The Reiki Master Will Heal you Now

Happy 2012, everyone!  I hope it was relaxing, productive, challenging or debaucherous; whatever makes you happy.

I’m back in London and last Friday I found myself at the after show party for a popular interactive performance piece.  It was a jolly good time.  One of the highlights of the evening was chatting to a very tall, blond Englishman whose name I can’t remember.  Let’s call him Jimmy.

Jimmy and I idly made conversation until I asked him what he does for a living.    As it turns out Jimmy is a Reiki teacher.

Reiki is not something I know a great deal about though I do not have fond memories of my experiences with it at university; mostly of the small fellow who seemed to be the sole member of the campus Reiki Club who would chase people down in the hallways and shake his hands around them in attempt to manipulate their energy.  He was annoying as fuck.

I think Wikipedia sums Reiki up pretty well:

Reiki (霊気?, English pronunciation: /ˈreɪkiː/) is a spiritual practice[1] developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui, which since has been adapted by various teachers of varying traditions. It uses a technique commonly called palm healing or hands on healing as a form of complementary therapy and is sometimes classified as oriental medicine by some professional medical bodies.[2] Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring universal energy (i.e., reiki) in the form of ki through the palms, which allows for self-healing and a state of equilibrium.[3]

The concept of ki underlying Reiki is speculative and there is no scientific evidence that it exists; a 2008 systematic review of randomised clinical trials concluded that “the evidence is insufficient to suggest that reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore the value of reiki remains unproven.”[4] The American Cancer Society[5] and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine[6] have also found that there is no clinical or scientific evidence supporting claims that Reiki is effective in the treatment of any illness.

Getting back to the party, Jimmy was pretty keen to tell me how amazing Reiki is and how much it can make a difference in your life.  I asked him how it worked and he couldn’t give me a proper explanation, which I guess makes sense as the method is certainly one that doesn’t offer much in that whole “tangible” sense of the word.   He then hopped right into telling me his tragic backstory.  It seems that Jimmy has spent the last 30 years trying to recover from some trauma he experienced at a young age.  I should specify; Jimmy has been trying to come to terms with all of the damage he received due to his mother being “stressed” while he was in the womb.

Jimmy has been trying to get his life back since his birth and feels scarred from his in utero exploits.  He also told me that one day while he was meditating he was struck with the vision of being back in the womb and seeing the forceps coming right for him.  This has also taken a great deal of time, meditation and Reiki healing to overcome.


For fun I decided to do a bit of investigating to see if anyone could really suffer so much mental anguish from being in the womb  and found this article from 2007   that links “stressed” mothers to children with lower IQs, attention deficient problems and anxiety issues.  This is all very much in the early studies category and requires additional research, though it is pretty interesting.  I highly doubt, however, that someone is able to recall such negative feelings in the womb and that, after 30 years, would continue to use such a vague argument as validation for any current or past health and emotional issues they might have had, save for actually being diagnosed with a disorder.  What I found most surprising about the conversation is that Jimmy was so open to talking about these issues on the first time he had ever met me.  I wonder what he’d tell me on a second conversation…

Oooh, let’s throw in one more video just for fun.  You can watch someone practicing Reiki, or as I call it “petting”, on an anally retentive cat.  Enjoy!!


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Another Fraudulent Psychic Exposed. YAY!

Psychics and Mediums are a bit of a pet peeve of mine.  It’s not the practice or the claims that they make which particularly bothers me; it’s more of the emotional turmoil they can put people through when they pretend that they can talk to dead loved ones or predict their future.  Part of me wonders how harmful it is – I suppose it can give many closure or help them resolve conflicting feelings, but a lot of fraudulent artists charge extortionate fees to the point where the bereaved can become bankrupt

But really, the bottom line is that fraud is still fraud, regardless of it’s dressings.

