Aboriginal tribe in southern Taiwan open witch school

An aboriginal tribe in southern Taiwan has started a school for witches to preserve unique rituals in danger of vanishing as society modernises, an organiser said Friday.

Witchcraft is an important part of the Paiwan tribe’s cultural heritage, but the number of active practitioners has been dwindling fast, according to Wong Yu-hua, a social affairs official in Pingtung county. ‘We are witnessing the disappearance of the ancient ritual. We are trying hard to preserve it,’ she told AFP by telephone.

The Paiwan tribe, which numbers about 86,000 people, has less than 20 witches, down from more than 100 half a century ago as Christianity and other outside faiths take hold.

The Paiwan community is one of Taiwan’s 14 aboriginal tribes, all with linguistic links to Austronesian people scattered across the Pacific as far away as Easter Island.

Paiwan witches serve as mediums between gods and humans, and the class that has now started aims to teach rituals for blessing people and protecting them from evil.

‘Passing on psychic acts to the young generation is a good way to understand Paiwan culture. We can go back to see how ancestors lived,’ said Wong, whose own 88-year-old mother is skilled in witchcraft.

Currently, the school has only 10 students, but organisers hope it will expand, she said.

‘The most sticking problem is that we do not have a written language. That makes it hard for young Paiwans to learn the ritual,’ she said.

Taiwan has 490,000 aborigines, descendants of people who have lived on the island for millennia, compared with a total population of 23 million.

Source - AFP

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