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Kulam (/koo-lam/), in Philippine mythology, is a local variant of African and Caribbean witchcraft. Kulam is defined variously as witchcraft, jinx, hex, or evil spell. Generally, it is a type of negative magic that aims to control, injure, curse or do baneful things to a person.


Kulam is heavily influenced by voodoo, and the foremost image of kulam in the public imagination involves kulam practitioners using a rag doll to injure their intended victims. Something belonging to the victim must be obtained by the mangkukulam in order for the curse to work, and it's often said that the closer the object is to the intended victim, the stronger the spell will be. Thus, things like a strand of hair, spit, or drops of blood are highly recommended for maximum effect. Using the black rag doll, the mangkukulam affixes a piece of hair from her victim unto the doll. He/she sticks pins into it to hurt the victim.


The mangkukulam starts the curse by tying a string around the body of a black rag doll. She then utters an incantation - often in Pig Latin - invoking various spirits and elementals. The string around the doll symbolizes the witch's power over the victim, and at this point, anything she does to the doll will be also be felt by the victim. She may prick his arms with a needle, submerge his head under water, set his limbs on fire, and so forth. Believers insist that the curse can only be lifted by two methods: removing the string tied around the doll, or killing the witch herself.

Kulam, however, exists in a wider context, and is not simply about sticking needles into dolls. Most people see the mangkukulam as a kind of village witch, and often go to her for things such as love spells, spells to catch a cheating husband, etc. Sometimes the mangkukulam will maintain a rivalry with a village albularyo or medicine man. Other times, the mangkukulam herself doubles as the village's witch doctor, or faith healer, "curing" sicknesses inflicted upon them by the local versions of dwarves, wood nymphs, and other spirits.

Interestingly enough, Philippine witchcraft often co-exists harmoniously with Catholicism, especially in the country's rural areas. Good witches invoke the name of saints, whisper Latin prayers, and even wear scapulars to ward off the machinations of their evil counterparts. Black witches, on the other hand, are said to be in league with the devil himself.


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