As such, I was quite pleased when I stumbled across this article in the Guardian:

Psychic Sally Morgan hears voices from the other side (via a hidden earpiece)

Evidence ‘Britain’s best-loved psychic’ Sally Morgan may not be all she seems is unlikely to deter her fans, writes Chris French

    • 20 September 2011 07.30 BST

British ‘psychic’ Sally Morgan, star of Psychic Sally on the Road. Photograph: PR

According to her website, Sally Morgan is “Britain’s best-loved psychic”. She is certainly a very successful psychic – she has just released her third book and is currently filming the third series of Psychic Sally on the Road for Sky LIVING. But an incident that took place a few days ago may cause a few of her fans to wonder whether Morgan is deserving of their adoration. Could it be that, like so many self-professed psychic superstars in the past, Morgan is nothing more than a self-serving con artist?

Let me describe what happened so that you can make up your own mind. On Monday 12 September, a caller named Sue phoned the Liveline show on RTÉ Radio 1, an Irish radio station. Sue said that she had attended Morgan’s show the previous night at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin and had been impressed by the accuracy of the readings she made in the first half of the show.

But then something odd happened. Sue was sitting in the back row on the fourth level of the theatre and there was a small room behind her (“like a projection room”) with a window open. Sue and her companions became aware of a man’s voice and “everything that the man was saying, the psychic was saying it 10 seconds later.”

Sue believes, not unreasonably, that the man was feeding information to Sally through an earpiece attached to her microphone. For example, the voice would say something like “David, pain in the back, passed quickly” and a few seconds later Sally would claim to have the spirit of a “David” on stage who – you’ll never guess – suffered from back pain and passed quickly.

A member of staff realised that several people near the back of the theatre were aware of the mystery voice and the window was gently closed. The voice was not heard again.

Sue speculated, again not unreasonably given the history of psychic frauds, that the man was feeding Sally information that had been gathered by engaging members of the audience in conversation in the foyer before the show began. This is a technique widely used by psychic fraudsters, as audience members will naturally discuss with each other who they are hoping to hear from “on the other side”, how their loved one died, and so on.

Subsequent callers to the radio programme supported Sue’s account.

The theatre’s general manager, Stephen Faloon, claimed that the voice heard by the audience was actually the voices of two members of staff working for the theatre, not someone supplying information to Sally. Sally Morgan Enterprises also denied that the medium was being fed information during the show.

This episode is reminiscent of the exposure of faith healer Peter Popoff by James Randi in 1986. Popoff would wow his audiences by giving specific and accurate details of their medical problems before claiming to cure them with his divine powers. This information was, according to Popoff, provided to him directly by God. It was certainly an effective technique, as at this time Popoff was raking in around $4m per month (tax-free) from his poor, sick and uneducated followers.

Randi, with the assistance of investigator Alexander Jason, convincingly demonstrated that Popoff was actually receiving the “divine” information from his wife via a hearing aid. Following his exposure on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Popoff declared bankruptcy in 1987.

In a more rational world, that would have been the end of Popoff’s career as a faith healer. Sadly, we do not live in a rational world. Popoff is back, earning more than ever by fleecing his flock using exactly the same techniques that Randi exposed, plus a few new ones, such as the sale of “Miracle Spring Water”. According to ABC News, Popoff’s ministry received more than $9.6m in 2003 and more than $23m in 2005. In that year, Popoff paid himself and his wife a combined total of almost a million dollars (not to mention two of his children receiving more than $180,000 each).

Since the heyday of mediumship during the Victorian era, exposure as frauds has typically done little to diminish the popularity of alleged psychics in the eyes of their followers.

It is important to realise that many self-professed psychics, possibly the majority, are sincere in their beliefs that they possess a “gift”. Such practitioners are probably unintentionally using some of the same techniques used by so-called cold readers to convince themselves and their sitters that they are tapping into some paranormal source of information. Because the cold reading technique is not being exploited deliberately and systematically, such readings are usually unimpressive to anyone except hardcore believers.

But con artists can use cold reading to convince complete strangers that they know all about them. It relies on the clever use of language, careful observation, intelligent guesswork, and the production of vague and ambiguous statements that the sitter interprets (and remembers) as being more specific than they actually were. In a skilled practitioner, cold reading can produce much more impressive results than the rather amateurish readings produced by most psychics.

