Witchcraft: Where Are The Witches?

By Adepoju Paul Olusegun

"You witches too, bring your science into the light to be written down so that ... the benefits in it ... endow our race." - Janzen & MacGaffey

As of 2006, between 25,000 and 50,000 children in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, had been accused of witchcraft and thrown out of their homes. In April 2008, Kinshasa Police arrested 14 suspected victims (of penis snatching) and sorcerers accused of using black magic or witchcraft to steal (make disappear) or shrink men's penises to extort cash for cure, amid a wave of panic which blew across the entire West African region. Arrests were made in an effort to avoid bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 alleged penis snatchers were beaten to death by mobs.

It was reported on May 21, 2008 that in Kenya, a mob had burnt to death at least 11 people accused of witchcraft. Tanzania's unwritten anti-witchcraft policy is strongest in the Meatu district where half of all murders are "witch-killings" and in 2008, following the murder of 25 albinos, President Kikwete publicly condemned witchdoctors for killing albinos for their body parts which are thought to bring good luck. We Nigerians are not saints either.

Christian pastors in Nigeria have been involved in the torturing and killing of children accused of witchcraft. In Akwa Ibom and Cross River states for instance, about 15,000 children branded as witches ended up abandoned and abused on the streets. Over the past decade, over 1000 children have been murdered with some being publicly set on fire. Church pastors in an effort to compete favorably, establish their credentials by accusing children of witchcraft. When repeatedly asked to comment about the matter, most church pastors refused to comment.

Elsewhere, in Gambia, about 1,000 people, according to Amnesty International, were accused of being witches. They were locked in detention centers in March 2009 and forced to drink a dangerous hallucinogenic potion. Every year, hundreds of people in the Central African Republic are convicted of witchcraft. The list is endless. While our notoriety as Africans at killing witches is legendarily epic, white witches fair better.

In England, the term 'witch' was not used exclusively to describe malevolent magicians, but could also indicate cunning folk. As Reginald Scott noted "ÔÇŽit is indifferent to say in the English tongue, ÔÇśshe is a witch' or ÔÇśshe is a wise woman'". While a cunning folk could command a lot of respect, public perceptions of them were often ambivalent and a little fearful, for many were deemed just as capable of harming as of healing.

Some of the healers and diviners historically accused of witchcraft made themselves mediators between the physical and metaphysical realms. They described their contacts with fairies, spirits or the dead, often involving out-of-body experiences and travelling through the realms of what Ginzburg called an 'other-world'.

Beliefs of this nature are implied in the folklore of much of Europe, and were explicitly described by accused witches in central and southern Europe. Repeated themes include participation in processions of the dead or large feasts, often presided over by a female divinity who teaches magic and gives prophecies; and participation in battles against evil spirits, 'vampires' or 'witches' to win fertility and prosperity for the community. Africa's witches could have enjoyed the same treatment if all had understood what African witchcraft is really all about.

According to Rose Ariadne, African witchcraft is a nature based religion, where one or more deities, nature spirits and ancestral spirits are worshipped. The witchdoctor, with his or her ability to commune with deity, nature spirits and ancestral spirits, is traditionally held in awe - an awe which is an odd mixture of respect and fear.

The witchdoctor can be either male or female. Although there is no gender equality in African culture, no distinction is generally made where spiritual practices are concerned. The witchdoctor is responsible for divination, healing, presiding over rituals, conducting rites of passage, performing sacrifices, finding lost cattle, protecting warriors, casting and removing spells, and narrating the history and myths of old.

For harmony between the living and the dead, which is an essential component of leading a trouble-free life, ancestors are shown respect by means of daily offerings, prayers and songs, elaborate rituals and animal sacrifice.

Witchcraft in the African sense may be used for both positive and negative purposes. It can be used to bless and to curse, to cure and cause disease, to bring peace and to initiate battle, to protect and to harm, to create and to destroy. These are specialties that Nigerians can utilize to find a lasting solution to our peculiar national challenges.

In the popular Harry Porter series, the young wizard singlehandedly saved the universe from the hands of those seeking to destroy it, led by the-one-whose-name-must-not-be-mentioned. The same scenario is playing itself in Nigeria, and we are in dire need of our own Harry Porter!

The recent visits of selected Christian leaders and Islamic clerics have shown that prayers alone cannot solve Nigeria's problems. If the Nigerian witches are as powerful as Nollywood flicks depict them to be, then they should rise to the aid of Nigerians and help demystify the Yar'adua age-long debacle.

Our witches had been reputed as capable of dragging someone in New York City to Erunmun village in the split of a second; let them use the same magic to call forth Yar'adua from his sparingly accessible Aso Rock's solitary confinement.

In The Legend of The Seeker, we saw how a map was made to specifically locate an individual using something that belonged to the person being looked for. We all have access to Yar'adua's pictures hence Nigerians will be eternally grateful if our witches can teleport (metaphysical form of transportation) journalists, photographers, reliable medical experts, cameramen and others to the President's current location without being seen by Turai and her cabal.

