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hex death Also called "voodoo death," hex death is death from a HEX or curse resulting from black MAGIC or the breaking of a taboo. The critical factor in hex death is belief. If a person believes that a wiTCH or sorcerer can make him die by cursing him or by pointing a finger or bone at him, he probably will expire, and no amount of Western conventional medicine can save him. Hex death may be in part a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In her studies on hex death, anthropologist Joan Hali-fax-Grof lists four causes: 1) secretly administered poisons or other physical agents; 2) the relationship between physical and emotional factors in the victim; 3) societal reactions in a particular culture; and 4) parapsychologi-cal influences. Poisons and physical agents are obvious malfacteurs; if administered "magically," with plenty of ceremony, they may kill without the victim's knowledge.

The second category refers to the fact that a person literally can die from fright. In stressful situations the adrenaline surges, preparing the body either to fight or escape. If neither is possible, the body could suffer both short- and long-term damage, such as shock, lowering of blood pressure and attacking of the body's immune system. Rage affects the body as well. Finally, if the victim believes his cursed situation to be hopeless, he begins to experience feelings of helplessness, incompetence, despair and worthlessness. Illness sets in, which the victim has no desire to fight, and eventually he succumbs. Psychologists term this situation the giving up/given up complex.

Cultural determinants play as large a role in hex death as the victim's own perceptions. Once cursed, the victim may be forced to withdraw from daily community life, becoming almost invisible to his neighbors. The cursed individual becomes despondent, expecting death, and his friends and relatives do not dispute such notions but corroborate them. Eventually, those not cursed see the victim as already dead, even performing funeral ceremonies over his body, which technically still lives. In Australia, aborigines actually take away food and water from the accursed, since a dead person needs no sustenance. Suffering from starvation and dehydration in the searing Australia bush, the victim indeed dies.

In many cases, however, the victim dies despite the efforts of his friends or family to save him. In such instances, Halifax-Grof speculates that the sorcerer makes a telepathic connection with the victim, somehow influencing his mind. If psychic healing can work, so can psychic killing. One of the most sinister acts of the obe-ahman, or witch doctor, is to steal a person's shadow. By taking a human's spirit and psychically "nailing" it to the sacred ceiba tree, the obeahman has deprived the victim of his spirit and of the need to live.

In Haiti, French anthropologist Alfred Metraux observed a phenomenon called "sending of the dead," in which Baron Samedi, god of the graveyard, possesses the bokor, or sorcerer, and through him commands a client to go to a cemetery at midnight with offerings of food for the Baron. At the cemetery, the client must gather a handful of graveyard earth for each person he wishes to see killed, which he later spreads on the paths taken by the victim(s). Alternatively, the client takes a stone from the cemetery, which magically transforms itself into an evil entity, ready to do its master's bidding. To start the process, the sorcerer throws the stone against the victim's house. Metraux found that whenever a person learned he was a victim of a "sending the dead" spell, he would soon grow thin, stop eating, spit blood and die.

In all these cases, only the reversal of the spell by good magic can save the victim. The mind's capacity for belief and action overpowers all other attempts at conventional logic and scientific rationality.

Sorcerers in various cultures contend that it is possible to cause a hex death without the victim being aware of the hex.

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