Witchcraft In Contemporary African Society Essay

2464 words - 10 pages

I. INTRODUCTION
The Enlightenment and the emerging of modern rationalism have paved the way to a worldview where the suspicion of witchcraft is not needed to explain the mysterious phenomena of this world. This is not the case in Africa. The belief in the existence of witches, evil persons who are able to harm others by using mystical powers, is part of the common cultural knowledge. Samuel Waje Kunhiyop states, “Almost all African societies believe in witchcraft in one form or another. Belief in witchcraft is the traditional way of explaining the ultimate cause of evil, misfortune or death.” The African worldview is holistic. In this perception, things do not just happen. What happens, either good or bad, is traced back to human action, including “ancestors who can intervene by blessing or cursing the living.” Witches, on the other hand, harm because they want to destroy life. Every misfortune or problem can be related to witchcraft, especially when natural explanation is not satisfactory.
Therefore, this paper is aimed to present in brief the general opinion about beliefs on witches and witchcraft which is synonymous among most African societies. Besides, it will consider some incidents related to witchcrafts as well as Christian response to witchcraft before conclusion
II. GENERAL OPINION ABOUT WITCHCRAFT
In most African societies, a witch is seen as the enemy of life and society. Laurenti Magesa affirmed “African Religion has a pragmatic approach to life: Everything that promotes the well-being of the community is good, and everything that destroys the community is evil.”
Magesa suggests not to use the abstract Christian concept of sin but to speak of ‘wrong-doing’ or ‘destruction of life’. Evil is always attached to a wrong-doer.
The witch is that individual who is not concerned to stay in harmonious relations with others but finds pleasure in bringing disorder and chaos. Aylward Shorter adds “It is the image of “unrepentant human wickedness.” John S. Mbiti also concur with Shorter and Magesa, he states “Witchcraft are the greatest enemies of society.” Magesa thought the English term is misleading in a sense that “In Africa, it is not a ‘craft’ but the mysterious power of evil potentially in every human being that manifests itself in all areas of life society, politics, economy, religion, etc.”
When something bad happens, people hardly ask how it occurred but who did it. It is believed that every misfortune is caused by humans or spirits. There might be exceptions when it comes to global catastrophes, but personal or family problems are always caused by someone. If the individual or the clan cannot find personal faults that would justify a correction from the ancestors, witchcraft is suspected. The offender is someone known because these powers do not function anonymously. There has to be contact between the witch and the victim.
Characteristics of a Witch
Shorter defines witchcraft as the “inborn power to harm...

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