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Kulam or "Pagkukulam" is a form of folk magic, specifically natural magic, practiced in the Philippines. It puts emphasis on the innate power of the self and a secret knowledge of Magica Baja or low magic. Earth (soil), fire, herbs, spices, candles, oils and kitchenwares and utensils are often used for rituals, charms, spells and potions.
Mangkukulam (noun) is a person employing or using Kulam, ie the "witch".
Kinukulam (noun) is the target of the Kulam.
Nakulam (adj.) describes someone or something experiencing the effects of the Kulam.
Kulamin (verb) means to bewitch or do magic on a thing or person.
Ipakulam (verb) means to have someone bewitch, bless or hex someone or something else.
Kulam in the Philippines is said to be centered on the islands of Pampanga and Talalora, Western Samar and the province of Sorsogon, where many of the country's faith healers reside. Kulam also exists in many of the hinterlands, especially in Samar and Leyte.
However, Kulam itself is known and occurs anywhere on the Philippines.
The Mangkukulam (/mahng-koo-KOO-lam/) can be considered a Filipino witch, literally meaning "a practitioner of kulam". Other terms are the Spanish brujo and bruja (masculine and feminine forms of "witch"; Filipinized as bruho and bruha). The verb kulamin (/koo-LAH-min/) means "to bless or hex", while a curse is called a sumpâ (/soom-PA/), which can also be translated as a "vow" or "oath". The Mangkukulam may use a voodoo doll and a needle to cast spells on people they want to revenge on, but largely use natural magic and superstitions similar to an Albularyo, or witch doctor. Both can be considered witches, but the main difference is that the Albularyo is more of a doctor who heals people, while a Mangkukulam is a malevolent person who tricks and curses others.
To date, there have been no media, research, or claims that "good mangkukulam" exist, so it is fair to assume that the mangkukulam is the "bad witch" of Philippine witchcraft.
Curses and Remedies
The primary methods employed by a mangkukulam are candle lighting ritual, scrying or tawas, recitation of spells, and concocting potions. Modern popular culture also depicts the mangkukulam as using either photographs or the equivalent of a Voodoo doll. Modern popular culture also depicts mangkukulam as mainly only doing love potions and malicious curses, but more extreme depictions claim they can summon ghosts to haunt dolls, raise the dead (or at least control dead bodies), and other things related to necromancy.
A typical belief of mangkukulam is that curses are mitigated by finding the caster and bribing them to lift the curse. Superstitious people still attribute certain illnesses or diseases to kulam. This most often happens in rural areas, where an herbal doctor called an Albularyo (/al-boo-LAR-yoh/), diagnoses a victim using a divination method called pagtatawas and helps the victim cure their malady.
Darker forms of remedies to kulam include Albularyos whipping the bewitched person with a Buntot Pagi (Stingray's Tail) until the afflicted is forced to divulge the witch's name and confronting them. This is done in the belief that the one who is getting hurt is the witch and not the bewitched.
- Axismongol SIQUIJOR LAND OF WITCHES & MAGIC
- Tony Perez Panibagong Kulam
- Illinois (1917). University of Illinois Studies in Language and Literature. Original from the New York Public Library: The University of Illinois. p. 41.
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