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In India, a large number of people believe in black magic.

Black magic is the belief of practices of magic that draws on assumed malevolent powers.This type of magic is invoked when wishing to kill, steal, injure, cause misfortune or destruction, or for personal gain without regard to harmful consequences.
-wikipedia

I have personally seen people speak of this thing and how it has spoiled their health/business etc.

In India , there are even products that claims to protect one from black magic.

Does black magic really work ?

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If there wasn't a 15 character limit on comments, I'd just say "No" –  David Hedlund May 18 '11 at 7:37
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The products that protect you from black magic do have some validity, though, in that you won't be inflicted with black magic after you've bought them. –  David Hedlund May 18 '11 at 7:38
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I imagine you're familiar with The Great Tantra Challenge? –  David Hedlund May 18 '11 at 7:40
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@David - Nice link. –  vinoth May 18 '11 at 8:37
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the fact that the curse has the intended effect doesn't mean its magic works. It means the person over who the curse was placed believes it works and acts accordingly. Someone who's cursed to die within a week may well start acting recklessly, trying to make the most of his time left for example, and get into a mortal accident. The next of kin (if they believe as well) will then blame the curse for the accident, thus perpetuating the myth that black magic works. –  jwenting May 18 '11 at 11:56
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3 Answers

up vote 41 down vote accepted

"Black magic" is a really large umbrella for a wide range of claims, but the very definition of any "magic" is that it is somehow supernatural. Naturally (!), no compelling evidence has ever been put forth for any supernatural phenomenon. Once a phenomenon is observable, reproducible, and testable, and shown to exist, it may turn out to violate our current understanding of the natural laws, but if the phenomenon is for real, we shall have to adjust our views to accommodate this, and the phenomenon shall cease to be considered supernatural. "Magic" will never be shown to exist.

All rigorously tested supernatural claims have turned out to be fake, and the great number of untested supernatural claims can most likely be largely attributed to the fact that the practitioners are aware of their fraud, and reluctant to be exposed; see the million dollar challenge in Regebro's answer.

More specifically, in regions of India there is a somewhat widespread belief in tantra. While few practitioners would lend themselves to scientific studies for reasons explained above, there has been one notable appearance where Indias allegedly most powerful tantrik was challenged in live TV in front of an audience of millions of people, to kill a person with the aid of black magic alone.

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Rationalist International has a good writeup on the story. In short, the tantrik claimed he could kill any person he wanted within three minutes, but did not manage to inflict any sort of damage during what went on for more than three hours. Rationalist International concludes:

Tantra power had miserably failed. Tantriks are creating such a scaring atmosphere that even people, who know that black magic has no base, can just break down out of fear, commented a scientist during the program. It needs enormous courage and confidence to challenge them by actually putting one’s life at risk, he said. By doing so, Sanal Edamaruku has broken the spell, and has taken away much of the fear of those who witnessed his triumph.

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Larian showed me that video a while back. You beat me to the answer. Well done. +1 –  Brightblades May 18 '11 at 14:30
    
Not sure how this question hit the homepage again, but since it has, I figured I would comment as this answer could use some more source. Also, I'm a bit concerned by this line - "the great number of untested supernatural claims can most likely be largely attributed to the fact that the practitioners are aware of their fraud" - as it is attributing motivations where motivations may not be know. Going another direction, I can just as easily say that they are largely untested because those that do have supernatural talents are sworn to secrecy. –  rob Jul 30 '12 at 13:57
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There is no evidence that any superatural claims have any sort of validity. This includes all forms of magic. Reference: http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge.html

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Kiri-kin-tha's First Law of Metaphysics: Nothing unreal exists. –  David Hedlund May 18 '11 at 8:40
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@David Hedlund: Is that not a truism? –  Piskvor May 18 '11 at 21:23
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Sorry I have down vote as answer really needs a lot more content than a single reference. –  rob Jul 30 '12 at 13:58
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No, it doesn't. But David's answer is admittedly better as it's more in depth. –  Lennart Regebro Jul 31 '12 at 8:57
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A lot of it is psychology. It's like the statement that the effect of Voodoo only works if you believe in voodoo.

A lot of indians believe in things like the Evil Eye (going so far as to putting fake moles on their babies to Ugly Things Up). A lot of indians are superstitious, from Believing in witches and black magic, to the insane practices of palmistry and horoscopes in everything from business decisions to naming their children to even deciding potential brides/husbands for their children.

The fact is that people who believe in something only see it when it succeeds and not when it fails. There are countless people whose lives are ruined by following these practices but people will only care about those who succeed thus perpetrating the myth that these practices do work.

And many of these practices work for other reasons. People in India say that Western or "love" marriages often end in divorce while their horoscope backed marriage does not. They fail to place into account that most marriages in the west are between two equals while in India women are expected to be subservient and divorce is still heavily stigmatised so couples stay together despite horrific treatments. Some of these ideas work but not due to the reasons people think they do.

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Horoscope-backed marriages? To think people considered eugenics bad. –  Camilo Martin Apr 2 '12 at 20:06
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One problem in india is that no one really has the numbers. I have seen lots of arranged marriages end in divorce. –  Kinjal Dixit Jul 31 '12 at 2:05
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protected by Konrad Rudolph Jan 20 '13 at 23:56

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