Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic
Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major. He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. His family is from Sudan and they are Muslim. Both he and his twin brother were educated in international schools. He speaks Arabic and English.
Context: I was talking with the informant about traditions and rituals his family has.
Item: “There’s definitely a good amount of people in Sudan who believe in black magic. I don’t know what the population is but generally, it’s sort of accepted that black magic is real. It’s an Islamically sanctioned concept; the Qa’ran mentions black magic. So they believe that there are people who have like, certain powers and they can wish evil upon you.
Now it’s not just black magic or evil. I know my aunt always wanted a son so she went to this man who believed he had magic and he was like ,’ok I’ll make sure you get a son in your next birth’, and she did. She kept going time after time and she ended up having 5 sons. So Sudanese people do believe that some people possess a positive type of magic. Typically, it’s like weird old men who have these powers who live in a secluded part of the city. People take that really seriously.
Now, the people there also believe in the evil eye. If someone is jealous of you, then that jealousy will cause you to face some sort of unfortunate event. So if you are successful and people are jealous of you, you might get cancer, get in a car accident or in general face some unfortunate event. My mom always says there is this word that you can say when someone gives you a compliment that will protect you from the evil eye. I can’t remember exactly what this saying is, uh, but my mom swears by it”.
Analysis: It’s interesting to note that one of the first things the informant says is that magic is an Islamically sanctioned concept. This acknowledgment shows the importance of their religion and how Islam and the Qa’ran define both spiritual and also secular values. The belief in the evil eye seems to be an interesting concept. The phrases one should say for protection from the evil eye upon receiving a compliment may be seen as trying to encourage humbleness and level-headedness. Those who try to set themselves apart and rub in their wealth or success will be punished by the jealous, so overt and egregious displays of success are most likely frowned upon. Also, it seems that women have a more prominent role in promoting these folk beliefs and superstitions, which could be due to societal convention or the informant’s personal family.