Q8Sultana's Blog...

Generally I can be found roaming somewhere in the world. I'm originally from Hungary, I grew up in Kuwait, I did my BA in the States, my MA in the UK, and now work in Hungary, but still return to Kuwait regularly :o)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Are you superstitious?

I'm reading a really cool book by Haya Al-Mughni called Women in Kuwait: The Politics of Gender. While the book is mostly about the history of feminist organizations in Kuwait, the first two chapters are more of a historical background. I found something very interesting in Chapter 2: The Lives and Experiences of Kuwaiti Women (before oil).
Here's an excerpt:

The Practice of Zar and the Search for an Alternative Source of Power
There is historical evidence that women (in Kuwait) believed in witches and in jinn and practised zar (spiritual possession). They believed that witches could fly at night and many went so far as to claim that they had seen a witch fly. They also believed that jinn hide at night, waiting at every street corner, sometimes taking the form of sheep...
Far from being mere superstition, the practice of zar involves the manipulation of power relations in favour of the powerless. In other words, 'spirit possession is a form of bargaining from a position of weakness'. In her account of Kuwaiti women during the 1930s, Robertson reports:
Some women are astute enough to profit by the belief in demons. They tell their husbands or friends that the devil which possess them wants a silk garment (thob), or a sheep or something of the kind, and because of the superstitious fear of such spirits, the women generally receive whatever they demand.
Hence, through the intermediary of spirits, women were able to make demands in men which might otherwise be denied. Such an astute practice gave women the chance to exercise their malice and manipulate men without running the risk of being punished.
But women did not simply attempt to make indirect demands on men; they went so far as to claim supernatural powers. Old Kuwait was filled with tales of witches, and women found pleasure in spreading such stories, however fictitious they might be, as if to validate their own power and make men fear them. It worked: the more women made up stories about each others' supernatural powers, the more men were inclined to believe them.
The idea that these stories were meant to spread was that a woman could ruin a man's life if he made her unhappy and that women have as much power as men to destroy someone. Men indeed fear such power.
The fact that Kuwaiti men tolerated such malicious practices on the part of women was partly because they themselves believed in jinn.
Haya Al-Mughni called Women in Kuwait: The Politics of Gender, pages 50-53
So, do Kuwaiti women today still use such means to manipulate their men? Are people still so superstitious? I hear many stories of evil eyes, and black magic and spells, but how widespread are these practises?


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