By David G Maillu

There is not a single African home where witchcraft is a foreign subject. Famous scholar and theologian, Professor John Mbiti, has been widely quoted saying, “The African is notoriously religious.” At this juncture, perhaps, one should add to that statement by saying that, “The African is notoriously a believer in witchcraft.” In other words, no African mind worth its salt has not touched on that subject irrespective of his or her faith and intellectual status.

Witchcraft is a term used more popularly and broadly, says Mbiti, to describe all sorts of evil employment of mystical power, generally in a secret fashion. African societies do not draw the rather academic distinction between witchcraft, sorcery, evil magic, evil eye and other ways of employing mystical powers to do harm to someone or his belongings.

The Oxford Dictionary describes witchcraft as: art of controlling events by the pretended use of supernatural forces; primitive superstitious practices based on a belief in supernatural agencies; art of obtaining mysterious results by tricks. Of Witchcraft the dictionary describes: sorcery, use of magic.

 Synonymous and interchangeable with Witchcraft is Magic, says DrOsabuteyAguedze (Principle Underlying African Religion and Philosophy); a term which scholars have derived from Maguisia or Maguisi, the office of knowledge of the priest… The officers of the PersianMagius, approximated to that of Africa Osaisiphand initiated, were called MAGICIAN that is, THE WISE, which was also the case with the Greeks. Originally, these ‘magicians’ were princes, or they surrounded themselves with princes whom they instructed, guided and guarded by their sacred knowledge. In other words, the etymology of WITCHCRAFT is ‘sacred guarded knowledge’”

From this respect we should kick off by acknowledging that Witchcraft is a form of science. That knowledge was based on proven or scientific findings. Are we not talking about a discipline of traditional science? The Oxford Learners Dictionary describes “science” as “knowledge arranged in an orderly manner, especially knowledge obtained by observation and testing of facts.

Obviously the description in the dictionary referring witchcraft as a “superstitious practice” is prejudiced. This prejudice is responsible for the commonest questions raised in many quarters today, wondering whether Witchcraft Is real or an imaginary thing? If real, is it a practice of only the uneducated people? If it is real, what is its composition? Is it inborn or socially acquired? If it is real, should Witchcraft cases be given a legal stand in our law making and enforcement?

Let us ask ourselves further questions regarding whether Witchcraft is a primitive practice and belief that, by virtue of our modernity and education, we should throw into the graveyard of history and move on? Has Witchcraft a national defensive and economic value to the modern society? Can Witchcraft be modernized? Is Witchcraft a prominent property of the Black Race? Why do Africans, both uneducated and educated, believe so much in Witchcraft? Could they be all mistaken?

Even today, witches religiously safeguard their knowledge from all destructive purposes. Knowledge, as we know it too, can be used for both good and bad purpose.

The commonest term developed by African brain-washers referring to witches, is that a witch is (not related to science) but a person using magical things to harm other people. The commonplace advice given to the modern Africa who has fallen sick and is seeking treatment is, “Don’t go to a witchdoctor; go to hospital to see a real doctor.” The assumption is that even diviners can offer nothing of any substance to anyone but “witchcraft things.” It is from such distortion of cultural values that a widespread confusion between witches, healers, and diviners has developed.

Witchcraft, according to people with insight knowledge of African Witchcraft, can describe the subject as a genuine scientific discipline. That discipline can be divided into three forms: PHYSICAL WITCHCRAFT, METAPHYSICAL WITCHCRAFT and COSMOLOGICAL WITCHCRAFT.

With regard to physical witchcraft, which can also be referred to as clinical witchcraft, most of the people we call witches today are people who merely employ poisonous materials to harm others. The action of effecting that harm is sorcery. These materials are derived from plants, animals, objects, insects – generally speaking – earthly items and others.

The actors (witches) of this Witchcraft have acquired, or inherited from family members or outsiders, specific knowledge that, for example: the concoction of this stuff and that stuff given to a person, affects the physical behaviour of the person in one way or the other. This is a mere knowledge of biochemistry, which has existed in Africa since time immemorial. In fact, from this perspective all modern doctors qualify to be called Witches. This is because their knowledge can also be applied to harm or kill someone.

