Sunday, May 3, 2009

That Old Black Magic

M agic carpet rides. Open Sesame! Genies that appear in a puff of smoke to grant you three wishes when you rub the magic lamp. Abra Cadabra! These thoughts conjure up images of the exotic lands of Arabia. Despite all those childhood visions I had of the Middle East, one thing that initially caught me by surprise when I moved here to Saudi Arabia a year and a half ago was the presence of these little “chotchkes” hanging in almost every home I’ve been in that are used to ward off the evil spirits. I guess I had naively thought that an ultra-conservative and ultra-religious place like Saudi Arabia would not have a problem with the likes of Black Magic and Evil Eyes. But apparently it is a huge problem here, and many Muslims do believe in sorcerers and witches with special powers like the ability to cast spells.

So much so, in fact, that earlier this year, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (the religious police here) unveiled their extensive plan to counteract the practice of magic within the Kingdom. The plan includes ways to more easily identify those who do engage in magic, to recognize magic symbols and signs, and to oversee the practice of genuine divine healing. Those found guilty of practicing Black Magic have been sentenced severely in the past. Some have been beheaded, some lashed, and some have been given jail time and then deportation. Most practitioners of Black Magic are from other countries like Egypt, Pakistan, or Indonesia.

There are references to Black Magic and Evil Eyes in the Qúran, and advice on how to avoid it, as well as instructions on how to remedy it. So the fact that it is mentioned in the Qúran explains why so many Muslims here believe in it. It also explains why there are religious clerics who specialize in ridding people or places of evil spells.

One close friend who is a Saudi woman told me about an extremely unpleasant experience that her family went through. Hiba is the wife of Azam. It is his third marriage – his first two ended in divorce. Azam’s children from his previous wife would come over to Hiba’s home to visit with their dad. Then weird things started happening. Hiba felt like there was an ominous presence in her home. Azam began to have mysterious ailments that no doctors could explain. Hiba and Azam began to argue constantly. She began to hate being in her own home. There were unexplained nasty odors and Hiba feared for the safety of her husband and their toddler son. One day Hiba found a tiny object hidden in a vase that she recognized to be a symbol of Black Magic. She showed it to Azam, who immediately went to find a religious man who specializes in the removal of evil spirits. As soon as this man stepped into their home, he confirmed their worst fears. Their home was toxic with Black Magic. He set about searching their home, and all in all, he collected about a dozen hidden little items that were representative of Black Magic. There were little papers with weird writing and symbols on them that were tightly folded up. There were tiny items with wire wrapped snugly around them. There were small personal items that Hiba recognized as hers or Azam’s that had been altered or broken or enveloped in stinky herbs or concoctions with hair and such.

The spiritual specialist then began his cleansing rituals, reciting verses from the Qúran, lighting incense and candles, and whatever else he does. I don’t know how long it took, but by the time he was done and left their home, taking all the wicked little charms with him, the evil feelings that had been dominating their household for weeks were gone. Instantly Azam’s strange medical symptoms disappeared and his health was restored. Their arguments over every little thing stopped. And Hiba felt safe and warm in her own home once again. She and her husband have no doubt that his own children planted those items in their home at the behest of his ex-wife. In fact, Hiba believes that they even put toxic substances in Azam's food to make him sick. From what Hiba has told me, the ex-wife was the one who initiated the divorce proceedings against Azam. He had had enough of her weirdness over the years, gave her the divorce, and soon after married Hiba. The ex-wife then had a change of heart and wanted Azam back, but it was too late. So she decided to use his own children to deliver the Black Magic spells into their home in an effort to break up his marriage.

I have another true story of Black Magic to tell you regarding another family that I know, but I’ll save that for a later post. It’s even more frightening than Hiba’s experience.

My husband says he thinks it’s all a bunch of hogwash, but then again - he does have one of those little chotchkes to ward off the Evil Eye hanging from his rear-view mirror in his car …

To read more on this fascinating topic:

Sand Gets in My Eyes Post “Magic in the Magic Kingdom”

Saudi Religious Police Get Tough on Black Magic, article from Jan. 2009


  1. My husband experienced something like this when he decided to marry me instead of a cousin. His aunt threatened to use black magic on him and expressed her hopes that it would really, really harm him and even kill him. It was a very scary time for his family, but since I was not raised with this concept as a convert, I handled it very differently. I've heard stories about other instances of it, and it's creepy, but I can't help but feel that if you trust in Allah swt and that his power is greater, you will be okay. Sometimes too much respect/fear of these things is the worser evil IMO.