In Yoruba culture, ancient warriors used egb├ę and ├áf├ę├Ęr├ş for swift transport and gathering intel information about their opponents. If any witch can help us out, since Bishop Oyedepo et al won't talk, the entire nation won't be kept in the dark. Also, the acting President and the National Assembly would be armed with enough evidence to implement Section 144 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, or commence impeachment proceedings as the case might be.

Globally, our witches are known for their unimaginable powers. However, we are all affected by the epileptic and erratic power supply. If they are indeed powerful, they should help us reach out to the electrical forces and resolve the mystery that has gulped billions of Naira in several failed attempts to fathom. If the problems are man made, let the witchdoctors cast spells on those behind it, and if metaphysical, let the witches fight for us. Every Nigerian home - bewitched or with witch - is in darkness, and the government has failed in solving this mystery. Hence if there is anything anyone can do, don't mind religion, Nigerians are open to suggestions!

Handling corrupt leaders is another area where Nigerian witches could help out. I'm of the opinion that western problems warrant western solutions, and indigenous challenges need indigenous resolutions. In Saudi Arabia where Sharia law is fully enforced, pilfering, theft and all manner of ill practices are reduced, in occurrence, to the barest minimum. American and English legal systems are incorruptible, and the openness of government allows public views to hold sway in checkmating public office holders, hence democracy is potent enough to guard against corruption. But in Nigeria, and most African countries, democracy is alien, rule of law is foreign and swearing by the Holy Books is more or less an ordinary requirement to step into treasure-laden political offices.

How lovely will it be if our politicians swear by Ogun, Nworie river goddess, Amadohia, and other local and regional gods and goddesses? Be that as it may, Nigerian witches can help us speed up the snail speed judgment process, avenge us, and administer justice on corrupt officials. It would be awesome if all corrupt leaders are daily afflicted with untreatable boils, sores, chickenpox, and midnight nightmares! They will not steal without daring the consequences. And the once bitten ones won't have the nerves, as shown by IBB, to return to such hot seat. The works of EFCC, Amnesty International, Transparency International, and social crusaders would be made easy if witches and wizards can take our predicament personal.

Another area of interest is that of conflicts resolution.

Recently, the mad clans in Jos went on rampage for the umpteenth time. Nigerian witches can help solve this national embarrassment once-and-for-all if they can send delegates to the state to carry out massive flogging of perpetrators- Moslems and Christians- such that next time religious crisis is ideated in any of the camps, the fear of unseen rod would prevent such. Moreover, the Bible says "do not spare the rod!"

Many are of the opinion that the inability of Nigerian witches to act is as a result of the widespread act of witch hunting by the likes of Helen Ukpabio. It is however worthy to note that if the witches want to be spared, they should demonstrate their relevance. Helen Ukpabio and other witch hunters should also pick their Bibles and get a better understanding of God's position on witch hunting.

In the Holy Scripture, references to sorcery are frequent, and the strong condemnations of such practices found there do not seem to be based so much upon the supposition of fraud as upon the abomination of the magic in itself.

The King James Bible uses the words "witch", "witchcraft", and "witchcrafts", wherever the Masoretic text, from which it is translated, has ??? (kashaph or kesheph) and ??? (qesem), and the Septuagint has ????????? (pharmakeia); similarly in the New Testament it uses 'witch', 'witchcraft', and 'witchcrafts' to translate the ????????? (pharmakeia) of the underlying Greek text.

Traditional translations of verses such as Deuteronomy 18:11ÔÇô12 and Exodus 22:18 therefore produce "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" which was seen as providing scriptural justification for Christian witch hunters in the early Modern Age.

However, Kashaph more literally means either mutterer (from a single root) or herb user (as a compound word formed from the roots kash, meaning herb, and hapaleh, meaning using); the equivalent pharmakeia of the Septuagint means poison. As such, a closer translation would be potion user (additionally, pharmakeia implies further malevolent intent), or more generally one who uses magic to harm others, rather than a very general term like witch.

The Bible provides some evidence that these commandments were enforced under the Hebrew kings:

And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?

The Hebrew verb ÔÇśHichrit' (?????) translated in the King James as ÔÇścut off' can also be translated as excommunicate, or as kill wholesale or exterminate. It should be noted that the Hebrew word ob, translated as familiar spirit in the above quotation, has a different meaning than the usual English sense of the phrase; namely, it refers to a spirit that the woman is familiar with, rather than to a spirit which physically manifests itself in the shape of an animal. If this is true, then witch hunters should go after the spirits, and not the old women and children who are said to have contacted them. This is done during sensibly serious and Biblical deliverance sessions.

Presently, Nigeria can make use of all assistance it could get. And if witches should help out, Helen Ukpabio and others should watch out- stones are coming their way!