Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Belief in witchcraft remains widespread in Africa

There is still so much work to do to rid the world of dangerous superstitious paranoia.

Alleged African witches still outcast to camps

By Orla Ryan Tue Jan 2, 10:41 AM ET

GAMBAGA, Ghana, Jan 1 (Reuters Life!) - Mariama Alidu was cast out as a witch from her village by her own family, yet she swears she has never cast a spell.

The mere suspicion of witchcraft was enough to see her and 80 other suspected witches expelled to a scruffy camp of mud huts on the fringes of the town of Gambaga in northern Ghana.

"It is the work of the devil. I can't say I have ever practiced it myself," says Mariama, who has lived in the camp for about 10 years.

Hundreds more women accused of witchcraft live in similar camps in the cocoa- and gold-producing West African country.

Belief in witchcraft remains widespread in Africa, the world's poorest continent, where Christianity and Islam rub shoulders with animist religions, and where witch doctors wield great power in tribal societies.

In the poor, dry savannah of northern Ghana, the heat shimmers under a pale blue sky and allegations of witchcraft bubble up as readily as tar in the tropical heat.

Like the witches' trials in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 or the Cold War persecution of alleged communists in 1950s America, the fate of a suspect often hangs on the word of another.

Death, illness, dreams, superstition or even visible signs of success may be enough to provoke accusations of sorcery.

No matter how hard the allegation is to prove -- or how hysterical the accuser -- the fact that witchcraft is virtually impossible to disprove means many women are forced to live outside their communities, some for as long as 30 years.

Some are brought to the witch camps by their families. Others flee there from their homes and villages, fearing a beating or worse. Most of the occupants of the camps are women, although there are some men.

Human rights campaigners say camp populations are declining, thanks to efforts by concerned agencies to reintegrate the women into society and fight the influence of witchcraft.

FULL STORY

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Witchcraft is alive and well in many of the Churches and Mosques and Temples of the world. People dress in strange, elaborate garments and wave smoking vessels about and talk in strange, unintelligble tongues about death and heaven and sinners and the saved and hell and damnation...

The world is still a hotbed of superstition and ignorance.

The Merchant of Menace said...

I've always been amused by the way that organised religion, particularly the xtian one, tries so hard to separate itself from superstition. One definition that they often give out is that 'superstition' is "false worship or religion". As if there's anything that is not completely false about the claims they make for their so-called beliefs.

The credulity, ignorance, mendacity, duplicity and sheer sophistry of religious believers never ceases to amazw me.

Stardust said...

daniel - sadly, you are absolutely correct. One superstitious belief/religion isn't any more irrational than another.

Stardust said...

elaborate garments and wave smoking vessels

daniel - I have a funny story about the "smoking vessel". . .

My daughter is a professional musician and gets most of her "gigs" from churches of all kinds of denominations. (They don't care if musicians they hire are believers or not, just as long as they play well.) Anyway, we went to see this one xmas "show" my daughter was in at a catholic church one year and the musicians were all up on one side of the altar. The thurifer comes out waving around the oogie-boogie thurible and it's smokin' away. He waves it over the crowd, he waves it over the altar, he waves it everywhere...then waves it towards the altar again and hence...the thurible comes loose from the chain and hits the floor and GASP! starts rolling across the floor towards the musicians and the thurifer chases after it, his robes flapping like a huge bird in a windstorm. Regular members of the congregation sat horrified, and silent...my husband and I could hardly contain our laughter. It was quite funny.

Stardust said...

I've always been amused by the way that organised religion, particularly the xtian one, tries so hard to separate itself from superstition.

Merchant of menace - (glad to see you here.) I am often told by xians, after pointing out to them the many, many different religions/superstitions in the world, that those religions are not "real" but their beliefs are the "true" beliefs and the others are not. I then point out that those people really DO believe that their religions are real, and their gods are real and many of them also have ancient holy texts that they believe were divinely inspired by special mortals who wrote down messages delivered from "above" or another realm or some other "never-never land" by their gods.

When xians try to justify their religion/faith, they point out how long it has "endured" and spread. It's ok to justify their claims that xianity is true by the amount of time it has lasted, but they do not judge other religions that are older by that same merit of time of survival. Hinduism is one of the oldest religions on earth (if not the oldest). If we judge something to be true because of the time factor, then Hinduism would be the most true religion and xians are worshipping the wrong god.

I suggest all the time that xians take some mythology courses, read books by Joseph Campbell and study the history of cultures from around the world. That is when one's eyes will be open and the brain starts consider that this is all hocus pocus that humans create for themselves in order to cope with being alone on a planet in the vastness of the universe and not knowing how we got here or what will become of us in the future. For many, believing that there is more out there than just cold space is more comforting than accepting the reality that we really have zero control over anything.

Anonymous said...

The quote by merchant of menace Is a thought provoking one.

I have been convinced for some time that Christianity needs to at least do some updating. (personally, I call it evolving, but they don't seem to like that word.)

As to your recomendation that Christians take some mythology courses, read books by Joseph Campbell and study the history of cultures from around the world.
I completely agree but, for some reason Christian leaders don't encourage this. Hmmmm, I wonder why?

Myself, I've found that anthropologists are about the least judgmental people I've met. Go figure.

Nathalie said...

Overlooking the fact that believing in witchcraft is completely illogical for a moment, I fail to see the logic in putting all the "witches" in a camp together. If I were to believe in witchcraft I certainly wouldn't put all the witches together so they can conjure up some major voodoo on my ass. Power in numbers and all that..

Believers truly do not have a logical bone in their bodies in my opinion.

Stardust said...

If I were to believe in witchcraft I certainly wouldn't put all the witches together so they can conjure up some major voodoo on my ass. Power in numbers and all that..

nathalie, that is stupid to put them all together in one big camp. If witchcraft was real, that would be one powerful force to put them all together like that!

Tommy said...

I would say offer asylum to accused witches, but then you would have all kinds of people claiming to be witches just to take advantage of it.

I guess the way to handle it would be to subject accusers to criminal penalties if they cannot prove that the accused is a witch. I am sure that the number of accusers would shrivel up very fast.

Anonymous said...

I believe the accepted method is to attempt to drown the alledged witch. If he/she drowns then they are mortal, if they survive the dunking, then they have supernatural powers & you burn them at the stake.

How can you argue with that logic?

Stardust said...

I guess the way to handle it would be to subject accusers to criminal penalties if they cannot prove that the accused is a witch.

tommy - I am afraid that they would be just like xians and make up their own evidence.

Stardust said...

I believe the accepted method is to attempt to drown the alledged witch. If he/she drowns then they are mortal, if they survive the dunking, then they have supernatural powers & you burn them at the stake.

Like I just said to tommy...they will make up their own "evidence" to "prove" what they want to believe just like superstitious people have done throughout history.