Man-made properties or natural items that can poison or radiate harmful effects on the human body have been part and parcel of the knowledge of traditional Africa. The assumption that witchcraft is mere superstition and should have no legal stand in the law making and enforcement is out of sheer ignorance and brain-washing. Traditional Witches are capable of doing destructive things and should not be let to get away with it under the pretext that Witchcraft is a matter of belief.

I once witnessed a case described as Witchcraft. A village woman had gone for picking farm greens for cooking. During that time intentionally a second woman went into action in order to harm the victim family of the first woman. With the knowledge that the first woman was picking kunde green leaves for cooking, the second woman picked the leaves of one well-known plant in Kikamba called mbongolo. Its leaves look alike with the kunde leaves. The second woman found a way of secretly smuggling her stuff and mixing it with the kunde leaves of the first woman. When the meal cooked and served the entire family went mad literally. A woman in the family striped herself naked and walked in the village singing. One mother who had a suckling child was seen holding the child upside down and trying to suckle the feet of the child instead of the mouth. Anyone who had eaten the food did crazy things. In the meantime word went round regarding the woman who had bewitched them. Nevertheless, she got away with the matter because there was no proof that she had been seen around that home. She was known for practicing Witchcraft.

I have an astounding firsthand observation regarding another case. It is from an old woman and aunt of mine who died in 1950s. The lonely woman was known in the village as a witch. She had found an invaluable favour in one of her early teenage grandsons. The grandson could do anything for the old woman, from stealing for her and acting as a spy for anything bad spoken about the grandmother. That was why she took him as her special confidant. Often the two were seen walking together, eating together and making jokes. The grandmother revealed to the boy many things about Witchcraft. One particular case stands out in this respect.

The family had one wild and violent bull feared by everybody. The bull hated women and children whom it loved terrorizing by sending them away scuttling for their safety. One day the family decided that the dangerous bull should be disposed of by being taken to the market for sale. The grandmother was not amused by the decision. In spite of its violence, everybody loved the bull’s special features. When the grandmother tried to object the sale she found she found herself standing against the whole family. The family confronted her by demanding, “If the bull kills anybody in the village will you stand for the cost of compensation?”

One day she decided to save the bull from the sale. She called the grandson and instructed, “Listen to me carefully. When the bull is secure in the shed and you find there is no member of the family around, come and tell me. I will show you how to tame the bull.” So, one day shortly after sunset when no family members were around and the buill was in place, the grandson ran and reported to his confidant, “It’s time.”

The grandmother, who took bath in a blue moon, called the boy to a private place, removed her genitalia cover. She didn’t wear underpants. It was a square cloth of about nine inches with strips for tying it around her waist. Only herself alone knew whether she had ever washed it since she started wearing it. Passing it over to the grandson she instructed, “Take it and holding it by the strips, go to the bull until you are very near it. The bull will charge and advance in an attempt to hit you, but don’t be scared because it cannot break from the shed. Get as close to its head as possible and then hit its head with the bulk of this cloth after which you bring it back to me.”

The curious grandson advanced to the awfully charged bull and hit it on the head. He noticed that suddenly the bull went silent and backed away. Returning item to the grandmother he heard her say “We’ve killed the bull’s sting. It will never ever attack anyone.”

In fact, the bull suddenly became as tame as a cat. Even children could crawl under its belly and it would not touch anyone. Women could touch it anywhere. It became the tamest bull the village had ever seen. However, the secret of how it had been tamed remained between the grandmother and the grandson. It was the grandson who imparted to me what had happened. At that time I rested with the conclusion that the aunt was a great Witch capable of bewitching even animals.

It was at a later time I learnt that the aunt had actually neither physical nor spiritual power of taming the bull. The power was in the cloth which was superbly charged by her genital waves or radiation. Possibly, the charged cloth must have hit at the bull and disabled permanently its central aggressive nerves. I got scared regarding what would happen to a man if his face was hit with that cloth. Only witches keep the secrets.

