The Marimbas play
Tubular Bells - African Magic!
The Dark Continent
Star Lore of Africa
(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.
Your believes about yourself change your concept of yourself and
your behaviour - Your behaviour then confirms your beliefs about
Like attracts Like.
Negative thought patterns attract negativity.
Positive thought patterns attract positivity.
Project these feelings and they will reflect back to you.
Success can be defined in many different ways that are personal to
Don't let anyone push your buttons.
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 -)
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,
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
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
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
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
This man is an excellent psychologist, he knows and understands his
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
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
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.
isaNgoma does not suspect the man of harbouring bad intent, he will
send out his aide, his isaNusi, to gather information from
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 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
The abaThakatha usually know about herbs that are poisonous -
substances that can induce death but leave no traces in the
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
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.
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
Unlike Western witches, those in Africa are always malevolent,
seeking to kill their victims by secretly consuming their
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Waist Mask with a
tiara of Portuguese heads. Ivory Benin, Nigeria Early 16th
Masks are used for many different social events and rituals.
They are worn with a costume which hides the real identity of the
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
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
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
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
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
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
Masks of Antiquity
Witchcraft and magic still play a significant part in the lives of
many tribal Africans, even some of those who have now settled in
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Source: A History of
Witchcraft, Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans by Jeffrey B. Russell
Pub. Thames and Hudson ISBN 0-500-27242-5
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.
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.
odoratissimumThe leaves are burnt to smoke away evil
spirits from ones house.
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
to treat stomach problems.
mayibuye/Osteospermum calendulaceum Mixed with another herb
- mayisake/Cissampelos capensis, and used as a wash against
evil or bad luck.
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.
Arthropoda(fruits, Insecta, death; seed oil,
- 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,
- 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,
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.
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
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
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
Rooibos, African Ginger, Pelargonium, Buchu, Pepper-bark tree
(Warburgia salutaris), Sutherlandia (phetola)