Diwali, Magic and Owls

Photo by Mila Zinkova (http://home.comcast.net/~milazinkova/Fogshadow.html)

An article in New Scientist gets me worried both about the future India’s owls and just what New Scientist might be doing with their own personal goat entrails.

The Indian festival of Diwali begins this week, and according to New Scientist:

Shamans use owl body parts, including the skull, feathers, ear tufts, blood and beak, in rituals such as those for attracting wealth, curing fever and passing exams…As owls are associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, who is worshipped on Diwali, sacrifices rocket at this time of year.

All trade in wild birds is banned in India. However, a recent crackdown has paradoxically boosted trade in more lucrative birds, like owls. Buyers pay $67 for a barn owl and $900 for an eagle owl.

The article’s first commenter points out that it refers to such sacrifices as “black magic,” which is inaccurate.

Depending on whom you ask, black magic is a matter of either intent or access. It is either the use of magic to cause harm, or the use of magic in league with malevolent entities. In no way is it the use of animals in sacrifices, which is an important part of many traditions. Whether or not a ritual uses animals or animal products is not related to the intent of the magic.

The amazing image of the Eurasian Eagle Owl, incidentally, is by photographer Milla Zinkova, taken at the San Francisco Zoo and found at Wikipedia. The story comes to me via John Shirley‘s Facebook updates.

Possibly related posts: