‘Blessed’ water does not prevent Covid-19

Thanks to blog readers Donnie B. and Brian, I learned that a Sri Lankan who claimed that he had a way to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus by using water that he had ‘blessed’, has died from the disease. He had received support from several high profile figures, including the prime minister who is also a former president.

A high-profile shaman who tried to end Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 outbreak with “blessed” water has died of the virus, according to his family.

Eliyantha White, 48, who treated sports stars and top politicians, including the country’s prime minister, claimed in November he could end the pandemic in Sri Lanka and neighbouring India by pouring pots of his “blessed” water into rivers.

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi endorsed the water treatment, but was infected two months later and ended up in a hospital intensive care unit.

She was later demoted and lost her portfolio, but remains in the cabinet.

White attracted international attention in 2010 when legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar publicly thanked him for treating a knee injury, saying it helped him hit the first-ever one-day international double century against South Africa.

White’s family said he had refused the COVID-19 vaccine.

But mainstream doctors described White as a fraud and Ayurveda physicians rejected his claims – even though the shaman said he used methods from the 3,000-year-old Indian medical tradition.

The fact that the pandemic has not abated in Sri Lanka and is getting worse does not speak well of his water cure.

Sri Lanka has long had its share of people claiming to have healing and other supernatural powers. Many people, including prominent politicians, consult astrologers before making any major decision and such gullibility and magical thinking makes them easy marks for people like White. The fact that the outcomes often do not match what the astrologers predicted never seems to register in the minds of people because of confirmation bias. I personally know someone who is a professor in the medical field who conducts ‘poojas’ (religious rituals) before his favored sports team has a big game. One’s mind boggles at people who think that an all-powerful deity gives a damn about some silly sporting event. When I asked him after one spectacular failure where his team was trounced why he continued doing this, he pointed to other games where the outcome was favorable.

So I doubt that White’s death will put much of a dent in the number of people who seek such ‘solutions’ to problems. Especially since the cricketer Tendulkar (who is himself considered like a god by cricket-mad fans in India) endorsed him.


  1. machintelligence says

    Years ago my sister was traveling in Europe with a friend who was a Catholic. The friend filled a bottle with “holy water” at some famous shrine and some weeks later decided to drink it since she was thirsty and tired of carrying it around with her. Bad idea!
    Holy doesn’t mean fit to drink.

  2. John Morales says

    I personally know someone who is a professor in the medical field who conducts ‘poojas’ …

    Motivated reasoning, among other such things.

    As has been noted, the smarter one is, the easier to rationalise stuff.

  3. mnb0 says

    “Sri Lanka has long had its share of people claiming to have healing and other supernatural powers.
    American religious quacks like Ernest Angley are remarkably popular and prominent on Surinamese television. The Surinamese and non-christian version is called “bonuman”.
    My ex-wife has lost one brother to such a quack, while another ended up in a wheelchair. Both were members of a pentecostal church.

  4. lanir says

    I think it’d be wonderful if any of these magical solutions actually worked. I really wouldn’t care what it was as long as the results were pretty clear. I think a lot of scientists would feel the same. Most of these magic solutions are just… bad though.

    I like fantasy. I read and watch quite a bit of it. But a good fantasy story starts with our world, makes some tweaks and then… the rest works how our world works except where the tweaks would change that. Most of these magical solutions are just narratively bad though. They make no sense at all, not even as a good fantasy story.

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