In the perpetual struggle against the unknown (sickness, death, tomorrow), in this organization of chaos carried out by man, religion holds a protective role for society as a whole, and magic plays a more individual role. In theory, because the limits remain blurred, permeable, mobile, and the passage from one to the other is daily. How does one become a diviner-healer (or sorcerer)? By blood or by madness: we are born with this gift because we inherit it from our ancestors (by people, generally), or we are designated by the supernatural forces (a tutelary deity or the magic powers in their entirety). This designation is often made by the mark of madness: brutal change of personality, coprophagy, bodily negligence, new spoken language, voice modification, atypical sexual practices, etc. One can even force the divine designation to reveal itself, as in the Pygmies of Cameroon where the divine potential is linked face to face with a more or less fresh corpse (nothing remains fresh very long in this climatological context), descended into a cavity , And left thus for three days; If he has not gone mad when he is brought up, it is because he presents the signs of wisdom and self-control, that is, the chosen one. But what happens if madness seizes him? The story does not say.
Philippe Charlier, MD, PhD, LittD, is a forensic practitioner and anthropologist. He works on representations of the human bodies, and rituals related to diseases and death. He loves words, and more.