shamanism

 

 

 

 

Shamanism

The Marimbas play Tubular Bells - African Magic!


The Dark Continent
Animal Spirits
Star Lore of Africa
Gallery



 
 



Words of Wisdom
(from Books on Psychology, The Way of the Shaman, The Bible)



When you walk the Path of Light,
You come closer to the Spirit.
When you come closer to the Spirit
You see Beauty in all things
And the Sacredness of Life.


Peace is a note.



             
 

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy :

Your believes about yourself change your concept of yourself and your behaviour - Your behaviour then confirms your beliefs about yourself.

Like attracts Like.
Negative thought patterns attract negativity.
Positive thought patterns attract positivity.

The Mirror :

Project these feelings and they will reflect back to you.

Success can be defined in many different ways that are personal to you.

Don't let anyone push your buttons.



 

Internal dialogue reinforces man's perception of the world and keeps it fixed at a certain level of efficiency and function.

Words have evocative power - to arouse emotions, recall and organise concepts for the memory and understanding, to evoke, heal, clarify, and command.

Words are vibrations.

Poetry and music break down the barriers that consciousness constructs, erasing the loneliness of the Soul, and showing us that we are all one.

Knowledge of, and skill with, the power of the Word becomes magical because understanding the creative force of sound, the Word is used to generate the seeds of Light that echo through creation. (If you don?t understand this try saying a word or sentence with different emphases and difference tones of voice).

(In the beginning there was the Word -)

 



 


Knowledge is Power - and power means Change.

Entering the 'unknown' necessitates at attitude of daring.

Initiation means entering into a new Understanding. In so doing, you should be aware of your limitations - limitations of syntax, human limitations, and limitations of society - and try and transcend these limitations.

Life is in a constant state of flux - it moves, it changes, it reverses itself, and can be halted or deviated.

(Cycles, seasons, wheels-within-wheels)



 


Perception is constructed through INTENT - in which we FOCUS all our endeavours, hopes, fears, joys, etc. (energy focus).

Man's perception is usually based on Sensory input.

Stopping the flow into sensory input is to enter a state of Higher Awareness called 'Seeing' and thus changing one's perceptions.

'Inner Silence' breaks fixation (internal dialogue) and perceptions then become fluid.

A pathway to inner silence is to saturate your kinaesthetic memory through meditation or movement. Practice whatever sequences achieves Your inner silence - dance, prayer, tai chi, meditation, yoga etc.

There is no need for ritual. A Ritual is purely a set 'sequence of movements' which helps to focus or re-focus the mind.


 



There are no right ways or wrong ways - just different ways.

Morality belongs in the Mind and is part of the culture it is in. What is moral in one society is not right in another. Rules and Laws are activities of the mind and are fashioned (by Society) to establish and safeguard certain Principles and Ethics.

Negativity leads to the darkening of the Soul and creates Fears! Fears then become monsters/demons - the more you 'fuel' a fear the bigger it grows.

In Love there can be no fear. Fear is driven out by perfect love. To fear is to expect punishment and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love.

Which brings us back to the
Self Fulfilling Prophecy!


 



Be ambitious for Higher Gifts
- there are three things that last -

Faith, Hope, and Love,
and the greatest of these is
Love.



 


 
The iNyanga and the isaNgoma

 



Because the Bantu is a deeply superstitious man, and his god, though he knows very little about him, is the creator of certain laws which must be obeyed - laws which have come down to him through his ancestral spirits - these spirits possess enormous power over his life and are near to him every hour of his life.


Some of these are good and beneficient, others are evil and devilish, but whatever they may be, their dictates must be obeyed implicitly, else retribution swift and terrible will follow.

To the Bantu nothing happens by chance. If life runs smoothly, the spirits are pleased with his conduct, but he knows that there will be times when he will have to face days of anxiety. Troubles are bound to come sooner or later, dangers will assail him, physical suffering may strike him down, or the hand of death may take a dear one from him - the spirits are then angry with him, in some way or other he has violated their laws, roused their wrath, and the forces of vengence have been released against him.

He is bewildered, crushed, overwhelmed.

 
What is he to do?

How can he counteract these harmful forces and appease the wrath of the spirits?

Or is it the work of those devilish, evil demons, the ones they call the abaThakathi - the wizards, the witches, or the agents of witchcraft - the plotters and the betrayers?
 
He turns to his priest, the iNyanga -

First, his iNyanga will treat him with herbs to make sure he is not suffering from any sickness. He might be given a potion - some strong tasting, often foul, black liquid that makes him purge his stomach.





The iNyanga will dance about him, enhanced by his regalia, chanting his incantations - lulling the man into a semi-hypnotic trance, his words acting upon the man psychologically, persuading him that all will be well and he will get better.

If the iNyanga suspects that the man's sickness is caused by some disease or intestinal parasite, he will treat him with other specially prepared herbs - simarouba bark, or a syrup of dried grapes for dysentery; a brew of boiled celery for rheumatism; onion and sugar for coughs; olive oil for gall stones; pumpkin seeds for intestinal worms; flax seeds pulp for a poultice - aye and a good old tot of palm wine or cane spirit for the common cold.
 
