Witchcraft, according to one Russell, is ‘a composite phenomenon drawing from folklore, sorcery, demonology, heresy and Christian theology’. The World Book Encyclopedia describes it as ‘the use of supposed magic powers generally to harm or damage property”.
From these definitions, we can move on to deduce a definition of a ‘witch’ as a person who is supposed to have received such powers from ‘evil spirits’, that is, power to know all things, power to destroy lives, amongst others.
While ‘witch’ is a general name, the word has a gender connotation. A ‘male witch’ is called wizard, while a ‘female witch’ is called ‘witch’. And herein lays my problem.
Just a week ago one family experienced the unthinkable. What happened to that family can best be described as every family’s worst nightmare, stuff horror movies are made of! Just in a space of less than 24 hours, the family had lost three loved ones in two separate freak (road related) accidents.
When shocking things like these happen, I usually just retreat to my own little quiet space in my head and silently weep. Some people cannot take it and so they express their shock by talking about it, a few confused ones go an extra mile and look for the pictures (even gruesome ones) and share them, usually without any regard for the affected families.
I have long learnt to accept everyone as they are; we were not all born of the same mother for sure.
The one thing that then got my attention, even cut short my moment of silence was when one paper, only a few days after the unfortunate events, boldly, in their front page nogal, suggested that the misfortune may be the works of witchcraft, or they suggested that the villagers had suggested so. Whichever way, this is Africa where strange things don’t only ‘happen’.
The belief in witchcraft is not recent, nor is it a product of the popular Harry Porter series. The belief has appeared in many parts of the world, in one form or the other.
While it became particularly prominent and developed in Europe in the later middles ages and renaissance periods, the belief in witches and their evil powers have remained with Africans for centuries before then. For Africa, Botswana to be exact, till today, witchcraft belief is a great tyranny spreading panic and death. This unhindered, thriving belief, which is devoid of any commonsensical scientific ratiocination (my take), is usually prevalent in low income families and traditional
I have never heard of any of my neighbours alleging witchcraft, and I have been in my present hood for five years now. Until late last year, my neighborhood was a hotbed for thieves where almost every other night there’ll be a ‘hit’ in the neighborhood.
That was until a certain neighbour moved in. No, a witch did not move in next door, only a guy who only comes back to his house in the wee hours of the morning every day. What a great distraction for thieves!
Personally, I have never ever believed in witchcraft. I am not in any way suggesting that anyone should prove anything to me or on me, I am only saying that there is a real possibility that we give some people undue credit about things they equally have no clue about!
Worse, I view so called witches suspiciously because often they have nothing to show for their alleged powers. Like, why would anyone even live in poverty if they wielded such supernatural powers?
One deducible fact based on history, however, is that witchcraft accusations are usually malicious, unscientific and flimsy in nature. How, for instance, can one know a ‘witch’? And how can one be sure that an alleged person is guilty of all the heinous crime accusations levied? How can one be sure that the accusations are not mere victimisation tactics? Ages back when I was young, and I still recall this to this day, my parents took us to a not-so popular site called Pharing just in the outskirts of Kanye. There we were shown a very large scary pit, I recall I got dizzy just peeping inside but then again, it could be that the dizziness was more to do with its history not so much the pit itself.
Apparently this pit is the final resting place for all the witches in my home village. Legend has it that they were thrown in alive, head first. Pity there are no headstones at the site. It would have helped, just saying.
So until I see a broom mobile with my naked eyes, this is just an irritating folk tale that should be removed from our history and primary school folk tales already.