Even cold reading has its limits though. If a psychic reading is full of very specific and accurate details, produced on the basis of very limited interaction with the sitter (as in Popoff’s case), it is more likely to be the result of “hot reading” – information collected prior to the start of the reading.

While the activities of performers like Popoff, who deliberately and knowingly exploit their vulnerable followers and are motivated by nothing more than personal greed, would be condemned as immoral by most reasonable people, the moral issues are not quite so cut-and-dried when it comes to deluded but sincere psychics who may not even charge for their services.

The fact is that many bereaved people are comforted to receive “evidence” that their loved ones are waiting for them “on the other side”. Some may feel that even if Morgan is deliberately conning her audience with fraudulent techniques, this is outweighed by the comfort that she brings. However, given that tickets for her sell-out Dublin show cost €40 each and there were reportedly brisk sales for her books and DVDs, this appears not to be her only motivation.

Phone-in caller Sue, who believed that Morgan had psychic powers before her experience at the theatre, described herself as being “totally disappointed” and insisted that she would not be attending such shows again. Maybe some of her friends and others sitting near her that evening will follow suit. Sadly, however, history suggests that most of Sally’s followers will continue to adore her and pay the high prices demanded to see her in action.

Chris French is a professor of psychology at Goldsmiths where he heads the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit. He edits the The Skeptic

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Deepak Chopra – The “Pseudoscientist”

For the last several years I’ve been hearing the name Deepak Chopra being thrown around left right and centre. It’s a name that seems to be associated with meditation, inner peace and what I am assuming is millions of dollars of profit.

He’s a celebrity, a guru, and what has been referred to as a “pseudoscientist” by Sam Harris, author and Neuroscientist. His new age methodology and misuse of quantum physics for the purpose of providing credibility to his theories has been under heavy criticism. Chopra himself has admitted that his examination of quantum theory has been used more as a metaphor than actual scientific evidence for his practices. Admittedly, this seems to be quite common for different (for lack of a better definition) New-Age-ish practices/ technologies (oh, the way this works has to do with quantum physics – it’s all very complicated, you wouldn’t understand)

From his official website:

DEEPAK CHOPRA, M.D. Co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing Deepak Chopra is a world-renowned authority in the field of mind-body healing, a best-selling author, and the founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. Heralded by Time Magazine as the “poet-prophet of alternative medicine,” he is also the host of the popular weekly Wellness Radio program on Sirius/XM Stars. A global force in the field of human empowerment, Dr. Chopra is the prolific author of more than fifty-five books, including fourteen bestsellers on mind-body health, quantum mechanics, spirituality, and peace. Dr. Chopra’s books have been published in more than eighty-five languages. His New York Times bestseller Peace Is the Way won a prestigious Quill Award, and The Book of Secrets was awarded the grand prize at the 2005 Nautilus Book Awards; his bestselling novel, Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment, was released in 2008. He is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post On Faith and contributes regularly to and the Huffington Post.

Again, I know little about this character but will be doing a bit of digging.  Personally, he strikes me as an opportunist conman who has used his relationship with Michael Jackson to propel his career and paint himself as a guru (in designer clothes). That might be a very unfair perception; regardless I’d like to point out something quite interesting that he’s done which few others have explored: Deepak Chopra has teamed up with Wii and Xbox 360 Kintec to make a videogame. Clever girl.

The game is called Leela, and “contains 43 interactive exercises and mini-games inspired by each chakra, as well as self-guided and guided meditation practices. The Kinect version can even measure players’ breathing, showing users the proper way to breathe during meditation

He further comments: “What we experience actually shapes the anatomy of our brain,” he said, mentioning that he frequently speaks to his neuroscientist pals. “There’s no experience that you have that doesn’t influence what happens in your brain, obviously. But now we also know that by choosing the right experiences, we can rewire our brain… When I started watching video games, I realized that they can be an amazing tool to accelerate the development of the brain. And that, in fact, a video game can accelerate technologically the development and evolution [of the brain] in a few months that would take maybe 100 years of biological evolution. We don’t recognize this yet, but we will.