If the man?s problems are not cured by his iNyanga - he turns to his diviner - the priests with the second sight. The ones who can commune directly with the ancestral spirits - the man who knows  things.

This man is an excellent psychologist, he knows and understands his people thoroughly.





He knows full well that all his people live in two worlds, the physical and the spiritual, and the latter is always the more real to them, for this is the realm of the Spirits of the Ancestors who are ever near, ever active and tremendously powerful.
 
This man converses with these spirits, understands their workings, and it is through him, and him only, that the man can be protected.

The diviner will be able to tell the man how to act in order that his mind may be set at rest and tranquillity restored.

The diviner may go into a trance, so that his powers of second sight are enhanced. He tunes into the hearts and minds of men, reading their very thoughts - his powers are uncanny.
 
His training was vigorous and he learned many things. Things that the common man does not bother himself with. His body is attuned to shifts in magnetic fields - he learnt how to observe nature and how to read signs and portents - when it will rain - he can even smell it.

The diviner may turn to others who have learned to tune into the hearts and minds of men - the isaNgoma - for second opinion. These people concentrate on the human psychology.
 
They can see the intent in people - they have observed body language, the subtle shifts in the behaviour of people that give clues to a person's thoughts - the things that they hide - these people can even smell fear and loathing.





If the isaNgoma does not suspect the man of harbouring bad intent, he will send out his aide, his isaNusi, to gather information from others.
 
The isaNusi is gifted with extraordinary powers of discernment and is an excellent judge of character. In casual conversation and from observing the movements of the rest of the people, they glean pieces of the puzzle that might throw light on the ailments of the man - maybe the man has a rival, maybe someone else has evil intent against the man.

Then isaNgoma will dress outlandishly, decorate himself with frightful looking objects, he will dance fervishly before the man, to induce him to a state of fear even greater than any evil he may be plotting - to drive his state of mind to a point where his intent is overruled by his fear of punishment. At no time does the man want to be accused of being in league with evil spirits.
 
And when the isaNgoma is happy that the man is free from intent, he will turn to the people themselves - he and his dancers dance again - drumming vigorously - uttering shrieks and shrills - and the guilty begin to sweat!

 

 




 
The abaThakatha

 


 
The abaThakatha or wizards/witches work in league with demons and ancestral spirits who may have lived cruel, evil, adulterous, vicious lives on earth and who now wish avenge themselves by bringing disaster and suffering to the people, or their descendants. Tricksters and con-men also fall in the category of abaThakatha.

The abaThakatha usually know about herbs that are poisonous - substances that can induce death but leave no traces in the body.

Superstition held that an umThakathi (sing.) was aided in his evil deeds either by an umKhovu or zombie, which was a person killed by witchcraft but brought back to life again through sinister workings; or by a Tokoloshe, which is a type of gnome that lives by streams or waterfalls and is accredited to being evil and sinister.

Many Europeans cannot explain some of the workings of the abaThakatha as some occurrences have been poltergeist in activity - tappings, things flying round the room, strange happenings.

 



 


Living in Terror of Witches

 




The notion of supernatural power has long excited and frightened people, and even today a belief in witchcraft is widespread in Africa.

Unlike Western witches, those in Africa are always malevolent, seeking to kill their victims by secretly consuming their souls.
 
African concepts of witchcraft draw on the idea that sickness and death are not necessarily natural. Often they may be caused by the intervention of evil spirits - and like as not, these will be under the control of a malign individual.
 
Such people are not always conscious of their powers. Some may simply be born with the evil eye, causing misery around them with no deliberate intent to do harm. Among their ranks are East Africa's kisirani, hapless individuals whose mere presence in a room is enough to make valuables lose themselves and send treasured pots tumbling.
 
More serious misfortunes are likely to be blamed on intentional witchcraft or sorcery, which are used to explain all kinds of tragedy, in particular unexpected deaths. Belief in them stirs many primal fears, for witchcraft is very hard for ordinary people to detect expect by its terrible results.
 
Witches, who may be male as well as female, show no obvious exterior sign of their condition. On the surface they may be likeable and even charming people, only revealing their true nature in private, usually under cover of night. Many stories make the point that they may be found close to home: as neighbours, in-laws or even in one's own family.
 
Yet underneath their seemingly harmless exterior, witches are entirely evil, driven by an irresistible urge to consume the spiritual strength of their victims - to 'eat their soul', as the saying goes. Sometimes they use poison to achieve their ends, but more often the damage is done spiritually.
 
By obtaining objects intimately connected with the targeted individual - such as hairs, nail clippings, or even excreta - they can find a pathway in his or her psyche and transmit a pathogen invisible to the eye of all but a skilled isiNyanga or isaNgoma. The affected person will sicken and die for no apparent reason.
 
