What is black magic?
I heard about black magic and other supernatural systems of beliefs in my childhood. However, it was only when I joined medical school in 1976 that I was exposed to the range and diversity of cultural beliefs and practices. We, as a class, lived in a village, Kammasamudram, for two weeks during our first year of medical training, to understand and experience rural life.
The Community Orientation Programme involved household surveys, collecting nutrition and anthropometric data, studying water supply, sanitation, contraceptive usage, birth routines, immunization schedules, child-rearing practices, and eliciting caste information and its impact on discrimination. Belief in black magic, sin, punishment, karma, evil spirits, supernatural influences, dietary conventions, and religious theories resulted in complex rules, modes of behavior, and ritualistic practice. They seemed to affect all aspects of rural life. Many of us, 17-year-olds, from urban backgrounds found many cultural perspectives, customs, and traditions difficult to comprehend.
The faculty and staff of the department of community health discussed many issues and their implications for health and disease. Despite our superficial understanding of the complexities of life, we came away with idealism and a desire to educate people about scientific medical approaches, improve the lives of rural folk, reduce poverty, and overcome cultural obstacles to health.