The Hex Death
Hex death, also called “voodoo death” is caused by placing a hex or cursed on a person either by black magic, or by breaking a taboo. Belief is the critical factor in a hex death. If a person, or victim, believes that a witch doctor or a Vodoun priest has laid a hex or curse on him to cause his death, either by cursing him or pointing a finger or bone at him, he probably will expire, and no amount of Western conventional medicine can save him. Usually hex death is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Anthropologist Joan Halifax-Grof, in her studies on hex death, listed four causes: 1) secret administration of poisons or other physical agents; 2) the relationship between the physical and emotional factors in the victim; 3) social reactions in a particular culture; and 4) parapsychological influences. Poisons and physical agents are obvious malefactors; if administered “magically” with plenty of ceremony, they may kill without the victim’s knowledge.
The second category refer to the fact that the victim can literally die from fright. In stressful situation the adrenaline flow increases, preparing the body to fight or run. In incidences where neither is possible, the body can suffer both short- and long-term damage, such as shock, lowering of the blood pressure and attacking of the body immune system. Rage affects the body as well. Finally, if the victim believes his cursed situation is hopeless, he starts experiencing feelings of helplessness, incompetence, despair and worthlessness. His illness begins, which the victim has no desire to fight, and inevitably he succumbs. Psychologists term this situation the giving up/given up complex.
Cultural determinants do play a large factor in hex death alone with the victim’s own perceptions. Once cursed the victim can be forced to withdraw from daily community life, becoming almost invisible to his neighbors. The cursed person becomes despondent, expecting death, and his friends and relatives do not dispute these notions but corroborate with them. Eventually, those not cursed begin to see the victim as already dead, even performing funeral ceremonies over his body, which technically still lives. In Australia, the aborigines actually take food and water from the accused, thinking a dead person needs no sustenance. Suffering from starvation and dehydration in the heat of the Australian bush will certainly cause the victim to die.
There are many cases where the victim dies even when his friends and relatives try to help him. Halifax-Grof speculates that in these incidences the sorcerer had developed a telepathic connection with the victim, and somehow controls his mind. Theoretically, if there is psychic healing, then, perhaps, there is psychic killing. One of the most sinister acts of the obeahman, or witch doctor, is to steal a person’s shadow. By taking a human’s spirit and psychically “nailing” it to the sacred ceiba tree, the obeahman has deprived the victim of his spirit and of the need to live.
In Haiti, French anthropologist Alfred Metraux observed a phenomenon called “sending of the dead,” which Baron Samedi, god of the graveyard, possesses the bokor, the sorcerer, and through him commands a client to go to a cemetery at midnight with offerings of food for the Baron. When reaching the cemetery, the client must gather a handful of graveyard earth for each person he wishes to see killed, which he later spreads on the paths taken by the victim(s). Alternatively, the client take a stone from the cemetery, which magically transforms itself into an evil entity, ready to do its master’s bidding. To initiate the process, the sorcerer throws the stone against the victim’s house. Metraux found that whenever a person learned that he was a victim of a “sending the dead” spell, he would soon grow thin, stop eating, spit blood and die.
In all these cases, only the reversal of the spell by good magic can save the victim’s life. The mind’s capacity for belief and action overpowers all other attempts at conventional logic and scientific rationality.
However, sorcerers in various cultures contend that it is possible to cause a hex death even though the victim is unaware of the hex.