A video game (that can maybe) accelerate 100 years of neurological evolution in the span of a few months!?!? Not proven yet, but you know…

I will grant him this: it is quite a neat idea and the fact that someone is talking about the positive effects of gaming instead of accusing them of turning our youth violent and depraved is perhaps a step in the right direction, even if is making some fairly bold self important claims.

Fire Rainbowsprite and I actually had an opportunity to play this game at the Mind & Body convention and I have to admit that I felt an awful lot like I was a spermazoid searching for an egg.

To play the game you stand stationary and lean side to side for your character, or in this case, “ball of energy” to move around the screen. There are psychedelic colours everywhere and an imaginative universe style landscape to navigate through. As the game was created for meditation there is no storyline (or at least what we could determine in the 2 minutes we were playing). It was challenging to use though as every time someone walked past the motion sensor would pick up on them and drag our ball of energy to the other side of the screen.

While Fire played I chatted with the young vendor about, in lieu of recent conversations I had had with other vendors at the convention (or “conventionists” as I like to call them), whether we should be concerned about the energy and vibrations emitted from the television/ consol and whether these might be harmful to the player (I personally don’t see how it could ever be harmful, but everyone at the convention seemed keen to be fear-mongers and make everyone aware of the negative effects of, er, “bad energy”). She hoed and hummed and said that she had been asked the same question several times that day and speculated that Deepak must surely have been aware of the negative impact of the energy emitted by the program but undoubtedly felt that that the overall positive effects of the game outweighed the potential dangers. I suppose it was a fair enough answer, though it struck me as somewhat sinister; the sort of reply that someone would give on behalf of a cult leader; Chopra knows what is best for us.

It would be interesting to play the game again and see whether it is meditative, though to be honest if I’m going to be playing videogames I would prefer to be playing Super Smash Bros.

Pikachu, I choose you!

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Magnetic Dots and The Dead

Last week I received an e-mail from my good friend, Fire Rainbowsprite, letting me know about the Mind & Body convention happening in Victoria on the weekend.  Fire had attended a similar event in Vancouver a few years back as a representative from a local radio show and had a thoroughly interesting time.  As a sceptic who is doing his PHD in Cognitive Psycholoy, Fire was the perfect playmate for a day of examining the surreal world that was the focus of this convention.

We were pleased when we walked into the main convention hall.  It wasn’t a large space by any means, but what immediately filled our vision were multiple stalls selling incense, shiny stones and books on meditation.

We perused through the stalls, taking in everything from different Yoga practices (neat) to aura photography to foot bandages that eliminate hangovers.  It soon became evident almost all of the vendors relied on the words “energy”, “magnetism”, “toxins”, and “DNA” to provide some sort of scientific backing for their products and/or  techniques.  While their explanations really didn’t make much sense, I would say that the majority of the vendors there were quite harmless and well intentioned; truly believing that a certain type of massage or a particular form of meditation can improve your health.  And you know what?  Maybe it can, whether that is a placebo affect or not.  I certainly found it relaxing watching various people get face massages while the practitioners were making odd clicking and swishing noises (apparently this is a form of sound therapy and helps rid you of all that bad “energy”)

There were other vendors that we struggled more with, one in particular being a petite blonde woman with green eye shadow selling “Phi EnergyDOTs”.  Below is a description from their pamphlet:

Over ten years, Philharmonics has evolved a method of programming an energy signature into small magnetic energyDOTs TM (using “programmed harmonic interface technology” R).  Like homeopathy, this is a branch of vibration medicine.  energyDOTs engage with and harmonise otherwise discordant forces around us, restoring our natural balance and vitality.

Don’t you just love it when companies use fancy and confusing terminology that they have gone to the trouble of trademarking?  I’m also not convinced that comparing your product to homeopathy, the largely criticized and debated “medical” practice, is the wisest choice.

