Beware occult scare-mongering

Although we have an enlightened Constitution, most South Africans are deeply conservative, especially when it comes to religion.

There exists a fear of the unfamiliar. Take the word occult. Objectively it is neither good nor evil. A standard definition would involve mystical, supernatural, or magical powers, practices or phenomena. Yet we hear almost daily about “occult crimes”, as if the occult is to be feared.

This week a press conference was called to announce the Occult-Related Crime Unit had “handled 78 satanic and ritual inquiries” in the last three months.

There is an element of scare-mongering here, ramped up by the discovery of two dead, mutilated teenagers in Soweto, along with black candles, while the Kirsty Theologo case is fresh in the public mind.

Theologo’s killers claimed to be possessed by demons. Most of the cases mentioned at the media briefing appear to involve traditional muti killings.

Evil things certainly happen, but we should guard against knee-jerk responses which lump together misguided, ill-informed youthful experimentation with equally ignorant traditional superstitions under the occult label.

The mystical can be immensely good. Shakespeare was right: Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.


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