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Occult


Belief in Supernatural and the Pracitces associated with it are in broad terms, the same in Kerala as in the rest of India.

But they differ in specific details and actual forms of expression. A survey conducted among College educated people revealed that 65% believe in supernatural phenomenon and more than 80% believe in God.

Evil Eye:
Belief in the effects of the evil eye is very strong, Buildings under construction are fully covered to protect it from the public view and an effigy is placed to divert the attention of onlookers.

In villages, some of the persons are often identified as 'Karinakku' (Evil Tongue). And it is believed that their attention or remark on some object or person can cause an almost immediate destructive effect.

Fire Walking and Other Rituals:
Fire Walking is fairly common in Kerala. It is mostly associated with temple festivals, but the Shia Muslims also perform the same during Muharram. The walk is an offering to some god or goddess and is performed after a period of penance. Another ritual requires devotees to pierce needles, spears or hooks through the skin to propitiate the deity.

'Thookam' and 'Koottiyattam' supposed to be remnants of rites involving human sacrifices, are spectacular offerings at Kaali Temples. In Thookam, the devotees would hang suspended from a big wheel or bow by metal hooks that pierce the skin.

In 'Koottiyattam' young children would wound themselves with knives and circle the temples in high religious fervour. These days however, devotees are bound to the thokkam wheel with cloths instead of metal hooks and the children performing Koottiyattam do not hurt themselves.

Kuttichattan : A Poltergeist God
'Poltergeist' is a German word meaning ' mischievous god' and refers to temporary disturbances of a minor sort, often involving psychokinesis and usually around a troubled adolescent.

The phenomenon follows a strikingly similar pattern all over the world. In Kerala too, such disturbances are attributed to a mischievous child god, 'Kuttichattan' . Chattan is probably a derivative of Sastha , a popular deity , and Kuttichattan represents a child version of the god.
Snake Cult
Kerala is a natural habitat of a variety of snakes. A dread of snakes could have perhaps contributed to serpent worship. Snake idols are housed in the 'Sarpakkavu' or groves where the natural vegetation is kept undisturbed.

Snakes are believed to have powers to curse a man who kills them and cause misfortunes and diseases, especially of the skin. There are two namboothiri houses (Pambummekkattu and Mannarsala) famed for worshipping the snakes and which specialise in treatment of illnesses caused by serpent ire.

With the exploding human population, snakes are increasingly going rare. Snake charmers, who make the cobra dance to the movement of their 'Makudi' (modified flute), are becoming an extinct tribe.

In ancient times, there were native doctors who specialised in treating snakebites. The belief is that they were able to foresee a snakebite victim being brought to them and upon their arrival, predict the cause of the poisoning.

They were also credited with the power to lure the very snake, which bit a person and command it to suck its own venom from the wound. Certain stones and herbs were used in snakebite treatment.
Witch Craft
'Manthravadam' or performing rites for propitiating supernatural forces (a type of native 'voodoo') is popular in Kerala. This comprises general 'poojas' performed for house warming, before embarking on any new venture, tiding over evil astrological influences, or for overcoming diseases.

The rites involve chanting mantras (magical prayers), preparation of a diagram usually using coloured powder, offering flowers, throwing offerings into the sacred fire and so on. Exorcism is also practised as a healing technique. Even Ayurveda accepts the possibility of a human being possessed by evil spirits.

At an exorcism ceremony, the patient usually starts shivering and dancing ('Tullal'). 'Manthravadam' is used to influence or entice somebody ('vashyam') and in its malignant form is practised as 'black magic'.