  2. Hi MJ - The stories I have heard from people here are very real and very scary. Sad that your husband's own aunt would wish harm on him like that - family shouldn't act like that toward each other! Thanks for sharing your story and glad it all worked out for you.

  3. My best friends mother frequently throws curses at her using well known black magic words etc....Im not sure if they work or not...but my friend has been experiencing some serverly bad luck this past year...all within the time her mother has started with the curses.

    I personally dont believe in such things.

  4. This is scary stuff. As a Christian, I believe in evil, including demons who use black magic to ensnare people. I didn't realize it was so common in Arabia, but then, it exists in various forms all over the world.

  5. Back home there is a lot of brujaria... and I can tell you that sometimes its just the thought of someone doing it that causes something to happen. I remember my dad being offered a vial of something to curse the guy he was running against (sheriff) and he told me that all he'd have to do is pour it out and place the empty bottle by the guys truck and he'd be scared enough to quit. Of course he didn't do it.. or take the stuff. But people are that afraid.

    On the other hand... I have a friend that messed around w/ tarot cards and stuff started flying around her house and stuff until her mom found and burned them.

    I see those as two diff issues though... connected but still. I don't worry about someone cursing me or keep things around to ward off that stuff. To me a lot of that turns superstisious and that is against my religion personally. However, bringing things into ones house that are used in witchcraft (of any kind) is asking for trouble.

  6. Yes, yes!! This stuff is very real and I am glad they have started a special area in the gov. to go after such evil practices.

    My friend's maid was into black magic and when they searched her room, they found a huge ball of her hair in a white pouch under the bed.

    Since in Islam we believe black magic to be very real & a danger, the consequences are severe. There are different forms of sihr (sorcery) and I'm not talking about the little Mickey-Mouse versions like "hokus pokus" etc. Am talking about sacrifices that include boiled goat's blood and using it in a sinister way in hopes of injuring or even killing someone.

    P.S. Those silly blue medallions with the white eye in the middle DO NOTHING, in fact they are a useless innovation under the disguise of "warding off the Evil Eye". None but God can protect us from harm, and I'm surprised that so many Muslims in this day & age are ignorant of the reasoning behind those little things.

  7. You should've had "black magic woman" by Santana play in the background of this post.

    Anyhow, I personally do not believe in that mumbo jumbo, yeah I know in most religions exorcism and the equivalent of it happens... hey, even the Reagans had a fortune teller in the white-house... and palm readers and psychics seem to make some good $$ by fooling the gullible.

    These magicians and jinn resurrectors are the equivalent of the 1800-know-your-future hotlines Dionne Warwick business model to get money... of course when you ask them why don't they win the lottery or have a lot of $$$ in Arabia they say... "because the devil makes the magician take a vow of poverty"... ok, so the devil is an A-hole, that makes me do all this work and not even get paid to be evil, what a nasty boss... why would I even keep working for him? must be some good fringe benefits and long vacations in exotic locations on magic carpet airlines... I wonder if those airlines have been hit by the global recession.

  8. personally I don't believe in such nonsense.It is interesting though how superstition is as much of a uniting feature of societies as faith in God.I'd rather have faith in God but even that can seem a bit tenuous at times......

  9. I've never believed on that, I've always thouught it was all suggestion....until....
    I had a very bad year, a chain of really bad luck, strange events... and an arab friend of my mother told her someone had made an evils eye spell because of gelousy or whatever.

    She said I should wear with me a little salt pack (a nail size).

    I just laughed when my mother told me so, but I thought ok, let's do it, I have nothing to loose if I try. So I did, and inmediately, I started noticing things were changing, my star changed, everything became as before, bad and good things, not all bad, and problems that appeared where solving themselves. I could not believe it!!

    I still can't but it worked, now I do not wear salt with me anymore, you know having a little sack of sugar while crossing airports controls is not a smart idea...

    But I still put a little bit of salt on my home entrance's door.

  10. When I was married in Yemen, there was a lot of issues surrounding another tribe that did not like the fact that my husband's tribe would allow our marriage- and as a "precaution" I was not allowed to eat or drink anything not given to me by my husband's favorite sister for a very long time. Considering years later what the issues had been, I was glad for the precautions- because the opposing tribe seemed out for "blood".

    Having lived in the Dominican Republic for about 6 years prior to my marriage; I know to what extents people will go to do harm to others via things like sorcery, brujeria, and what we know in the island of Hispanola, Cuba and even Puerto Rico as "Santeria" (Of Yoruba origins from the slaves brought to the area) of which there are white and black types- I can't say I believe in these things- but evil does exist and there are people who will do and say evil things...