This is part of the Voodoo that was taken with the Yoruba slaves across to America and is the basis for the cult of  Santeria.
 
There is no clear line between witchcraft and sorcery, except that sorcerers tend to work on their own. Some can shape-shift, taking on the form of birds or animals. Often it is only the soul of the sorcerer that inhabits these animal familiars, while his body may be elsewhere altogether.
 
More alarmingly still, some sorcerers dig up dead bodies and bring them back to a terrible half-life as zombies. The word itself comes from the Kongo term for an object of spiritual power. The Zulu of South Africa call these living dead umKhovu and say that they can only mumble inarticulately, for their tongues are slit to prevent them from talking. The resuscitated corpses then become their animator's slaves.
 
Unlike sorcerers, witches assemble in groups to eat the flesh of corpses; each member is expected to provide a body in turn, and these are often the remains of murdered relatives or neighbours.
 
Sorcery and the fear of it is still very much a fact of life in parts of the African continent.

Often the true horror lies less in the accusations that are made - real through the fears they represent may be - than in the violence done to the supposed witches.

The annals of African justice are full of stories of people weighed down by grief who, crazed by a presentiment of invisible evil all around them, have committed atrocious acts in an attempt to exorcise the demons haunting them.

The fear of witchcraft can bring about deeds quite as horrible as any ever credited to the witches.
 
And as the heart and liver of an individual is said to contain his spiritual essence, they are cut out when putting a witch to death, so that his or her powers do not extend beyond death. The witch, like the vampire in western mythology, is also impaled with a wooden stake, not through his heart but through his rectum.
 
 
 
Source : Mythology - The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth and Storytelling by C. Scott Littleton Pub Duncan Baird Publishers ISBN 1-904292-00-3


 



 
 
 
Rites and Rituals



 
Although the most widespread systems of belief in Africa are Christianity and Islam, there are many different traditional religions as well, including the belief in many gods and the worship of ancestors.
 
The ancestors are the providers of rules of conduct for a community. If angered,  their spirits can inflict harm and must be appeased with offerings.

Families honour ancestors during annual festivals, and through song, dance, and music, tell of the family's history.
 
The belief that kings are gods is another important part of traditional religion. The Kings of Benin and Ghana were too holy to speak directly to their subjects and used a spokesman.
 
Sometimes children are identified as future priests and undergo a long training with established masters who teach a wide range of knowledge in great secrecy. The priest is the only person in the community to perform rituals, and he wears a distinctive costume. Each priest owns a mask, which both hides and reveals violent and benevolent powers.
 
The priest is a religious specialist whose job is to maintain, celebrate, and restore, if necessary, the right relationship between the community and the gods. He is an important person, who is concerned with both the physical and spiritual well-being of his community. People often seek his medical advice as well as consulting him about social and moral problems.
 
When Europeans began to establish Christian missions in Africa, traditional values such as the belief in many gods and ancestor figures were greatly affected. The European missionaries, traders, and officials were frequently represented by African carvers, usually on horseback or wearing a hat, to distinguish them from Africans.
 
Islam is widespread in many parts of Africa, and has also affected some traditional religions. The Asante gown for example, is covered in leather pouches which contain sayings from the Islamic holy book, the Koran. These Koranic scripts were believed by the Asante to protect senior warriors during battles.


 
 

Rites and Rituals
 
To preserve good health and prosperity, many African people perform rituals, including ancestor worship. Ancestors are called upon to solve problems, combat evil spirits, cure sickness, and help people through important events in their lives.
 
The priest, who is also sometimes the community's healer, contacts the ancestors in various ways. He may go into a trance, or use magical objects such as oracle boards or carved figures. In this way the priest finds out, or 'divines' what the individual consulting him must do.
 
Divination is carried out in many African countries, and one of the most important pieces of equipment is the divination vessel in which nuts, shells, bones and stones are stored.
 
The Dogon and Yoruba priest uses 16 kola nuts and a divining tray. He makes a pattern of marks in the dust on the tray to record the number of nuts left behind after he has passed them quickly from one hand to the other several times. The final pattern is the key to a sacred poem recited to the client, who then interprets it for his own purposes.
 
There is a belief in the close link between events and the behaviour of individuals. Sometimes, the priest uses a divination staff to seek out harmful people. The entire community gathers together as the priest moves the staff around until it points at the person believed to be responsible for the evil.
 
The belief that invisible forces can be destructive is widespread in Africa. Carved human or animal figures are sometimes made that contain 'healing' and 'protective' substances which are placed inside the sculpture or rubbed into it. They are often placed in a container which is at the centre of the figure. This process is accompanied by chanting and prayers.
 
In certain parts of west Africa, carved heads and masks that represent femail and male spirits are used in rituals and ceremonies. The female masks are usually of beautiful serene spirits and have distinctive faces and elaborate hairstyles which are painted black. Other masks are depicted as fierce, terrifying characters, and are usually male. Some of the masks and heads are used in masquerade by the secret societies and some would have been left in a small shelter at the entrance to a village to scare off evil spirits and would be invaders.

