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Nov. 1980 H P B on Afican Magic witnessed by her

Apr 03, 2002 05:26 PM
by dalval14

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Dear Friends:

This seems to have some interest in regard to psychic phenomena
and rain-making in Africa as witnessed by her.

I thought it might be of value to post it. It is one more piece
of evidence showing the great extent to which H.P.Blavatsky
travelled around the world.

Best wishes,





Article by H. P. Blavatsky

BEFORE we enter into the subject of the occult art as practised
on the West Coast of Africa, it will be well to clear the ground
by first considering for a moment what we mean by the much-abused
term "Magic."
There are many definitions of this word; and, in bygone ages, it
was simply used to designate anything and everything which was
"not understanded of the vulgar." It will be sufficient for our
purpose to define it as the knowledge of certain natural laws
which are not merely unknown but absolutely unsuspected by the
scientists of Europe and America.
It is a recognized fact that no law of Nature can be--even for a
single moment--abrogated. When, therefore, this appears to us to
be the case--when, for instance, such a universally known law as
that of the attraction of gravitation seems to be annihilated, we
must recognize the fact that there may be other laws at present
unknown to Western science which have the power of overriding and
suspending for the time being the action of the known law.
The knowledge of these hidden laws is what we understand by the
term occult science, or magic. And there is no other magic than
this, and never has been, at any period of the world's history.
All the so-called "miracles" of ancient times can be and are
reproduced at the present day by magists when occasion requires.
An act of magic is a pure scientific feat, and must not be
confounded with legerdemain or trickery of any kind.
There are several schools of magism, all proceeding and operating
on entirely different lines. The principal of these, and on whose
philosophy all others are founded, are the Hindu; the Thibetan,
the Egyptian (including the Arab) and the Obeeyan or Voodoo. The
last named is entirely and fundamentally opposed to the other
three: it having its root and foundation in necromancy or "black
magic," while the others all operate either by means of what is
known to experts as "white magic," or in other cases by
"psychologizing" the spectator. And, a whole crowd of spectators
can be psychologized and made at the will of the operator to see
and feel whatever things he chooses, all the time being in full
possession of their ordinary faculties. Thus, perhaps a couple of
travelling fakirs give their performance in your own compound or
in the garden of your bungalow. They erect a small tent and tell
you to choose any animal which you wish to see emerge therefrom.
Many different animals are named in rotation by the bystanders,
and in every case the desired quadruped, be he tiger or terrier
dog, comes out of the opening in the canvas and slowly marches
off until he disappears round some adjacent corner. Well, this is
done simply by "psychologizing," as are all the other great
Indian feats, such as "the basket trick" "the mango tree,"
throwing a rope in the air and climbing up it, pulling it up and
disappearing in space, and the thousand and one other similar
performances which are "familiar as household words" to almost
every Anglo-Indian.
The difference between these schools and that of the Voodoo or
Obeeyah is very great, because in them there is a deception or
want of reality in the performance. The spectator does not really
see what he fancies he sees: his mind is simply impressed by the
operator and the effect is produced. But in African magic, on the
contrary, there is no will impression: the observer does really
and actually see what is taking place. The force employed by the
African necromancers is not psychological action but demonosophy.
White magists have frequently dominated and employed inferior
spirits to do their bidding, as well as invoked the aid of
powerful and beneficent ones to carry out their purposes. But
this is an entirely different thing: The spirits which are
naturally maleficent become the slaves of the magist, and he
controls them and compels them to carry out his beneficent plans.
The necromancer, or votary of black magic, is, on the contrary,
the slave of the evil spirit to whom he has given himself up.
While the philosophy of the magist demands a life of the greatest
purity and the practice of every virtue, while he must utterly
subdue and have in perfect control all his desires and appetites,
mental and physical, and must become simply an embodied
intellect, absolutely purged from all human weakness and
pusillanimity, the necromancer must outrage and degrade human
nature in every way conceivable. The very least of the crimes
necessary for him (or her) to commit to attain the power sought
is actual murder, by which the human victim essential to the
sacrifice is provided. The human mind can scarcely realise or
even imagine one tithe of the horrors and atrocities actually
performed by the Obeeyah women.
Yet, though the price is awful, horrible, unutterable, the power
is real. There is no possibility of mistake about that. Every
petty king on the West Coast has his "rain-maker." It is the
fashion among travellers, and the business of the missionaries,
to ridicule and deny the powers of these people. But they do
possess and do actually use the power of causing storms of rain,
wind, and lightning. When one considers that however ignorant and
brutal a savage may be, yet that he has an immense amount of
natural cunning, and his very ignorance makes him believe nothing
that cannot be proved to him, no "rain-maker" could live for one
year unless he gave repeated instances of his powers when
required by the king. Failure would simply mean death. And the
hypothesis that they only work their conjurations when the
weather is on the point of change is only an invention of the
missionaries. The native chiefs are, like all savages, able to
detect an approaching change of weather many hours before it
takes place. And is it at all likely that they would send for the
rain-maker and give him sufficient cattle to last him for twelve
months, besides wives and other luxuries, if there were the
slightest appearance of approaching rain?
I remember well my first experience of these wizards. For weeks
and weeks there had been no rain, although it was the rainy
season. The mealies were all dying for want of water; the cattle
were being slaughtered in all directions; women and children had
died by scores, and the fighting men were beginning to do the
same, being themselves scarcely more than skeletons. Day after
day, the sun glared down on the parched earth, without one
intervening cloud, like a globe of glowing copper, and all Nature
languished in that awful furnace. Suddenly the king ordered the
