Asia Pacific Journal of Sport and Social Science
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Much work has been published on the place of rituals in numerous areas of life with reference both to general activities and, more specifically, to sport. As yet, however, there has been no significant study of the use of magic by and on behalf of players in Taiwan where baseball can legitimately be described as the national sport. This article seeks to fill that void by focusing in particular on the practices of the island’s Puyama aboriginal people and the use of the betel nut to cast spells on opponents. The data for this study were collected during two research trips to Taidong County, where the Puyuma have traditionally used betel nuts on the baseball field for magical purposes. It is apparent from a series of personal reminiscences that the use of the betel nut spell had an influence on Puyama players and opponents alike. Its passing owes much to the increased acceptance of seemingly more rational ways of instilling confidence in athletes. The author argues, however, that the modern recourse to the sport sciences has much in common with the Puyama belief in the power of the betel nut.