The Tokoloshe: Can Cultural Illness Really Kill?
Is it possible to suffer a scare so horrendous, that your very own soul leaves your body? In some sort of abandon-ship! type of act.
Can a person die from a fright they suffered, even if it was in the past?
There’s a psychological phenomenon that’s been categorized as a cultural illness. A phenomenon that was once thought to be an old wives’ tale turned out to be a bizarre deadly fact. Several studies have taken place across various countries in central and southern America of a folk illness dubbed “Susto”, the spanish word for fright.
I recently read Susto: A Folk Illness, a book written by anthropologists, for anthropologists. It contained data derived from several decades of research done in several communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s been said by the people that Susto is a real thing and it can kill the young and the old. The book contained a story of a young girl who watched as her father was almost swept by a strong current while crossing a stream. Although her father managed to pull himself to safety, it was reported that fifteen days later, the young girl fell into a almost fatal condition. Several symptoms, but no specific diagnostic.
For the majority, this can be construed as just a folk’s tale. For Cultural Anthropologists, there are several social, physiological, and psychological factors at play. According to Susto, it’s possible to die of fright due to the pressures applied by society, heavy stress, and one’s own moral beliefs.
These studies factor in perfectly when talking about monsters in folklore. In a sense, it solidifies that there exists something real in strange and eerie paranormal phenomena.
Cultural illnesses like the Susto that plague Latin American countries can be found in every community of this planet. South Africa has the Tokoloshe, a grotesque gremlin that brings fear to any unlucky soul that crosses its path. Throughout its existence, many deaths have been attributed to a Tokoloshe by the African people. So if we were to apply the Susto anthropological approach to this, we can conclude that the actual creepy gremlin that the Tokoloshe is said to be doesn’t exist, but its powers and notorious looks are alive and deadly as ever.
Die Antwoord is a South African rap/electronic group that is becoming quite popular here in the States. I started listening to the group in 2008 and have been a proud fan since. So it came to me as a surprise when I found out that Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er made a documentary for Vice on the fabled Tokoloshe. What the dynamic duo have done is taken a soft-science approach to the mystery of the Tokoloshe. They interview several people including victims, witnesses and reporters that have encountered or dealt with the aftermath of a Tokoloshe.
Monsters exist. They are conjured up by imagination and superstition and have the innate ability to inflict physical harm, but only if you believe.