great war drum to be beaten, and the warriors all gathered
hurriedly. He announced the arrival of two celebrated
rain-makers, who would forthwith proceed to relieve the
prevailing distress. The elder of the two was a stunted,
bow-legged little man, with wool which would have been white had
it not been messed up with grease, filth and feathers. The second
was rather a fine specimen of the Soosoo race, but with a very
sinister expression. A large ring being formed by the squatting
negroes, who came--for some unknown reason--all armed to the
teeth, the king being in the centre, and the rain-makers in front
of him, they commenced their incantations. The zenith and the
horizon were eagerly examined from time to time, but not a
vestige of a cloud appeared. Presently the elder man rolled on
the ground in convulsions, apparently epileptic, and his comrade
started to his feet pointing with both hands to the
copper-colored sky. All eyes followed his gesture, and looked at
the spot to which his hands pointed, but nothing was visible.
Motionless as a stone statue he stood with gaze rivetted on the
sky. In about the space of a minute a darker shade was observable
in the copper tint, in another minute it grew darker and darker,
and, in a few more seconds developed into a black cloud, which
soon overspread the heavens. In a moment, a vivid flash was seen,
and the deluge that fell from that cloud, which had now spread
completely overhead, was something to be remembered. For two days
and nights that torrent poured down, and seemed as if it would
wash everything out of the ground.
After the king had dismissed the rain-makers, and they had
deposited the cattle and presents under guard, I entered the hut
in which they were lodged, and spent the night with them,
discussing the magical art. The hut was about fourteen feet in
diameter, strongly built of posts driven firmly into the ground,
and having a strong thatched conical roof. I eventually persuaded
them to give me one or two examples of their skill. They began
singing, or rather crooning, a long invocation, after a few
minutes of which the younger man appeared to rise in the air
about three feet from the ground and remain there unsuspended,
and floating about. There was a brilliant light in the hut from a
large fire in the centre, so that the smallest detail could be
distinctly observed. I got up and went to feel the man in the
air, and there was no doubt about his levitation. He then floated
close to the wall and passed through it to the outside. I made a
dash for the doorway, which was on the opposite side of the hut,
and looked round for him. I saw a luminous figure which appeared
like a man rubbed with phosphorised oil; but I was glad to
rapidly take shelter from the torrents of rain. When I re-entered
the hut, there was only the old man present. I examined the logs
carefully, but there was no aperture whatever. The old man
continued his chant, and in another moment his comrade
re-appeared floating in the air. He sat down on the ground, and I
saw his black skin glistening with rain, and the few rags he wore
were as wet as if he had been dipped in a river.
The next feat was performed by the old man, and consisted in
several instantaneous disappearances and reappearances. The
curious point about this was that the old man also was dripping
Following this was a very interesting exhibition. By the old
man's directions we arranged ourselves round the fire at the
three points of an imaginary triangle. The men waved their hands
over the fire in rhythm with their chant when dozens of
tic-polongas, the most deadly serpent in Africa, slowly crawled
out from the burning embers, and interlacing themselves together
whirled in a mad dance on their tails round the fire, making all
the while a continuous hissing. At the word of command they all
sprang into the fire and disappeared. The young man then came
round to me, and, kneeling down, opened his mouth, out of which
the head of a tic-polonga was quickly protruded. He snatched it
out, pulling a serpent nearly three feet long out of his throat,
and threw it also into the fire. In rapid succession he drew
seven serpents from his throat, and consigned them all to the
same fiery end.
But I wanted to know what they could do in the way of evocation
of spirits. The incantation this time lasted nearly twenty
minutes, when, rising slowly from the fire, appeared a human
figure, a man of great age, a white man too, but absolutely nude.
I put several questions to him, but obtained no reply. I arose
and walked round the fire, and particularly noticed a livid scar
on his back. I could get no satisfactory explanation of who he
was, but they seemed rather afraid of him, and had
evidently--from the remarks they interchanged--expected to see a
black man.
After the appearance of this white man, I could not persuade them
that night to attempt anything more, although the next night I
had no difficulty with them. A most impressive feat, which they
on a subsequent occasion performed, was the old custom of the
priests of Baal. Commencing a lugubrious chant they slowly began
circling around the fire (which said fire always is an essential
part of the proceedings), keeping a certain amount of rhythm in
both their movements and cadences. Presently, the movement grew
faster and faster till they whirled round like dancing dervishes.
There were two distinct movements; all the time during which they
were gyrating round the circle, they were rapidly spinning on
their own axes. With the rapidity of their evolutions their
voices were raised higher and higher until the din was terrific.
Then, by a simultaneous movement, each began slashing his naked
body on arms, chest, and thighs, until they were streaming with
blood and covered with deep gashes. Then the old man stopped his
erratic course, and sitting down on the ground narrowly watched
the younger one with apparent solicitude. The young man continued
his frantic exertions until exhausted Nature could bear no more,
and he fell panting and helpless on the ground. The old man took
both the knives and anointed the blades with some evil smelling
grease from a calabash, and then stroked the young man's body all
over with the blade which had done the injuries, and finished the
operation by rubbing him vigorously with the palms of the hands
smeared with the unguent.
In a few minutes time the young man arose, and there was not the
slightest trace of wound or scar in his ebony skin. He then
performed the same good offices on the old man with the same
effect. Within ten minutes afterwards they were both laid on
their mats in a sweet and quiet sleep. In this performance there
were many invocations, gestures, the circular fire, and other
things which satisfied me that some portion, at all events, of
the magical processes of West Africa had been handed down from
the days when Baal was an actual God, and mighty in the land.
Lucifer, November, 1890


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