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Western Medicines Impact On The Traditional Beliefs Of The Kaliai

.. arden. The villagers unanimously agree that their child, Wanlek, was born deformed as a direct result of them cutting down the tree and enraging the spirit within. No thought was given to the fact that the malformation may have been the result of any number of other variables. Insufficient data is provided in the cases, but it is possible the birth defect was caused by inbreeding due to the small population of the village, random mutation, or the use of alcohol or some other harmful substance during Melissa’s pregnancy. Another case relating to the spiritual world involved the young infant Tina.

The child’s sudden and mysterious illness seemed unaffected by Western medicine, which prompted her mother to take her to another woman in the village for traditional treatment. The woman, Cookie, decided it was necessary to contact the spirit of ginger to determine what was wrong with Tina. With the assistance of Leo, who was known to be on good terms with the spirit, they concluded that her recently deceased uncle had possession of her spirit and was unwilling to give it back. This conclusion allowed Cookie to perform a ritual to pull Tina’s spirit back to her body. Miraculously, the child made a full recovery shortly thereafter. This case further reinforces the Kaliai’s great respect for powerful spirits and the supernatural and their ability the inflict harm upon or heal somebody.

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In addition to the spiritual world, the people of Kandoka also use sorcery and witchcraft as a way of explaining why people become ill. The case histories of Christy and Paul provide evidence of this. The following discusses how Christy’s condition was ultimately explained according to the Kaliai. It is believed that when she was two years old her spirit became trapped in the kisinga (protective spell) of a well-known sorcerer. Her spirit’s prolonged entrapment is said to be what caused her retardation.

Villagers accused Christy’s parents of thoughtlessly allowing her to come to close to this powerful sorcerer in the first place and then again by not approaching Bou and asking him to release her spirit sooner. A similar explanation was used to account for Paul’s injury and subsequent severe infection. Western medical attempts to heal his thumb had not appeared to have any effect on his condition. He is believed to have been a victim of the iha aimata ‘fish eye’ magical lock placed upon a house under which he sought shelter during a storm. His inability to recognize this cause and seek the owner of the house’s aid in breaking the spell quickly are the reasons used to justify him still requiring amputation.

As mentioned earlier, Bruno’s family searched for another way of explaining the young boy’s tragic death. Sorcery was the explanation they found. A ritual ceremony was performed in which the ghost of Bruno appeared to identify the person who had brought him his poison. It was discovered that his father was responsible because Bruno had come into contact with some material that his father had sorcerized. Bertha, another resident of the Kandoka village, and her husband Lawrence were suspected to be the victims of witchcraft. Another woman, furious that she could not marry Lawrence, maliciously contaminated him by mixing her menstrual blood with something he ingested.

This is said to be the cause of his tuberculosis and subsequently Bertha’s through her contact with her husband. The information discussed above deals with how and when traditional methods are used to define and cure illness. Although there is only a limited number of cases in question, a pattern seems to have developed. It appears that the Kaliai will in most cases attempt using Western medicine first and resort to traditional beliefs of the spiritual world or sorcery when the Western methods fail to cure them or provide an acceptable cause of an illness, deformity, or death. Not enough information exists, so I can only tentatively state that when the circumstances surrounding the time and location of the illness seem suspicious, the Kaliai are more likely to turn to traditional sources of explaining events.

Wanlek and Christy’s parents, as well as Paul, were all aware in advance of the presence of powerful spirits and sorcerers, which likely made it easier to find an explanation as to what happened after the fact. It is because traditional medicine is generally approached after Western medicine that it is harder for the Kaliai to explain what happened when it fails. One explanation for why their traditional method did not work involves Paul. Loa’s attempt to cure him was unsuccessful therefore it was claimed that he had waited too long to seek her assistance. Similarly, Christy’s retardation is said not to have been the result of her spirit being caught in Bou’s kisinga but because it remained inside for so long. The people of the Kandoka village have accepted Western medicine into their way of life.

This new form of medical treatment is founded on a much more rigid foundation of diagnosis and scientific cure than their traditional practices. From the case histories provided it appears the Kaliai seek Western medical care first, especially when the symptoms of illness look familiar to ones that have been previously cured by this method. Western medicine, however, is not always able to explain sickness in a manner the Kaliai can understand or accept. It is in these situations that they are likely to revert to traditional medical beliefs involving sorcerers and the spiritual world to form a conclusion as to the cause of illness. Even these long-standing traditional beliefs are occasionally challenged when they fail.

In instances like this excuses are often made, such as too much time was wasted before treatment was sought, or the person was foolish to disrespect the spirits. The people of the Kandoka village use Western medicine to compliment traditional practices and vice versa. Different cultures have different sets of values and beliefs that make up who they are as a culture. The medical beliefs and perceptions of illness are just a small part what make up the Kaliai.

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