The most potent and highly charged parts of the human body are the genitals, the hair, bones, clothes, footprint marks and hands. Materials obtained from those parts are invaluable to clinical witches. When dogs are used to trace criminals they are given to smell materials used by the victim. Dogs follow the footprints of the victim successfully not because they are witches. They are helped by the bodily electromagnetic charges left on the footprints. Witches are famous in collecting the charged soil upon the footprint of the victim. That charged material is used to trap the victim.

Every individual human being has unique charges. However, witches keep the knowledge that not all human bodies carry the same amount of charges. There are Particular personalities have higher charge than others. Those who practice witchcraft are known to carry higher charges. There is unbelievable and undocumented knowledge attached to this sphere of science. That knowledge has been developed since the beginning of the human being.

Your brains are a living physical matter. How that matter functions and for what purpose falls under the department of metaphysics. To claim that you were born so that you may live a good life is a philosophical or metaphysical argument subject to other challenges. The brain is a charged living energy for receiving and transmitting information responding to certain demands related to survival.

Not much study has been carried out to map or express the dimensions of that energy. What we call soul (charge) is the non-material part of the person. The soul, which is believed to live for ever, is the one that dictates to our behaviour. A car has no soul. When it stops functioning that is the end of its life.

In social interaction it is commonly claimed that, for example, if an adult child subjects his/her parent to unbearable and deliberate cruelty, that provokes the parent to utter bad wishes against the child. It is believed that those charged words have the power of subjecting bodily punishment or misfortune to the child. In a way one can claim that the parent has taken a step to bewitch the child.

When raw bricks are put into a kiln and that kiln is set on high temperature to fire the bricks, the fired bricks, unlike raw bricks. get charged to acquire new stature that can withstand destruction by water. Notwithstanding, certain soils produce better bricks than others. The dynamics of the human body which is provoked by a terrible outside agent, acts like a kiln in processing and charging words with energy which is potentially offensive defensive. However, the child’s extraordinary positive action to the parent equally produces an extraordinary positive charge so that when the parent utters good wishes for the child, those wishes become potentially effective. In other words, you can effect punishment or blessing to someone physically or spiritually. The negative effects of that spirit are claimed to relate to witchcraft.

Just as people are physically born with different bodily positive or negative features, spiritually too, they are born with different positive or negative spiritual charges or waves. The human body is a bundle of energy. Just as there are some magnetic materials which have higher charging properties than others, there are also some human bodies naturally born with higher, super, or extraordinary charging properties. A highly charged psyche is capable of bringing about more miraculous effects than a low charged psyche is capable of, just as a highly charged magnetic property is capable of attracting or repelling more things than less charged magnetic property can.

Talking about “Mystical power, Magic, Witchcraft and Sorcery,” Professor John Mbiti (African Religions and Philosophy) expresses scaring things about the dimensions of the human brain, “There is a mystical power (charge) which causes people to walk on fire, to lie on thorns or nails, to send curses or harm, including death, from a distance, to change into animals (lycanthropy), to spit on snakes and cause them to split open and die; power to stupefy thieves so that they can be caught red-handed; power to make inanimate objects turn into biological living creatures; there is power that enables experts to see into secrets, hidden information or the future, or to detect thieves and other culprits. African people know this and try to apply it in these and many other ways.

Bloomhill, a white woman researcher of witchcraft reported a scaring case in her boo Witchcraft in Africa. She relates a story of a Whiteman farmer in Zimbabwe (what was once known as Rhodesia). The European farmer lived in neighbourhood with another European farmer, a woman. Both were unmarried and appeared a perfect match for each other. The man proposed to the girl who readily accepted. However, one evening she paid him a visit unexpectedly and was shocked to discover her fiancé having an affair with his African maid. She stormed out of the house madly screaming at the black maid and calling her “filthy black bitch.” The revelation cost her breaking the engagement that evening.

