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Monday 11 June 2012

The Unholy Power

All around us the celebrants at Kokuzan seemed to push the limits of pain: A woman splashed sand into opened eyes, a man cut his belly with shards of glass but did not bleed, another swallowed fire.
     This was a description by a writer for National Geographic (August 1995, p 111) of a voodoo ceremony in Togo, West Africa. But I wish more details had been provided of the second incident. If it means that he cut an open wound in his belly with a shard of glass, then the failure to bleed would not be exceptional. The power of the mind over the flesh during altered states of consciousness is well established. It would be expected that the blood would return once the trance ended. However, if it meant that the glass was unable to pierce his skin, that would be something quite different. In any case, it reminded me of an extraordinary story I had come across by accident some years before.