People believe that illnesses such as headaches, nightmares, and chest pains can be cured by a priest. His medicine pack is frequently placed in the stomach of a smaller carved figure, like those seen in Zaire. Sometimes the medicine is covered by a mirror. This tells the owner from which direction harmful threats can be expected.




 
 
MYTH AND MAGIC
 
Stories about the way the world began and how people came into being are often told.

Important or royal ancestors play a central role in these creation myths, which tell how the ancestors travelled far and wide, fought monsters, invented incredible devices, and established the community.

Some of these mythical heroes are also gods who demand regular worship and sacrifice.

The stories form part of the initiation into adulthood of young boys and girls, who may also become members of secret societies.

The societies play a very important role in decision making in a community and affect how the community is organised. Each secret society has knowledge that is only available to its members.
 
For example, the women diviners of the Yassi society of the Mende people of Sierra Leone was a secret society involved in healing practices, and their medicine was kept in a house marked out by painted spots on the outside walls. Carved figurines were placed beside the medicine and consulted when necessary by the Yassi official.
 
Magical charms were often worn by people for good luck and protection. Warriors for example, carried and wore various talismans as a defence against weapons or poison. When going on a journey, a charm made by the local priest may be given to the traveller to protect him or her against any dangers.
 
The Yoruba peoples of Nigeria worship many gods, one of which is the river god Oshun, the most important of the female gods. Their myth of Oshun tells how the work on earth of the male deities was unsuccessful until they included her in their ranks. Oshun is praised at her shrines for female fertility and protection against disease.
 
Ancestor figures of the Yoruba are regarded with respect and represented by carvings and masks, which are kept in houses and in shrines. Images of their followers are part of everday life, and their presence in homes shows the importance of life in the community. Such figures are carved by craftsmen according to established rules of design. 
The Sande society of the Mende of Sierra Leone is the only masking tradition performed by women in Africa. Each Sande society or lodge is controlled by senior officials led by a sowei, who is often the village midwife. Young girls are instructed in sexual, domestic, and craft skills in preparation for marriage and motherhood.
 
When seeking a cure for sickness, many African consult Western-style doctors and take advantage of modern technological treatments, but the same people will also seek the advice of a traditional healer, a doctor of traditional medicine who is also a religious specialist.
 
To identify the source of the illness, the healer often contacts good and evil spirits by going into a trance. Treatment may include an animal sacrifice, or if another human being is considered responsible, the use of herbs or magical substances to combat the enemy spirit. The healer may also involve other people.
 
Among the Ndembu of Zambia, friends of the patient are called together so that the healer can find out who among them is holding a grudge against the patient.
 
The traditional healers in northern Cameroon perform healing ceremonies. He involves the other villagers in making music by rhythmically passing a charm over the sick person. Healers often chant, sing, and dance in order to attract the goodwill of the spirits. They believe that his makes the medicines more effective, and encourages (through hypnotic psychology) the patient to recover quickly.
 
In Yoruba society, medicine men belong to the cult of Osanyin, the god of herbal medicines. Osanyin's powers are secret, but are often represented by bird-headed staffs. The staffs are symbols of healing and herbalism. The central bird represents the power of the elders who, after death, were believed to take the form of birds.
 
As well as an ability to communicate with spirits, the healer has knowledge of local herbs and plants and the way they can be used in medicine. He also knows a great deal about his patients because he is a member of their community.
 
The healer keeps his medicine bag with him at all times. Various items, such as wooden sticks and shells are used in ceremonies that call upon the spirits in order to treat the patient. The healer understands the importance of a patient's mental or emotional condition, and how this may affect the ability to recover from an illness. The patient is therefore always treated in the community in which he or she lives, and assured by the traditional healer of the community's care and involvement, so that recovery can be encouraged.
 
Some African peoples regard the birth of twins as unfortunate, but the Yoruba people of Nigeria welcome them and even consider them lucky. If one or both of the twins dies, a carving of them is made to ward off harmful spirits.

The Kuyu people of Gabon believe that the death of an individual is the result of an evil spell. The priest is called upon to detect the real cause of death by magical means. Wearing a long robe and a carved head, the priest dances among the male villagers. He stops dancing in front of the person believed to be responsible. That person simply accepts this and pays an appropriate fine.
 
When a person dies in Africa, their family performs a number of rituals to ensure that the spirit of the dead person moves easily into the world of their ancestors. Carvings of the ancestors which are kept in shrines help to retain the link between this world and the next, so the family does not lose contact. A period of mourning forges links between the living and the dead, and sometimes sets the family apart from the society for a short time.

Some funerary figures were carved to represent ancestors whose bones were kept in containers in a special hut under the care of one of the male elders of the village. The carved figure was placed on top of the container. Some of the figures are covered in brass and the metal acts like a mirror reflecting back any evil that threatens.


 

 
MASKS AND MASQUERADES



Waist Mask with a tiara of Portuguese heads. Ivory Benin, Nigeria Early 16th century
 
Masks are used for many different social events and rituals.

