Monday, April 2, 2007


A witch doctor's office

Beliefs and practices associated with witchcraft have had a significant impact on African history and continue to play a role in shaping the continent's political and economic development, says Assistant Professor of History and Africana Studies at Bryn Mawr College Kalala Ngalamulume.
Ngalamulume uses "witchcraft" in two senses. He defines its "negative" manifestation as the belief that certain people use occult or magical power to cause harm to others. Witchcraft in this sense is often blamed for illnesses or deaths that Western medicine cannot explain or address, Ngalamulume says. In its "positive" sense, witchcraft can be used as a defense against the malicious intentions of others, including witches, or to increase one's own power or wealth. Successful specialists in the preparations and rituals used in these efforts are much sought after, Ngalamulume says.

Diviner, consulting the spirits to ask permission for the photographer to see his shrine
Photo Courtesy of Prof. Christopher Roy University of Iowa

According to Ngalamulume, belief in witchcraft is widespread across sub-Saharan Africa. Witches in the negative sense he defines are believed to inhabit nearly every village and belong to every clan, keeping their identities hidden from all but their fellow witches and inflicting injury on those who have aroused their anger or jealousy. The close association of witchcraft with traditional family and social structures has an important impact on patterns of economic development, Ngalamulume says.

The popular appeal of witchcraft can be seen very clearly in the realm of sport, says Ngalamulume. "Any soccer match in any city in Africa is surrounded by rumors that players are using witchraft to guarantee victory. Not just local teams, but national teams use occult specialists to lend them strength," he says.

Witchcraft in the positive sense may be an important factor in state-scale politics, Ngalamulume says. "Many African heads of state are believed to use occult specialists to protect their power, to escape assassination plots or coups d'état," he explains. "In places where dictators are using these practices, many people around them believe that the dictators are invulnerable and resistance is futile. This obviously has strong implications in the transitions of developing nations to democracy." About Professor Ngalamulume Click Here

Isangoma Zulu name for a diviner, someone in contact with ancestral spirits a.k.a witchdoctor

Who is a Witch Doctor? A witch doctor often refers to exotic healers that believe that maladies are caused by magic and are therefore best cured by it, as opposed to science or developed medicine. The term witch doctor is generally used with negative connotations, as implying that the people whom the witch doctor serves are primitive and credulous. The term does not, as is popularly believed, mean ‘a doctor who uses witchcraft to cure’. It means a person who treats maladies caused by witchcraft. The term was originally used to signify the cunning folk, practitioners of folk magic who sold their services to ward off witchcraft or turn it back upon the supposed sender. The witch doctors in Africa, are given the politically correct title of “traditional healers”. More Information



Men in parts of Tanzania’s main city, Dar es Salaam, are living in fear of a night-time sex attacker. A BBC correspondent says the attacks are being blamed by some on a demon called “Popo Bawa” meaning winged bat. Some men are staying awake or sleeping in groups outside their homes. Others are smearing themselves with pig’s oil, believing this repels attacks. The story goes that the bat is able to transform itself into a man at night and it has also been blamed for rapes of women. More Information on BBC

"Bewitching the pitch in Tanzania" Emmanuel Muga BBC correspondent in Dar es Salaam

"Nigerian Lynched for Witchcraft" More Information

"Villagers Burn Witches in South Africa" More Information

Are Eagles a sign of bad omen? More on "The eagle that came to visit" By Hamilton Wende BBC, Zambia Click here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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