save themselves caused the jān to see an innocent woman. I could not bring the boy back to life so it was useless for me to say anything, especially as the guilty women were of the Paranik’s own family. This I saw myself in broad daylight.

Another thing that happened to me was this. I had been with the Headman to pay in the village rent. It was night when we returned and after leaving him I was going home alone. As I passed in front of a house a bright light suddenly shone from the cowshed; I looked round and saw a great crowd of women-witches standing there. I ran away by the garden at the back of the house until I reached a high road; then I stopped and looked round and saw that the witches were coming after me; and looking towards the hamlet where my house was I saw that witches were coming with a bright light from that direction also. When I found myself thus hemmed in I felt that my last hour had come but I ran on till I came to some jungle.

Looking back from there I saw that the two bands had joined together and were coming after me. I did not feel safe there for I knew that there were bongas in the jungle who might tell the witches where I was. So I ran on to the tola where an uncle and aunt of mine lived. As I ran down the street I saw two witches at the back of one of the houses. They were sitting down; one was in a state of possession (rūm) and the other was opposite her holding a lamp. So I left the street and made my way through the fields till I Came to my uncle’s house. I knocked and was admitted panting and breathless; my uncle and aunt went outside to see what it was that had scared me and they saw the witches with the two lights flashing and made haste to bolt the door. None of us slept for the rest of the night and in the morning I told them all that had happened.

Since that night I have been very frightened of witches and do not like to go out at night. It was lucky that the witches did not recognise me; otherwise I should not have lived. Ever since I have never stayed at home for long together; I go there for two or three months at a time and then go away and work elsewhere. I am too frightened to stay in my own village. Now all the old women who taught witchcraft are dead except one: when she goes I shall not be frightened any more. I shall be able to go home when I like. I have never told any one but my uncle and aunt what I saw until now that I have written it down.

So from my own experience I have no doubt about the existence of witches; I cannot say how they “eat” men, whether by magic or whether they order “bongas” to cause a certain man to die on a certain day. Some people say that when a witch is first initiated she is married to a bonga and if she wants to “eat” a man she orders her bonga husband to kill him and if he refuses she heaps abuse on him until he does.

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