Another realm of African religion is that of belief in magic and medicine. In fact, it is very important to state that the 21m century scientific approach to the world has not been able to rub off the belief in the existence of witches totally in Africa. Even the mode of prayer in most Neo-Pentecostal churches testifies to the African belief in the existence of witches. Western education has also not been able eradicate this belief as those who are learned still have a tingling sensation when they are confronted with the inexplicable. In this unit, you are going to learn about the African belief as far as witchcraft and sorcery is concerned.
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
- discuss what the Africans believe about witchcraft
- identify what sorcery is
- discuss the modus operandi of witches and sorcerers.
3.0 MAIN CONTENT
Africans believe that witches are people with an inherent power by means of which they can do anything, especially negative things in the world. It is however believed that some of the witches may have acquired the powers for the purpose of helping their children, but it is held by and large that their powers are used for evil and anti-social Africans believe that witches are mostly women though some men are found in their rank and file who hold some important office. It is further held that some people are born with the powers of witchcraft while others acquired it. Also, it can be passed on to people by means of sharing food that is given by a member who wants to initiate the person. It is usually thought that a person may possess the power without realizing it. However, whether they are aware of it or not, they can use the powers and this is why in Africa the concept of witchcraft is mystifying, appalling and sinister.
Witches operate mainly at night. They meet in the guilds and they meet spiritually. This is to say that the meetings are mainly the activities of the souls. This is why it is believed in Africa that witches leave their physical bodies at home asleep in their houses while their souls have went off to their meeting. To be able to do this, it is believed that they can take the form of a cat (especially black), an owl or bat. It is also believed that if this animal or bird whose form is taken is killed during the process, the witch using the body automatically dies.
It is also believed that at meetings members must supply a human victim, presumably somebody close to them and in whose well being they have deep interest. It is also believed that witches have powers to spoil medicines and render magic useless because they know the plants, roots, herbs and barks the magician and the medicine-men use. As a result of this, some medicine-men collaborate with witches so that they can work successfully. They are thought to be so potent that they can be the cause of misfortune and illness. People hold them responsible for accidents, sudden deaths, poverty, barrenness and a host of human miseries.
Sorcery is the application of bad magic on people or object. It is generally held in Africa that sorcery can be used to harm people, destroy life or property, disrupt the well-being of an individual and to change a happy destiny to an unhappy one. Generally speaking, sorcery stands for anti-social employment of physical powers. Thus, a person who uses bad magic is called a sorcerer and they are usually feared by all because of their mischievousness.
It is believed that sorcerers are capable of employing all sorts of ways to attack other people and their belongings. They can send flies, snakes, lions or any other animal to attack their target. They can even spit on the ground and command their spittle to go and harm another person or even go to the extent of invoking evil spirits to attack or possess their victims.
They have been said to have called upon lightning to attack their victims; they have also b en said to cause elephantiasis of the legs and others have used direct poisoning on their victims. It is also possible for them to attack their enemies through invocation and incantation. In doing this, they usually employ sympathetic or contagious magic. For example, they can prepare an effigy and invoke the spirit of their target into the effigy. After this, they can harm the person through whatever is done to the image into which the person’s spirit has been invoked. For the purpose of preventing themselves from being harmed by sorcerers, the use of charms, amulets and various type of medicines, either taken directly (orally) or through incisions is prevalent.
The following are the major points you have learnt in this unit:
- Belief in witchcraft and sorcery is prevalent in Africa.
- They are believed to be able to cause misfortune to human beings
- They both use their mystical powers negatively.
6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT
Discuss the African belief in witches and sorcerers