On the next day she was in her farm when she spotted a black bitch in the company of a white ram cutting through her farm. On the same day her beloved dog died from a snake bite. Two days later she spotted the same black bitch and white ram entering her  cattle kraal; only a few moments after the sight her best Jersey cow died with its front legs broken off. Then followed one disaster after another every time she saw the black bitch and the white ram in her farm.

The horror drove her to consult an African diviner and healer. The healer promised to bring the matter to an end. So, he prepared the right “medicine” for the case and, taking her with him, secretly followed the black bitch and white ram on the next day. The animals dived into a river only to emerge and go to the home of the Whiteman farmer. The healer and the woman followed them and found them dripping water at a time when they were no longer animals but both the Whiteman and his black maid. The healer gave the Whiteman the ‘medicine’ from a horn. That cured the two from the power to change from human beings into animals. After the treatment no more disaster fell upon the woman’s farm.

This incident raises very many questions; some of them being: What kind of witchcraft was behind that mystery beating scientific explanation? Or is it science in another dimension which we have not explored? The fact that the healer employed “medicine” is an indication that the matter was a clinical problem. What powers did the maid have capable of creating such macabre thing in response to being called a filthy black bitch?

When someone makes a statement that statement transmits waves to the audience. The impact of those waves on the audience depends on the quality source of those waves.  It appears that the human psyche generates both positive and negative electromagnetic waves. It is possible that the bearer of powerful waves may not be aware of them because they are not generated consciously.

When those extraordinary strong waves create negative effects on the victim, the bearer of the waves is regarded a witch. For example, if the bearer of those waves is molested and tells the molester, “May you meet misfortune as a punishment for what you have done to me,” then thereafter the molester gets involved in an accident, fatal or partial, the causer of those damaging words stands the danger of being called a witch.

The dynamisms of the human mind, which is linked to witchcraft, have yet to be explored. There are people in the eastern countries capable of training the mind successfully to make the trained person be buried into the ground for hours yet survive. Some of those trained persons can walk barefoot over a metal plane heated at 1,000 centigrade degree yet bear no burns on the feet. People capable of performing incredible miracles that beat principles of physical science still abound in Africa.

 Cosmological Witchcraft or the third kind of witchcraft, nonetheless the least kind of witchcraft, is inborn. Its carrier may or may not be aware of it. The leading example of this is what is commonly described as the EVIL EYE. In my mother tongue that EVIL EYE is described as KITA. Its worst form is called Kithemengu. It is common among nearly all African communities.

One day I was discussing this aspect of witchcraft when one scholar from the Luiyah community of Kenya of Kenya told to me, “In my village there is a very well known woman among women potteries. If women are at work and they hear that she is passing by, they rush to cover the raw pots; for if the woman arrives and looks at the pots, whichever pot she looks at develops serious cracks rendering the pot absolutely useless. However, some of the women have the knowledge that if soot or charcoal powder is spread on the pots, the sprayed pots don’t develop cracks at all.”

That EVIL EYE is not destructive only to raw pots. It is destructive to many things. The bearer of the EVIL EYE is feared mostly in relation to causing bodily harm. I have been a witness to one of the cases. One of my nephews is married and he and his wife have two handsome sons. When the first son was aged five he developed very worrying rashes all over the head. The rashes did not respond at all to hospital treatment. In fact, the parents had nightmares of seeing dermatologist doctors who, in vain, kept on giving them all kinds of treatments. For nearly one year they spent a fortune in that ineffective treatment.

One day a woman workmate of the mother saw the suffering child and was told about the terrible experiences that parents had had with doctors trying to treat the rashes. She cried. “Oh, you know what? I had the same problem with my son until a friend told me of a traditional healer. She helped me get to the healer who healed my son instantly by merely spitting on the head. Would you believe it? I paid him just one hundred shillings.”