The Phi energyDots are small disk-like objects which look like a shiny sticker and contain a magnet that is designed with the intention of reflecting all negative “energy” and “magnetism” (see, there are those two words again) so that you remain in tip top health, as nature intended.  I immediately asked how it worked and was cast a weary look, asking if I was a scientist.  I shrugged and just said that I thought it was interesting.  She went into an ambiguous explanation and pulled out various pamphlets and testimonials.

Par example; one of the studies on their website:

Before exposure to electroDOT          After 2 days use




Analysis: After using electroDOT for two days, energy Levels at the Crown and legs show a positive shift from low red and orange to blue and violet, which are healing colours.
The vibrancy of the heart and solar plexus chakras has also increased.

The study report concludes, “It seems crystal clear that the electroDOT Electromagnetic Harmoniser has a profound effect on individuals so as to reduce harmful effects of electromagnetic radiations (EMF).”

Conclusion: the colours change.

She showed me a few more pictures and explained various studies which, while they do show images which seem to alter from the original, they do not necessarily indicate that the magnetic waves we encounter from electrical sources are actually bad for you.  We were informed that the dots cost a minimum of £22 before we wandered off again.

We soon found ourselves seated on some plush pillows staring up at a stage as a young, slightly effeminate, Scotsman tried to convince the audience that he could see Archangels and spirits.  He was awful and yet this young fellow had somehow managed to attract more people than any other speaker.  The crowd consisted of a mix of the misty eyed elders and a younger, hipper crowd, but they all gathered around in the hopes, or perhaps in morbid curiosity, to see if this fellow could do as he promised.

On a side note, I should point out that there has been no evidence to prove that people can talk to the dead.  In fact, countless sceptics, magicians and con artists have taken the stage to show exactly how this is done.  It is called Cold Reading, and Penn & Teller, Derren Brown and James Randi frequently speak out against it.  I personally enjoy this video where Orson Welles recounts the day he spent as a fortune teller:

While “channelling” is a total crock, it can at least be quite captivating if done well.  This fellow cracked a few jokes then launched right into it:

SCOTSMAN: Does anyone know a “David”?


WOMAN:  me?

SCOTSMAN:  Yes, I see him here.  He was a funny guy, didn’t take life too seriously, but died quite suddenly so many people didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.  Is that right?

WOMAN: (vague nod)

SCOTSMAN:  That’s right! (Encouraging applause).    Is anyone experiencing stomach problems?

Silence in the crowd.  An Older Man raises his hand.

SCOTSMAN: Yes!  You in the back!  Well, don’t worry.  There is an older woman standing beside me.  She wants you to know that it will get better soon and you’re on the path to recovery.

Older Man sniffs back tears

SCOTSMAN:  She has also mentioned some uncomfortable arthritis.  Do you have arthritis?


SCOTSMAN:  It looks like my signals are being crossed!  There is another spirit here beside me now and I need to move on…

Fire and I rolled our eyes and left, only about 6 minutes in.  I have very little patience for people who claim that they have this ability in order to reap a profit from bereaved individuals.  Telling someone that you can speak to their dead child, parent, friend or sibling is, in my opinion, a horrible manipulation and preying on someone who is in a vulnerable place in their lives.  I hope that this man will find something better to do with his time.  Judging from his routine he might want to consider comedy…

Fire and I encountered a wealth of other fascinating, confusing and somewhat hilarious products and techniques at the convention.

More news to follow…

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Happy Weekend!

Dear elves, witches, warlocks and fairies,

Tomorrow, I shall go to this:

Parallel realms?  Channelling?  Archangels?  Animal Guides?

This is going to be a day full of illogical, expensive and potentially exploitive lectures.

Away we go!