    So it is best to be "Buyer Beware" just in case its not an incantation over a glass of water but belladonna.

    The Haya should really concentrate on public awareness programs- commercials, sound bites that people can start to let go of their ways, instead of publizing things like Jinn possession and such.

  11. I always find it interesting to hear about stories like this. I'm not sure if I believe it or not. Sometimes I feel like people think it's real and it ends up being a self fulfilling prophecy. But some things like what happened to your friend's family are hard to explain away...

  12. Hi CoolRed - I didn't think I believed in it and still don't want to, but my friends' stories are so compelling - and they are very rational, normal people.

    Hi Deborah - I think there is evil too - and people who because of jealousy, revenge or some other motivation would wish harm on us.

    Hi MamaK - Thanks for pointing out that there are forms of black magic in many forms within almost every culture in the world. I'd like to steer clear of all of it!

    Hi Aalia - My hubby actually hangs that little chotchke in his car because it was given to him by a relative and it says Allah on it. I've asked him about the eye and to him it means nothing. Thanks for your comment.

  13. Hi Qusay - Santana would have been perfect for this post! You are so right about the point you made about the magicians - it doesn't make sense that they claim to bring good fortune to others but they can't bring it to themselves. Thanks for your input.

    Hi Always - Keep the faith, my dear!

    Hi Puca - That's an amazing story. I hadn't read/heard about salt, but it's good to know!

    Hi Inal - Wow! I'm always amazed at how some people try to interfere with who another person should marry. Shouldn't it be up to the man and woman involved? Geez! I hate it when others think they should control your life like that. Thanks for sharing!

    Hi Lauren - I'm sure I believe it or not, but my friends examples are very convincing, and there are just too many unexplained coincidences. Thank you for your comment.

  14. Hung my evil eye in the car about 3 weeks ago. That very day the car was keyed to shit. So much for protection from envy...

  15. Hi AbuDhabi/UAE DP - No Fair!!! So sorry that somebody was so mean to do that to your car.

  16. On a more humourous note, I know tons of people who claim they aren't superstitious at all, who all of a sudden have to wear their lucky underwear/t-shirt/jerseys/lucky rabbits foot/whatever item you can think of or can't sit in certain numbered seats whenever their team is playing or they are writing an exam...

    ...myself included.

    *whispers* I have lucky socks...

    ...and a lucky hockey jersey when my team makes theh playoffs (rare these days) :)

  17. A great post, well-written, well-illustrated, well-linked, and well-commented upon.

    My own mother was a victim of the evil eye when a child in an immigrant neighbourhood in Canada. Fortunately, "La Maria Nera" (Mary Black) exorcised her with a garlic necklace and taught her how to hold her fingers when passing by old people to prevent any further hexes. I say fortunately because in a superstitious family and community being known to be afflicted with the evil eye could have further unpleasant consequences.

    Jinn, sorcery, and the evil eye are prevalent in Morocco and a "marabout", a "saint" or "wiseman" is often saught out for a cure. Sometimes this results in delays in necessary medical treatment, or harmful practices, or financial harms.

    I think the hexes have more to do with the psychological warfare someone who is going to such lengths to harm another is also perpetrating--but then given my background I would think this! :) LOL

  18. This reminds me of the Catholic Church's exorcism rituals. Thanks for another well written blog!

  19. when I started reading this blog guess what? my computer froze up and I had to restart it!! I guess my computer is a believer, or someone is trying to tell me something ;) It's just simply amazing how many people, in all cultures, want to believe in fairy tales. Just hope they don't start burning witches again.

  20. I don't think that the fear of witches, brujas, Jins, and those that practice black magic is limited to any one culture. I come from a catholic Irish/Mexican family and I can remember as a little girl an old friend of the family being ordered out of our home on a holiday after she got angry and cursed my father. My great-grandmother was furious and never allowed the woman in our home again, nor spoke to her. For my great-grandmother, it was very real, very dangerous and the gravest insult to even speak of black magic. She was from the old country and never stopped believing. She felt that the love and caring of God and the church was of course countered by those that were attracted to evil. I don't know that I agree in everything that she believed, but I can understand her fear and anger. I also know that there are far more things in this world than I've experienced, so won't ever say something doesn't exist.
    Thank you for a wonderful insightful blog Susie!


  21. Hi Mel - I know lots of people like that too!!!

    Hi Chiara - I agree that psychology must play a role in the perceived effects as well. Belief and fear give the perpetrator more control. Thanks for your comment!

    Hi Lee - I guess with the belief in angels, we also have to believe in devils as well.

    Hi Sabine - Spooky! I have to admit, I do like fairy tales with happy endings...

