The latest Disinfo podcast was’t going to be up to their usually extremely high standard.
It was yet another personal ayahuasca story, which just has to be the counterculture equivalent or writing a cookbook about Tuscany or the South of France.
But it was going to kill some time on the flight back from Hamburg so on went the headphones. This quote at around the 37th minute caught my attention:
In one of the ceremonies the ayahuasca took me back to an experience that happened in my life a few years previously where I had gone to Zambia in Africa. I had gone to a dance music festival and taken LSD.
While on LSD, I had happened to tread on something like a little talisman that was full of witchcraft. Which came into my foot because my energetic body was opened through the LSD and basically this thing sort of lodged itself in my foot and then over the next few years spread itself throughout my body.
And the eczema was like a physical reaction to this thing inside my body. And I’m sure you think that’s a crazy story and I don’t blame you because back then I didn’t believe in witchcraft and thought it was all superstitious nonsense.
And it’s only through having the direct experience that I can sit here and honestly say that’s what happened. You know I wouldn’t blame people for being skeptical about it because, you know, I would have felt the same way, too.
The ayahuasca spirit referred to whatever was in the talisman as ‘witchcraft’. The ayahuasca spirit didn’t call it ‘black magic’ and it didn’t say ‘this is bad witchcraft but there is also good witchcraft’. It made no mention of Jesus or Sandra Bullock.
Because -for better or worse- the word isn’t succumbing to the same semantic drift that is pulling ‘Pagan’ closer to the apparently appealing harbour of respectability.
Witchcraft is a word used in some immigrant communities while violently abusing their kids, sometimes to the point of death. (There are a couple of similarly fraudulent churches in walking distance of my house.) Witchcraft is a term used to justify child murder in some developing countries. Witchcraft is one of the umbrella categories being jettisoned by online marketplaces and suppliers. Witchcraft was the word used by the psychopath my partner had to fire for bullying her fellow employees when she gathered up a few Nigerian friends and tried to curse him.
Now you can argue that none of these examples “really” constitutes witchcraft -and it goes without saying that there are exactly zero reasons for ever harming a child, spiritual beliefs included- but it is little more than a pointless word game. (Not as pointless as crosswords, but close.)
The ontological boundary lines of such a complex term certainly include the offshoots of a 20th century folk religion with which we are all familiar but are not exclusively defined by it. There are many mansions in my mother’s house.
Indeed, you could make the case that the term retains so much of its mana precisely because it maintains connotations of the midnight malefic abortionist, the unscrupulous charm salesman, Cher’s Dark Lady. It is a term that refuses to be domesticated. It is a kraken.
As for the risk that etsy and other high profile marketplaces may make more policy changes?
Fine. There have been rules around selling fraudulent products in stores for centuries. This is just best practice catching up to the digital wild west. (If you want to be completely free of all these risks then invest in your own website and estore, anyway. Be master of your own domain in a non-masturbatory way.)
Because witchcraft is disreputable. It does belong in the swamps, under the bridges, down the alleyways. It is a world of whispered recommendations. It is the refuge of last resort for the vulnerable, scared and abandoned. It is also extremely dangerous.
Money that barely folds changing hands, candles being lit. Thus it ever was. Unlike your chakra-balancing wheatbag, such services do not usually incur sales tax.
So they banish us all to Craigslist. The fringe fits us better, anyway. (There are also less birds on things.)
Rather than worrying about words, we should share our marketplaces’ concern with fraud. Rather than worrying about words, we should certainly share our social workers’ concerns about child abuse.
There’s two magical targets for your witchcraft right there.