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Fairytales and Legend

The other night I hit up the usual pub/ occulty “hot spot” and mentally braced myself for a lecture on the underworld’s rock and roll bad boy (read: psychotic, idolised nut bag) Aleister Crowley.  When I entered the pub I was overcome with that horrible awkward feeling you get when you walk into a private residence where someone has just dropped the “I’m pregnant”  or “I killed a man for lookin’ at me funny” bomb.  At a table in the centre of the room was a small group of folks in their fifties, many of whom I recognized.  Several heads turned, took me in and then went back to eating their meals and drinking a pint in relative silence.

I casually grabbed a seat on the other side of the room, pulled out a book and tried to look as inconspicuous as possible as I tried to determine whether there was actually a lecture happening tonight.  The group was conspiring and seemingly admitting defeat – the speaker was 20 minutes late but it was clear no one felt like going home.  I was the exception; I REALLY wanted to just go home and read a book, but I waited it out.

Eventually the ever lovely organizer with his frizzy grey hair and black leather trousers entered and apologized for the delay.  Our speakers had cancelled but they had arranged an improvisation of sorts with the present members.  I was also disappointed to find that I had mixed up the dates; the talk on Aleister Crowley was next week.  This week we would instead be “transported into the other world”.  Oooh.

Pleasantries were exchanged before everyone, including the old fellow with the dream-catcher face tattoo and feather topped cane, sat down and listened intently.  Apparently we were about to be whisked away to the fairy realm through folktales and fables.  It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but I do love folklore.

Our bright eyed and yellow toothed host sat at the front and recounted the tale of True Thomas, otherwise known as Thomas the Rhymer, a prominent 13th century Scottish poet.  Rhymer was rumoured to have kissed (or slept with) the Fairy Queen and was transported to the other realm to serve her for 7 years.  Popular folklore speculates that Thomas disappeared for 50 years, which was attributed to him returning to the Queen after spending years as a prophet upon his initial return.  While Thomas the Rhymer was an actual person, he has lived on in Scottish folklore & superstition and is reputed to be the inspiration behind the famous poem, Tam Lin.  More interpretations of the fable here (including photos of the supposed location of the fairy meeting – neat!

Next a stout woman with long silver hair, shiny turquoise eye shadow and seemingly no neck, saddled up to the front to share the tale of old Apple and Orangie.  There are different variations of the same tale throughout Europe, but the one she sang in her deep raspy voice went something like this:


There was upon a time a good man who had two children: a boy by a first wife, and a girl by the second. The boy was as white as milk and his hair was like golden silk which hung to the ground. His sister loved him dearly, but his wicked stepmother hated him.

“Children,” said the stepmother one day, “Take this jug to the well and fill it with water.”

Off the children went and did as they were told, but on the way home Orangie tripped over a rock and broke his mothers’ favourite jug.  Fear grabbed hold of him and he tried to run, but Apple took his arm and said that he should come home; mother couldn’t be that upset.

Home they went and with tears in his eyes, Orangie told his step-mother what had happened.

The stepmother was angry, but she pretended not to mind the loss. She said to the child, “Come, lay your head on my lap that I may comb your hair.”

So the little one laid his head in the woman’s lap, who proceeded to comb the yellow silken hair. And when she combed, the hair fell over her knees and rolled right down to the ground.

Then the stepmother hated him more for the beauty of his hair, so she said to him, “I cannot part your hair on my knee. Fetch a billet of wood.”

So he fetched it.

Then said the stepmother, “I cannot part your hair with a comb. Fetch me an ax.”

So he fetched it.

“Now,” said the wicked woman, “Lay your head down on the billet while I part your hair.”

Well! He laid down his little golden head without fear; and whist! down came the ax, and it was off. So the mother wiped the ax and laughed.

Then she took the heart and liver of the little boy, and she stewed them and brought them into the house for supper. The husband tasted them and shook his head. He said they tasted very strangely. She gave some to the little girl, but she would not eat. She tried to force her, but she refused, and ran out into the garden, and took up her brother, and put him in a box, and buried the box under a rose tree; and every day she went to the tree and wept, till her tears ran down on the box.

