The “Astrologers” of Madurai – district in the state of Tamil Nadu, in the extreme south of India – met for two days to reflect on how to organise themselves in order to be recognized by the government as nomad tribal group who, together with many other duties, has also the right to school, to work, to health. There were 140 nomads. Among them there were illiterates and professors, all coming from tribal groups. They also reflected on how to grow their faith, and the pastoral operators of Pacni (Pastoral Care of Nomads in India), who follow them together with the Bishop of Madurai, have reflected on how to continue this commitment that the Church in India has taken.
Today there are about a thousand families, on the outskirts of Madurai, those which are known as the “Astrologers”, considered dangerous by people, loved by none and feared by all as a result of their work. In the past, they have become famous for their magic arts. According to them, they use to practice every type of magic: white, black, green, yellow, even the one that does not exist, in order to be able to survive! When the inhabitants of Tamil Nadu wanted to have some revenge or when they wanted evil for some neighbour, family member or simply someone that become the enemy, they used to resort to these astrologers and to commission some curse or evil eye for their victims.
Curses on order
The men of this group used to go to the cemeteries to invoke the spirits of some bad soul, for then send him to make some curse against the victims of their customers. Those who had requested this service, throughout the following month, when they were aware that some misfortune or some unfortunate event happened to their enemy, immediately considered that as a result of the “spell” performed by the astrologers. Even when it was the case of normal situations that normally happen in ordinary life – like a headache, a fall from a bicycle, a missed bargain, the news of some friend dead, or other simple regrettable facts – they were interpreted as a fruit of the requested service. Then they would immediately run to bring some money, or a lot, depending on what they had agreed, as a reward to the “Astrologers”.
These nomads today do not take anymore the trouble of going to the cemeteries to do all that confusion, because they have understood that even by doing nothing at all, over a period of one month, some misfortune will surely happen. The important thing is that people do think that the “Astrologers” are the ones that put in place all this maliciousness. For these wizards, the fact of having a bad name, a bad reputation is already enough to instil a reverential fear for what they are supposed to do.
They live close to Christian families and they also would like to become Christians, but they fear the Baptism: receiving the Holy Spirit, the good one, he would meet with the bad one, which in the past they have also received (at least they think so), and they fear that the conflict between the two spirits can also cause the death! Therefore they use the Christian prayers and they also love the Christian culture, but they avoid the baptism. There is also the fact that if they became Christians they could lose their bad name, which gives them something to eat. But they want something better for their children.
For this reason, they have accepted the proposal of some members of the Community Pope John XXIII, that already has in the village seven families open to hospitality, with about 10 children for each family. The fathers and the mothers, who in a certain way adopt these children, belong to the same group of the Astrologers, like the 74 children. All these became practitioners of the Christian religion, with the Eucharist, catechesis and the prayers of the Community. In this way the children “ruin” their future career of Astrologers, but that is precisely what their families want.
Taken from “Always”