They are worn with a costume which hides the real identity of the wearer.

The role of most masks is to discipline, or educate, or inform, or lend authority. This role is communicated through movement and dance - masquerade.

One mask may perform several functions at the same times, or serval masks may play the same role in a ceremony. Sometimes, masks can be worn purely to entertain.

The Chokwe people of Angola have a rich masking tradition. Their masks are divided into three groups called Mukishi, based on the spirits that they represent.

Some masks are worn by the man directing the male initiation ceremonies, when boys pass from childhood into adulthood. Boys spend several months being schooled in the bush, learning to be adults and undergoing tests of endurance. Sometimes the masks were burned at the end of the ritual.
 
The Mashamboy masks of the Kuba peoples of Zaire were ordered to be made by the king because a spirit called the Mwaash a Mbooy was terrorizing his people. The mask was meant to look like the spirit and was worn only by the chiefs to enforce discipline.
 
The Bamileke are a large group of farming people who live on the volcanic plateaux in the sourthern Cameroon grasslands of west Africa.

The Bamileke are divided into secret societies or brotherhoods, each of which has its own masks and musical instruments.

Although masks are based on the human face and head, they have exaggerated features. The elongated shapes, the full cheeks, and the distorted mouth emphasize the size of the face. They represent the supernatural and set the mask, and its wearer, apart from the human world.
 
In traditional Yoruba society, women are considered to have two distinct sides to their natures - they have the ability to create new life, and they have the potential for great destruction.

The Gelede masquerade, danced in male pairs or female pairs, is supposed to ensure that women's power is channelled for the benefit of the community. And there are many different designs of Gelede mask.
 
Many masks are just worn over the face, however, a large number are designed to be worn on top of the head.

The bird-headed mask that completes the masquerade costume from Cameroon is worn like this and adds greatly to the height and deliverately imposing presence of the masquerader.

Once a masquerader puts on a mask, he or she is transformed, or assumes the spirit of the character of the mask. The masker then becomes a communication link between the real and the supernatural world.


Photo: Masks from Burkina Faso ... Dan Heller
 
Many masks are designed to look like animals. Ogoni masks from Nigeria are worn by young men who perform athletic displays, in imitation of the animals they represent.
 
The masquerade happens at specific times and to celebrate certain events, such as harvest. The costume may only be used for a short time - maybe only a week or a month. Afterwards it is stored away until it is needed the following year.
 
Some tribes, like the Mbuti people of Zaire, are painted with white as part of a ceremony to announce their status as young women. Coloured paints are often put on the body, usually of a young person, in many different ceremonies. This, like the costumes, is to disguise the wearer and add to the power and mystery of the ceremony.
 
Masquerades are exciting and noisy occasions accompanied by constant drumming. Flywhisks, amulets, and sometimes, weapons are brandished by the dancing masquerader. Leg rattles tied around his ankles shake furiously as the masquerader moves energetically. Drums, rattles, and the sounds made by the masquerader help to create atmosphere and drama.

 
Source : Africa by Yvonne Ayo Pub. Dorling Kindersley ISBN 0-7513-6055-4

 


 
  Masks of Antiquity


Santeria

 



 

 

The Witchdoctor's Curse

 


 
 
Witchcraft and magic still play a significant part in the lives of many tribal Africans, even some of those who have now settled in urban communities.

They still believe that a curse, particularly a death curse, can be broken only by the invocation of stronger spirits, and the help of an even stronger witchdoctor.

Anthropologists insist that the curse merely creates a death wish which the victim fulfils.

However, there are instances in which white people, who are not usually psychologically affected by witchcraft or magic, have been the victims of such curses.

There have been two spectacular cases in Rhodesia in the last 33 years.

A witchdoctor appeared before Salisbury High Court in 1949, and was gaoled for two years for illegally practising his craft.

The old man simply shrugged his shoulders, fatalistically accepting his punishment. But he burst into a furious rage when the judge ordered his charms and medicines to be destroyed. He screamed a curse that lions would return to the streets of the city.

By 1949 Salisbury was an established, modern, sophisticated city and lions had not been seen in its streets for 50 years.

However, three weeks later a pride of lions, an adult male and female and three almost fully grown cubs, strolled nonchalantly across a street just 2 miles from the city centre.

A few days later they attacked a tame goat in the garden of a house 1 mile away, under the horrified gaze of the family on the veranda. The chain of events went on, with dogs and cattle being slaughtered.

A hunt was launched, poison was put down - all without success.

After a week of siege, the lions moved away and were next seen in Mazoe, 16 miles away, causing havoc at a gold mine. The lions then made two kills at a farm, in spite of two hunters who sat up all night waiting for them, and all they managed to bag that night was a pedigree bull which had wandered over to investigate the bleats of the goat that had been staked out as lion bait.

After this the lions were never seen or heard of again.






In another story, which happened 7 years before, Adrian Brooks had had an encounter which witchcraft.

Brooks was an enthusiastic young graduate who had been posted to the Government Administrative Office at Kasama in Northern Rhodesia.

This was a small, administrative headquarters for the deeply superstitious Wemba tribe. And for tribesmen, a spirit lurks behind every tree, and there is an occult reason for even the most everyday happenings.

Brooks was District Officer at Kasama and quickly settled into the routine. He was also a keen amateur photographer and spent his free time looking for unusual subjects, pictures of which he might be able to sell.

After three months, he learnt from a tribesman of the Wembas' sacred burial ground of the paramount chiefs. It was in a secret place, which had never been visited by a white man.

The burial ritual has been handed down over the centuries and the chief's body is placed in a royal hut and watched over until the flesh has rotted from the bones. The skeleton is then buried in a sitting position, with its hand sticking out of the ground, held upright by a forked stick, so that passers-by can shake hands with the dead chief. The sacred grove is guarded by two elderly witchdoctors.

In spite of their vehement protests, Brooks walked in and started taking photographs with an air of nonchalance which further angered the guardians of the grove, and when he left they warned him that he had angered the spirits and would soon be dead.

Brooks was not at all worried, and when he got back to Kasama he joked about the curse with a macabre relish.

Three days later he was standing outside his office building when the flagpole crashed down and killed him.

The official report stated that termites had been eating the base of the pole and it had fallen just as Brooks paused below it.


 


The Zande of southern Sudan distinguish three varieties of magic - good, benevolent magic, which includes the consultation of oracles and diviners, the use of amulets for protection against charms, rites to procure the fertility of crops, and even bagbuduma or homicidal magic, so long as it was limited to revenge upon those who had slain one's kin. Good magic was used to procure justice as understood by Zande society, and bagbuduma was rendered ineffective when employed to unjust purpose.

Sorcery on the other hand, was in order to harm those whom one hated for no just reason. Sorcery was a form of unjust aggression springing from jealousy, envy, greed, or other base human desires. Sorcery worked magic in an antisocial fashion and was condemned by Zande society.

The third kind of magic could be termed witchcraft. This witchcraft was an internal power inherited by a man from his father or by a woman from her mother. The source of this power is called mangu and existed physically inside the witch's stomach or attached to his liver, as an oval blackish swelling in which various small objects might be found, or as a round hairy ball with teeth.

Zande witches had meetings at which they feasted and practised evil magic together. They made a special ointment which they rubbed on their skins in order to render themselves invisible. They rode out at night either in spirit or in their bodies. Often the witch was supposed to lie in bed at night with his spouse while sending out his spirit to join the other witches in eating the souls of the victims. Sometimes the witches attacked the victim physically, tearing off pieces of his flesh to devour in their secret meetings. Anyone having a slow, wasting disease was likely to be the victim of the witch. Witch cats had sexual relations with women. The powers of the Zande witches were enormous in that any failure or misfortune befalling upon anyone at any time and in relation to any of the manifold activities of his life it may be due to witchcraft - from natural occurring things such as a blighted groundnut crop, to a sulk and unresponsive woman to her husband.

The Zande employed diviners and medicine men to protect them from witches and cure them of the effects of witchcraft.

 



The Bechuana of Botswana distinguish between day-sorcerers, who practise sorcery only irregularly on specific occasions and usually for pay, and the more terrifying night-witches, who are accompanied by familiars in the form of animals, usually owls. The night-witches are universally malicious and cast their spells over one and all. They are generally thought of as elderly women.

The Basuto, a Bantu tribe in South Africa, also distinguish between two groups of sorcerers, one of which consists mainly of women who fly out at night, ride on sticks or on fleas, meet in assemblies, and dance stark naked.

In other societies, sorcerers are variously accused of cannibalism, incest, nymphomania, and other activities offensive to society.

The similarity between many African witch beliefs and those of historical Europe are pronounced. In Africa, sorcery is more commonly practised by women than by men, but witch-doctors or curers are more frequently men.

 

 


Accusations of sorcery generally appear in situations of tension within families or groups, particularly in turbulent and unsettled periods, and accusations passing frequently among wives in polygamous households, and between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Accusations are lodged against old and young alike, but older persons are more likely to be singled out, perhaps because age and infirmity have rendered them unsociable, perhaps simply because they are weak. A common charge is that an old person has prolonged his life by devouring the bodies or souls of children. And anyone who is notably strange or unsociable is prone to accusation.

 



Among the Nyakysua of southern Tanzania, sorcerers may be of either sex. They are chiefly accused of eating the internal organs of sleeping neighbours and of drying up the milk of cattle. On the other hand Pondo sorcerers, in the Cape province of South Africa, are women; their most common crime is having sexual intercourse with familiar spirits. The apparent reason given by anthropologists for the difference is that the Nyakyusa are sexually secure but nutritionally insecure, so that they envy their neighbours' food and attribute their nourishment to illicit eating, while the Pondo, who are sexually more insecure, express their fears more in terms of sex than of food.

Just as the expression of witchcraft may change from society to society depending on its function, so its function may change over time in one society. For example, the Bakweri of the western Cameroon were deeply afraid of sorcery in the period preceding the  1950s. Racked by ambivalence about riches and poverty, by a sense of collective guilt about the decline of their power and status, and by the fear that their low fertility rate would cause them to die out, they were dominated by jealousies that translated into fear of sorcery. In the 1950s their economic status improved remarkably owing to a boom in their major crop, bananas, and the period of prosperity brought first a purge of suspected sorcerers and then, the catharsis over, a decline in accusations and in belief in sorcery generally. During the 1960s, when the Bakweri suffered another economic setback, a resurgence of fear and accusations occurred.

 



Witch detectors, called oracles by anthropologists, are consulted in order to identify and foil evil sorcerers. The Nyoro, in the west of Uganda, consult men who they believe are possessed by spirits called mbandwa and reveal secret matters as their mouthpieces. A diviner may be consulted: he does not speak with the voice of a spirit but interprets the answer that is supposed to be given by the behaviour of the mechanical objects he uses. A message may be read in the paths of the planets or in the tracks of beasts.

Dances or other rituals, such as those of the ndako-gboya dancers of the Nupe, may serve to detect and drive off evil spirits and evil sorcerers. The ndako-gboya dancers wore tall, cylindrical disguises and identified sorcerers by nodding these weird shapes at them, and then use their enormous social powers to extract confessions from those they have selected.

Such witch-cleansing activities spread in times of stress when whole communities feel the need of protection against sorcerery. And whole cults, such as that of the ndako-gboya may arise in such a time. These cults, practising a relatively simple ritual intended to detect and neutralize the power of evil sorcerers, lack formal structure, organisation, and doctrine, and easily cross ethnic boundaries and adapt themselves to the traditions of different peoples.

In Central Africa and also in Central America, anthropologists have found that communities which are small and in which the social structure is tightly knit are particularly prone to sorcery beliefs, because they feel surrounded and threatened. Their fears increase whenever internal relations are confused or when the society is under unusually strong external pressure.

 



This is why in some societies sorcery accusations increased at least temporarily during the period of European colonialism.

In larger communities, or where social associations are freer and escape from unwanted ties easier, as in nomadic societies, sorcery beliefs are less common.

The beliefs vary in intensity, kind, and function as social patterns vary, but anthropologists have not been able to correlate specific kinds of belief with particular kinds of social patterns, and much work remains to be done in this field.

Some similarities between European witchcraft and non-European sorcery result from the exportation of European ideas through colonialism. Voodoo is an example.


 

 


Voodoo began as a religion brought to Haiti by slaves imported from the Benin coast, the name is a corruption of the Yoruba word for 'god'. Under the influence of Christianity and other European ideas it became a sort of conglomeration of elements of African cults and European folklore, dominated by African traditions, and at the same time considering themselves as Catholic.

The basis of the religion is the worship of loa (gods or spirits). The Catholic Church has diligently attacked Voodoo, equating the loa with demons, but the people have resisted such identifications. As a Haitian peasant told an inquiring anthropologist: 'To serve the loa you have to be a Catholic'.

Voodooists distinguish between worship of the loa, which is a religion, and the practice of magic. All magic is considered 'black magic' and may be worked mechanically or with the help of the loa. The loa may thus be bent to evil ends, but it is to the loa that one must also turn for protection against evil magic. Prayers to the loa and magical invocations of the loa are difficult to distinguish. Voodoo sorcery, a melange of European and African ideas, includes incantations, spells, the use of images, rain-making, and a cult of the dead.

One of its more peculiar beliefs is the concept of zombies, the living-dead, corpses who are exhumed and made by sorcerers to walk and do their bidding.

Voodoo sorcery also contains a number of elements probably derived from Europe, such as: the slaying of children at their ritual meetings or else catch them at night in their homes and sucking their blood, rubbing their bodies with ointment that removes their skin so that they may fly in the air (shooting stars are really sorcerers in flight), and sorcerers changing their shape into wolves, pigs, horses, or black cats.

This mixture of European and African elements is an advanced example of the syncretism found in other societies colonialised by Europeans, and it is difficult to distinguish native from imported elements. For example belief in shape-shifting is common worldwide as well as in Europe, though the emphasis in Haiti on wolves and black cats suggests strong European influence.

Anthropologists have described how actual experiences during cult practices may have reinforced belief in shape-shifting. The twisting dancing movements, coupled with dimmed vision from the darkness and distortions from the flickering flames of camp fires, and probably a little impaired mental facilities from alcoholic or drug inducements, create the illusion that the dancer himself had shape-shifted or taken on the appearance of another being.

 


 
Source: A History of Witchcraft, Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans by Jeffrey B. Russell Pub. Thames and Hudson ISBN 0-500-27242-5


 

 


Southern African Medicinal Plants



Herbal remedies are widely used in southern Africa. Use also reflects distinct cultural preferences. In the Cape Fynbos region, 88% of elderly coloured people used boererate ("home remedies"), primarily bossiesmiddels from aromatic Fynbos plants such as Salvia africana-coerulea (Lamiaceae) or Pelargonium antidysentericum tubers from the Nama Karoo.