One day the rose tree flowered. It was spring, and there among the flowers was a white bird; and it sang, and sang, and sang like an angel out of heaven. Away it flew, and it went to a cobbler’s shop, and perched itself on a tree hard by; and thus it sang:

Pew, pew,
My minny me slew,
My daddy me chew,
My sister gathered by banes,
And put them between twa milk-white stanes;
And I grew, and I grew,
To a milk-white doo,
And I took to my wings, and away I flew.

“Sing again that beautiful song,” asked the shoemaker.

“If you will first give me those little red shoes you are making.”

The cobbler gave the shoes, and the bird sang the song, then flew to a tree in front of a watchmaker’s and sang:

Pew, pew,
My minny me slew,
My daddy me chew,
My sister gathered by banes,
And put them between twa milk-white stanes;
And I grew, and I grew,
To a milk-white doo,
And I took to my wings, and away I flew.

“Oh, the beautiful song! Sing it again, sweet bird,” asked the watchmaker.

“If you will give me first that gold watch and chain in your hand.”

The jeweller gave the watch and chain. The bird took it in one foot, the shoes in the other, and flew away, after having repeated the song, to where three millers were picking a millstone. The bird perched on a tree and sang:

Pew, pew,
My minny me slew,
My daddy me chew,
My sister gathered by banes,
And put them between twa milk-white stanes;
And I grew, and I grew,
To a milk-white doo,
And I took to my wings, and away I flew.

Then all three cried out with one voice, “Oh, what a beautiful song! Sing it sweet bird, again.”

“If you will put the millstone round my neck,” said the bird.

The men complied with the bird’s request, and away to the tree it flew with the millstone round his neck, the red shoes in the grasp of one foot, and the gold watch and chain in the grasp of the other. He sang the song and then flew home.

It rattled the millstone against the eaves of the house, and the stepmother said, “It thunders.”

Then the little girl ran out to see the thunder, and down dropped the red shoes at her feet.

It rattled the millstone against the eaves of the house once more, and the stepmother said again, “It thunders.”

Then the father ran out, and down fell the chain about his neck.

In ran father and son, laughing and saying, “See, the thunder has brought us these fine things!”

Then the bird rattled the millstone against the eaves of the house a third time, and the stepmother said, “It thunders again. Perhaps the thunder has brought something for me,” and she ran out. But the moment she stepped outside the door, down fell the millstone on her head.

And so she died.



Seriously though.  I do love a good, if not morbid, folk tale.


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More depressing news, courtesy of Uganda

Where child sacrifice is a business

By Chris Rogers BBC News, Kampala


The villages and farming communities that surround Uganda’s capital, Kampala, are gripped by fear.

Schoolchildren are closely watched by teachers and parents as they make their way home from school. In playgrounds and on the roadside are posters warning of the danger of abduction by witch doctors for the purpose of child sacrifice.

The ritual, which some believe brings wealth and good health, was almost unheard of in the country until about three years ago, but it has re-emerged, seemingly alongside a boom in the country’s economy.

Photograph of Stephen Stephen’s decapitated body was found in a field


The mutilated bodies of children have been discovered at roadsides, the victims of an apparently growing belief in the power of human sacrifice.

‘Sacrifice business’

Many believe that members of the country’s new elite are paying witch doctors vast sums of money for the sacrifices in a bid to increase their wealth.

At the Kyampisi Childcare Ministries church, Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga is teaching local children a song called Heal Our Land, End Child Sacrifice.

To hear dozens of young voices singing such shocking words epitomises how ritual murder has become part of everyday life here.

“Child sacrifice has risen because people have become lovers of money. They want to get richer,” the pastor says.

“They have a belief that when you sacrifice a child you get wealth, and there are people who are willing to buy these children for a price. So they have become a commodity of exchange, child sacrifice has become a commercial business.”

The pastor and his parishioners are lobbying the government to regulate witch doctors and improve police resources to investigate these crimes.

According to official police figures, there was one case of child sacrifice in 2006; in 2008 the police say they investigated 25 alleged ritual murders, and in 2009, another 29.

