Re: hot metal

Leo Thomas Walsh (ai653@KSU.KSU.EDU)
Sat, 10 Dec 1994 04:13:40 -0600

I have recently seen a film about a form of divination called the hot
knife ordeal. The film is set in the village of Kpelle in Liberia.
During this ordeal, guilt or innocence of a crime is determined by
whether or not a subject is burned by a very hot knife. The "liscened
ordeal man" first places some water and special powders on his leg and on
the leg of the party to be tested. The specialist then rubs his leg with
the knife to prove that it is possible to keep from getting burnt if the
testee is innocent. The specialist then rubs the leg of the party to be
tested. In the film I watched, the first step was to test a random member
of the village as a proxy to see if someone from the village actually
commited the crime. If the testee did not get burnt, then the ordeal
opporator must go to another village to determine who the guilty party
is. If the testee did get burned, then the specialist would continue
testing with the most likely criminals until all guilty persons were
caught. Before the ordeal is performed, the specialist does do a bit of
investigation to weed out likely suspects. This ritual is sometimes
performed on the tongues of the testees. The ordeal works so well for
them that good operators are granted a liscence to practice it.
Leo T. Walsh (