That was incredible news to my nephew. But he and his wife, both Christians and from a Christian family, didn’t dare condescend to a witch-doctor for the treatment of their son. They didn’t want their parents to hear of a thing like that. That was why they came to me with the awareness of my liberal mind. They told me their predicament and whispered to me whether, quietly and secretly, I could drive them to the healer, about sixty kilometers from Nairobi. I said, “Come, let’s go. I’ll not tell anyone.”

Even when we saw the healer they wanted me to talk for them. So I did the talk by explaining to the healer the nature of our mission. The healer, a short Kamba man in his late sixties, looked at the suffering son and cried, “He’ll be healed instantly, take it from me.” The treatment was effected by holding the son in his hands while he spat over the head. Of course, he had already explained, “Your son was seen by a kita-person.” After spitting on him he added, “I will give you a few herbs for rubbing over the head which, nonetheless, are not necessary. After two days you will see the result.” While spitting over the child he had cursed, “May this disease backfire over the same person if he/she sees you with that eye?”

Within a few days the rashes disappeared and the skin returned to the finest situation. It is over three years since that happened. They never went looking for the dermatologist. Reluctant to receive payment the healer said, “It’s a gift from God and I don’t ask for payment. You can give me any small thing, as a token.” We gave him two hundred shillings.

 That person with EVIL EYE may be even more complex. Usually the destructive force is expressed orally. The in-born witchcraft can be lethal when the bearer is harassed. The curse he/she delivers to the molester has extraordinary potency of destruction. These agents are mostly feared by the community in which they live because villagers identify them. On the other hand the in-born witchcraft may also have a positive force in which, whatever blessing utterance the bearer makes, that blessing become effective.

There is nothing which can be done to avert the power of the in-born witchcraft. Over and above, such agents also differ from person to person. Some of them are more powerful than others.

When I was a boy I used to suffer from stomach problems. In those days we relied totally on traditional healers. In fact, I was never treated by a medical doctor until I was in my teenage age. So, one healer was called to treat my stomach problem. In order to dispense his medicine the healer requested my parents to slaughter a goat. My father pointed at a white goat for slaughtering and asked, “Would that goat be good choice?”

“Yes,” the healer replied. But when time came for slaughtering the goat physically, the healer stopped the move by saying “No, not like that. Let the goat stand free. I’ll kill it for you. Has the goat a name?”

“Yes,” replied my father, “we call it Kelu.”

The healer killed the goat by simply staring at it from a distance, spitting at it and greeting it, “WakyaKelu?” The goat replied the greeting by shaking; jumping, falling heavily and kicking to its death while everybody looked dumbfounded. Finally, the goat lay there absolutely dead. When it was skinned my horrified mother refused to eat the meat.

The healer combined his healing powers with witchcraft. The incident left the family absolutely dazzled. The healer must have had extraordinary powerful waves capable of killing. Those powers could either in-born or self acquired. If he was capable of killing a goat by mere words, perhaps, he could also kill a person.


Quack witches

Just as it is in the field of traditional healers, since in the new world there is no regulatory machine for separating real witches from quacks and impostors, obviously the field is beset with quacks. Some of those who even claim to be witches, diviners and healers are quacks. It is not uncommon to hear some of them uttering threats of bewitching someone even when they know too well that their threats have no effect whatsoever.

Without any proper guidance, documentation, degree of assessment, checks and balances, the filed is left to confusion and waste. It is a terrible omission to the fundamental principles of African culture. True knowledge must be preciously preserved with right mechanisms of checks and balances; anything less of that would be destruction of our cultural aesthetics.

This presents the challenge that in Africa witchcraft is an unchecked science discipline embracing an enormous field. Unfortunately, because of unfounded prejudices, this field has not been given the research and attention it surely deserves. Instead, it is has been buried in the backyard of shameful unscholarly garbage and prejudices. Given full attention, research and dedication, it can unearth shocking but positive revelations relating to human dynamics. It is a science that holds an incredible legacy and secrets of psycho-biochemistry findings and conclusions. Scientifically and philosophically harnessed, the witchcraft industry is one field where the Black Race can contribute widely to the knowledge of the dynamics and frontiers of the human mind.

The writer is a scholar and an international renowned author: