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29 December 2022 Weather Magic as Environmental Knowledge in Southern Vanuatu
Michael J. Balick, K. David Harrison, Neal Kelso, Reuben Neriam, Johnson Noar, Gregory M. Plunkett, Dominik M. Ramík, Jean-Pascal Wahe
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This paper presents weather magic practices from the islands of Tanna and Aneityum, in southern Vanuatu, and highlights how this phenomenon is a critical domain of Indigenous environmental knowledge, particularly knowledge involving plants. Recent literature suggests that diverse cultural systems, such as music, can be viewed as domains of environmental knowledge, and we propose that magical systems should be afforded the same recognition. Although anthropological work in Melanesia has historically featured various magical practices, relatively little has been said about how these have been used to influence or understand the weather, and even less has been presented directly by Indigenous weather magic practitioners, who are co-authors on this paper. In this contribution, we intersperse anthropological and ethnobotanical commentary with verbatim narratives provided by three local experts in weather magic from southern Vanuatu, including oral histories, contemporary narratives, and the results of ethnobotanical surveys. The detailed knowledge that weather magic practitioners on these islands hold regarding their local environment represents an important means of transmitting not only cultural heritage, but also botanical knowledge, the maintenance of which may be critical for current and future conservation efforts. This research documents rich cultural traditions of local and global significance which are worthy of the attention and preservation afforded to other forms of Indigenous environmental knowledge. The goals of magic and those of science are not necessarily inherently opposed, and we show that magical practice can indeed involve and even preserve a detailed and powerful mode of knowing the environment.

Michael J. Balick, K. David Harrison, Neal Kelso, Reuben Neriam, Johnson Noar, Gregory M. Plunkett, Dominik M. Ramík, and Jean-Pascal Wahe "Weather Magic as Environmental Knowledge in Southern Vanuatu," Journal of Ethnobiology 42(4), 383-399, (29 December 2022).
Published: 29 December 2022
environmental knowledge
weather magic
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