    Hi Anon/Liz - Agreed - Just about every culture has some type of belief in magic. Thanks for commenting.

  22. Susie,

    My husband's family is so into this, they didn't tell anyone in their country we were getting married!!!! I told my Italian-American best friend how crazy they were with their evil eye theories, and she laughed, and said she always tried to hide it as a kid, but she totally believes in the evil eye, as taught by her off-the-boat grandmother!

    On the other hand, one day when I had a big interview to win a Fulbright Fellowship, I put on every single piece of clothing or jewelry I ever thought brought me good luck. That evening, after the interview was over, my mother and I were driving to PA, and we crashed and she died immediately. I have never worn those things again or felt any power of anything superstitious. On the other hand, I did eventually win the Fulbright. hmmm

  23. Nice article, scary topic.
    You mentioned that some muslims do not believe in black magic. I believe black magic exists. Every Muslim should believe that, because it is mentioned in the Quran. As a muslim, you cannot not believe in it if it is in the Quran. You cannot take part and leave part. It is a whole. What I am saying, if GOD said it is there, how come you say "I belive it is not true"?!

    Also, religiously, those little chotchkes to ward off the Evil Eye should not be used because they are useless. Some muslims believe it is wrong to use those symbols. Instead, the prophet taught us to recite verses that ward off evil eye. If you've visited Turkey you'll see they are extensively used there.

  24. Sa7 ya M29LEB

    (Meaning, I agree with everything he said :-P)

  25. Another great post. I bet one could sell these neat things here in the States. They look so cool & artistic. And hey, a little protection against the evil eye seems like a good deal to me. Hey. How about an article on just how a woman divorces a man. This is something interesting. Does that happen much? Is there alimony? Will her family take her back? What do the neighbors think? Ilse.

  26. I have had a near death experience.I saw what I saw,I felt what I felt.After that I have had other experiences,door have opened in my life ,wow am so glad I am at this stage of my life.Did not even know there was a "alternativ world"befor .I do not laugh at superstition and curses anymore.I belive in healing ability,and sending good energy to others ,think what you say ,do ,and think about!

  27. Does anyone find it just a bit convenient that the people who get done for black magic are Egyptians, Pakistanis and Indonesians, i.e. poor Muslims (mainly) who come into the country to work as maids and in other low-paid jobs? Also, I've come across Muslims who say that the use of the Qur'an to ward off spirits is sorcery; it's a common practice among Muslims of a Sufi persuasion. Not saying that black magic doesn't go on, but I also think there's a lot of Saudis bashing poor foreigners and Wahhabis bashing other Muslims, and people blaming magic for problems in their lives which are really caused by stress or just cause them stress.

  28. Hi Tanya - There are mysterious forces at work in our universe - that's for sure! Thanks for your comment.

    Hi M29LEB - I agree with what you said, but from what I have seen here, many Muslims DO pick and choose in their beliefs. I place no faith in those little chotchkes, but I do think they are cute!

    Hi Aalia - What language are you speaking? LOL!

    Hi Anon/Ilse - I'll try to find out more about divorce here - luckily I don't know a lot!!!

    Hi Alette - I like what you said about healing and good energy - I believe in it too.

    Hi Yusuf - You raise an interesting point, but I'm afraid I don't know enough about it myself to comment - it is all very new to me!

  29. 90% of Muslim women are witches, enrolled at least one time in Black Mass ritual of Babylon Whore (Ishtar) a demonic entity demands blood sacrifice, usually foreskin and blood of male infants in July month. The remaining 10% are involved too but not qualified to practice magic.
    Arabia is hell on earth, foreigners never permitted to see the truth deep in that hell. Secret societies and demonic cults all covered under false veil of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
    I lived 40 years inside that hell and I encountered many evil witches including family members, it is hell on earth, eternal blood and lust party.

    1. Hi Anonymous - Your experiences living here were obviously very different from my own. I seriously doubt that 90% of Muslims women are witches. The Saudi women I know are lovely and are not witches.

    2. U want to ..that not muslim ..the true muslim do not like that ..becus its some xtrem ...true muslim is alsunnahwaljmaah .....that is syiah ...muslim syiah..its not muslim but its devil

    3. Hi anonymous i want just tell u something that. Its not really muslim that is syiah...syiah its not muslim ..the really muslim is alsunnahwaljmaah ..muslim is peace eternal blood and lust party...its not muslim....and one more thing about that ritual its true them call the dajjal......but the real muslim donot have ritual like that....becus its syirik...that all...about.eyes its true that is dajjal...see u next year