The Anti-Human Sacrifice Police Task Force, launched in response to the growing numbers, says the ritual murder rate has slowed, citing a figure of 38 cases since 2006.

Pastor Sewakiryanga disputes the police numbers, and says there are more victims from his parish than official statistics for the entire country.

The work of the police task force has been strongly criticised by the UK-based charity, Jubilee Campaign.

It says in a report that the true number of cases is in the hundreds, and claims more than 900 cases have yet to be investigated by the police because of corruption and a lack of resources.

‘Quiet money’

Allan with his father Allan was left for dead after a vicious attack


Tepenensi led me to a field near her home where she found the body of her six-year-old grandson Stephen, dumped in the reeds. She trembled as she pointed out the spot where she found his decapitated body; he had been missing for 24 hours.

Clutching the only photo she has of her grandson, Tepenensi sobbed as she explained that although the local witch doctor had admitted to sacrificing Stephen, the police were reluctant to pursue the case.

“They offered me money to keep quiet,” she says. “I refused the offer.”

No-one from the Ugandan government agreed to do an interview. The police deny inaction and corruption.

The head of the Anti-Human Sacrifice Police Task Force, Commissioner Bignoa Moses, says the police are doing all they can to tackle the problem.

“Sometimes, they accuse us of these things because we make no arrests, but we are limited. If we get information that someone is involved in criminal activities like human sacrifice, we shall go and investigate, and if it can be proven we will take him to court, but sometimes the cases are not proven.”

Boy castrated

At Kampala main hospital, consultant neurosurgeon Michael Muhumuza shows me the X-rays of the horrific injuries suffered by nine-year-old Allan.

They reveal missing bone from his skull and damage to a part of his brain after a machete sliced through Allan’s head and neck in an attempt to behead him; he was castrated by the witch doctor. It was a month before Allan woke from a coma after being dumped near his village home.

Allan was able to identify his attackers, including a man called Awali. But the police say Allan’s eyewitness account is unreliable.

A child with a scarred arm Some children are cut to collect blood for rituals


Local people told us that Awali continues to be involved with child sacrifice.

For our own inquiries, we posed as local businessmen and asked around for a witch doctor that could bring prosperity to our local construction company. We were soon introduced to Awali. He led us into a courtyard behind his home, and as if to welcome us he and his helpers wrestled a goat to the ground and slit its throat.

“This animal has been sacrificed to bring luck to us all,” Awali explained. He then demanded a fee of $390 (£250) for the ritual and asked us to return in a few days.

At our next meeting, Awali invited us into his shrine, which is traditionally built from mud bricks with a straw roof. Inside, the floor is littered with herbs, face masks, rattles and a machete.

The witch doctor explained that this meeting was to discuss the most powerful spell – the sacrifice of a child.

“There are two ways of doing this,” he said. “We can bury the child alive on your construction site, or we cut them in different places and put their blood in a bottle of spiritual medicine.”

Awali grabbed his throat. “If it’s a male, the whole head is cut off and his genitals. We will dig a hole at your construction site, and also bury the feet and the hands and put them all together in the hole.”

Child in Uganda The attacks have created a climate of fear


Awali boasted he had sacrificed children many times before and knew what he was doing. After this meeting, we withdrew from the negotiations.

We handed our notes to the police. Awali is still a free man.

‘No voice’

Allan’s father, Semwanga, has sold his home to pay for Allan’s medical treatment, and moved to the slums near the capital.

Sitting on the steps of their makeshift house, built from corrugated sheets of metal, I showed the footage of our meeting with the witch doctor to Allan on my laptop. He pointed to the screen and shouted “Awali!” confirming he is the man who attacked him.

Pastor Sewakiryanga says without the full force of the law, there is little that can be done to protect Uganda’s children from the belief in the power of human sacrifice.

“The children do not have voices, their voices have been silenced by the law and the police not acting, and the people who read the newspapers do nothing, so we have to make a stand and do whatever it takes to stamp out this evil, we can only pray that the government will listen.”

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