By contrast, most migrants to the Fynbos today are from the summer rainfall region. This is reflected in the species traded from the summer rainfall region or harvested from remnant Afromontane forests on Table Mountain.

umnonono/Strychnos spinosaThe bark is ground and taken as a remedy for poisoning inflicted by witch craft called idhliso.

chitibunga/Rhoicissus tomentosa The tuber is used as an emetic and for washing, iyeza yokuhlamba, to protect oneself from the evil spirits, It can also be used as a steam to bring good fortune in a court case.

umphepho/Helichrysum odoratissimumThe leaves are burnt to smoke away evil spirits from ones house.

intelezi/Dracaena aletriformisThe root is crushed and used as a wash to drive away the evil spirits.


memezi/Cassipourea flanaganii The bark is ground into a powder and used as a facial paste to lighten the skin. The leaves are boiled and used as a steam for luck.


tuvish/Kedrostis foetidissima The tuber is mixed with another herb - puncuka/Talinum caffrum, as a wash or a facial steam to cleanse away evil or bad luck. A small piece can be put under the tongue in dangerous or troubled times as protection.

mayisake/Cissampelos capensisUsed to treat stomach problems.


mayibuye/Osteospermum calendulaceum Mixed with another herb - mayisake/Cissampelos capensis, and used as a wash against evil or bad luck.

umganu/Sclerocarya caffra
Tannins/Dyestuffs (bark, dyes, red; gum, inks; bark, tannins; gum, tannins; bark, dyes, brown). Smoking Materials/Drugs (snuff). Antifertility Agents (fruits; seeds, birth control). Bark, ritual/religion/magic; Fruits, ritual/religion/magic.

NON-VERTEBRATE POISONS:

Arthropoda(fruits, Insecta, death; seed oil, Insecta).

MEDICINES:

 
- Circulatory System Disorders (bark, humans, haemorrhoids)
- Digestive System Disorders (bark, humans, laxative; bark, humans, stomach; bark, humans, diarrhoea; bark, humans, liver); bark, humans, fever; bark, humans, digestive system; leaves, humans, venereal diseases (non-specified); bark, humans, malaria; fruits, humans, arthropod infestations)
- Inflammation (bark, humans)
- Injuries (leaves, humans, wounds, dressings; leaves, humans,burns, dressings)
- Muscular-Skeletal System Disorders (bark, humans, rheumatism)
- Pain (bark, humans, teeth; bark, humans, analgesic)
- Poisonings (leaves, humans, insect stings)
- Skin/Subcutaneous Cellular Tissue Disorders (bark, humans, antiseptic; bark, humans, warts; leaves, humans, boils, dressings)


Sativa:

Types of Sativa

 

History and Research

In African medicine it became known for its effects on malaria, fevers, snakebites, dysentery, restoration of appetite, tetanus, hydrophobia, delirium tremens, infantile convulsions, neuralgia and other nervous disorders, cholera, menorrhagia, rheumatism, hay fever, asthma, skin diseases as an antiseptic, and for pain relief with hemorrhoids and during childbirth.


impila/Callilepis laureola

Is used to treat stomach problems, tape worm infestations, impotence, cough, and to induce fertility.  Impila is also administered to pregnant women by traditional birth attendants to 'ensure the health of the mother and child' and to facilitate labour. 

A tonic made from the root is also taken by young girls in the early stages of menstruation. 

The greatest and most valued attribute of this plant, however, appears to lie in its 'protective powers' in warding off 'evil spirits'. 

For example parents who have lost previous children to illness may administer Impila enemas to their current children for the belief it will 'protect' them. 

It is suspected that these magical beliefs are the primary reason for the common use of Impila in young children, and the high Impila-related mortality in children under the age of 5 years (22) .

Impila is most often prepared using the tuberous rootstock of the plant, while the leaves are reputed to have minimal curative properties.  The tuber may be harvested and collected in the winter, and dried and crushed into a powder.  Alternatively, a fresh piece of the tuber, the size of a forefinger, may be chopped and bruised.  The resultant powder is boiled for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour in a suitable volume of water and the decoction is administered either orally or as an enema.  It has been estimated that each dose of the herbal remedy is prepared from approximately 10 grams of plant material.  

 
Studies  in vitro hepatotoxicity of Callilepis laureola have shown that the herb is toxic, very poisonous, and has even been responsible for several deaths among the Zulu.  It has been estimated that the plant is responsible for up to 1500 deaths per annum in KwaZulu-Natal alone.  Ironically Impila is the Zulu word for 'health'.

 



Traditional Herbs available from Health Food Shops
Rooibos, African Ginger, Pelargonium, Buchu, Pepper-bark tree (Warburgia salutaris), Sutherlandia (phetola)
 
 


                     

 

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