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Sri Lankans are one of the most literate people in Asia. But if one looks at the news reports in the media one wonders whether it is true. Some people fall victim to troubles on seeking the help of exorcists or sorcerers to ward off their misfortunes, some of them fatally.

Recently, one woman died after drinking a potion given by an exorcist and another met the same fate by undergoing a regimen of coconut oil for a whole week. Superstitious beliefs are entrenched in the life of our people so much so that every aspect of Lankan life is dominated by superstition and any activity is initiated with the consultation of astrologers and soothsayers.

Dr. Carlo Fonseka and the late Abraham T. Kovoor made a valiant effort to dispel these superstitious beliefs from the minds of the naïve people of our country about four decades back but with little success. They only got brick bats for their good efforts in return as the practitioners of witchcraft, soothsayers, exorcists, astrologers, et al rallied against them fearing that they would lose their trade.

Superstitious practices are part and parcels of our lives womb-to-tomb. When a child is born, his name is given after consultation of an astrologer. A birth chart is prepared by an astrologer by which people believe could predict the destiny of his life. His first solid meal is given at an auspicious time decided by an astrologer after weaning off mother’s milk. He is introduced to the alphabet also seeking an auspicious time. During his whole life astrologers are consulted to read his fortunes in the horoscope especially when he is going through a bad patch and sorcerers’ help is sought to ward off evil effect on him by performing appropriate rituals.

It is no wonder that our politicians of the highest rank seek divine help for their success and elections are fixed according the favourable times of their birth charts. They even seek the divine help of not only local gods but also of foreign gods at great expense in places like Thirupathi Kovil in Andra Pradesh making costly offerings.

In fact, it is the duty of the intelligentsia of the country to wise up the masses of the futility of irrational beliefs and practices. If the media avoids giving publicity for the sake of sensationalism to these unfounded feats of tricksters, who claim to possess supernatural powers to fix any malady, it will go a long way to discourage these fraudsters hoodwinking the public.
A.E.