Albinos in east Africa are today being killed and harvested for their body parts to supply witch doctors with limbs, organs and hair for potions to cure disease and perhaps to bring wealth to the potion buying clientele. The body parts of a single murdered albino can sell for $1,000., with the skin and flesh dried out and made into amulets and the bones ground to powder.
(source: The Economist, January 17th, 2009)
Painted leather mask of a Sri Lankan disease demon, perhaps Vatha or Wind Humour with the associated condition of flatulence. Sri Lanka c. 20th century AD. (from the Russell W. Baldwin estate)
Demon masks are still being used in Sri Lanka for diagnosis, exorcism and cure. Performances are produced where the demon associated with an ailment and many others are made to appear. There are dramatic moments and comedy and then the demons are sent on their way.
Seventeen other disease demon masks found in Sri Lanka:
- Kana Sanniya — demon causing blindness. The mask for blindness usually has its eyes missing.
- Kora Sanniya — demon causing lameness or paralysis. The mask always has a unilateral facial deformity that could represent a neurological lesion such as stroke.
- Gini Jala Sanniya — demon causing excess heat, burning sensation, headache and fatigue.
- Naga Sanniya — demon causing swelling of the face, body sores and peeling of skin. The demon for boils and skin diseases has skin lesions that look like carbuncles on the face.
- Demala Sanniya — demon performing pranks and uttering nonsense that sounds like Tamil, also related with madness with distortion of the body.
- Kapala Sanniya — demon causing insanity, madness and delirium. The complexity of psychiatric illnesses is reflected in the variety of masks that represent insanity, which may or may not be and related to spirits.
- Golu Sanniya — demon causing dumbness / muteness. The mask often has a wide open mouth with no teeth or tongue.
- Bihiri Sanniya — demon causing ear diseases and deafness. The mask usually includes a cobra (traditionally considered to be a deaf animal) that may extend from the nose to cover one side of the face.
- Maru Sanniya — demon causing delirium and death, wallowing and contortions in the eyes.
- Amukku Sanniya — demon causing trembling of limbs.
- Jala or Pata Sanniya — demon causing diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, dysentery and parasitic worms. The mask usually has a green complexion and a protruding tongue, whereas those representing parasitic worms usually have pale complexions that could reflect hookworm.
- Gulma Sanniya — demon causing lack of appetite, swelling of the abdomen.
- Vata Sanniya — demon causing rheumatism and burning of limbs.
- Slesma Sanniya — demon causing secretions, phlegmatic diseases and epilepsy.
- Kola Sanniya — demon causing pneumonia.
- Deva Sanniya — demon causing epidemics and infectious diseases. The name of the demon means “divine,” presumably because disease on such a large scale was thought to have a divine origin. The mask is distinguished by having a head dress, but otherwise its appearance varies considerably.
- Vuta Sanniya — demon causing derangement, distortion and listlessness of limbs.
Masks for malaria, high fevers, cholera and chills are similar and have fiery red complexions. The mask for high fevers can usually be distinguished by flames across the forehead, which could be suggestive of the temperature of a feverish patient. The mask for diseases affecting the digestive and intestinal tract usually has a yellow or orange complexion indicative of jaundice.