The western conception of witches is actually something that is interesting because it varies so widely. It can include old, ugly hags and yet also young, pretty girls like Hermione Granger. Generally speaking though, the old and ugly hag is the picture that comes to mind when we think of the word witch. There are plenty of examples of this; Elfaba in Wicked, the witches in Macbeth, the old witch at the beginning of Beauty and the Beast, and the list could go on. Conversely, in South Africa, witches were thought to be normal women. Mothers and older women maybe, but there was no such standard for looks. The two biggest differences I see in the way that witches are viewed in South Africa and in the Western part of the world is in the power difference and fiction/non-fiction of the belief. In the west, a common theme of all of the witch stories is that it’s always someone out on the far reaches or the margins of society. Therefore, though they may have some spiritual powers, they have no power of society at all. In South Africa, the women that are thought of as witches are women that are powerful and they are feared to the point where they are rounded up and killed. On page 177 we are told that in South Africa, “women are powerful, especially when they are older, and they exert tremendous moral sway and control over economic and social capital.” (177) The other main difference I see between the two is simply that nowadays in the West, witchcraft is typically seen as something that is strictly fictional whereas witchcraft and sorcery and healing are all things that are very real to the people in South Africa.
The article I found in the New York Times is an article on the protests of government control over land in Oregon. Let by two brothers, a small group of people seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and have been occupying it as a form of protest. What they want is more local control over the lands versus federal control. They know a father and son who were sent to jail for starting a fire on their own land that accidently spread to the reserve and after they had finished serving their time, they were sent back to jail because the judge ruled that their sentence had not been long enough in the first place. This is what sparked the protest. The people felt that they could not keep silent after this father and son were sent back to jail. What’s interesting about this article is that it’s written from the inside. The Bundys decided to let reporters come and stay with them while they tried to keep control over the refuge. What I liked about this article was that it wasn’t just about the protests, it was inside of them. Reading about this protest felt very personal and you could really connect with the people involved, it was a very cool perspective on something that I too think is very alarming, that these people could be thrown back in jail after having served their time.