Witchcraft has become a phenomenon in the last few years, launching TV shows and movies onto the screens of televisions and cinemas. It has become an inspirational topic for writers to launch their next book. But, as entertaining as witchcraft maybe to us, it is feared by the Ibibio tribe of Nigeria. This paper will focus on how the Ibibio tribe detected, prevented witchcraft and the massive anti-witch hunt that took place all around Africa. Also, this paper will analyze presumptive causes that could have led to a witchcraft outbreak in the Ibibio.
Nigeria has had its share of outbreaks but, out of all of them the most unique must have been the witchcraft outbreak that plagued all of Nigeria and the rest of Africa. The Ibibio tribe of Nigeria in the seventeenth century, where about two million people that were mostly “agrarians” or “petty traders”, according to Daniel Offiong, researcher and author of “Social Relations and Witchcraft Beliefs Among the Ibibio” and “Witchcraft Among the Ibibio of Nigeria”. The tribe was mainly Christian with a few Muslims (Offiong, 1983, pg. 73). They believed in one god and the Holy Ghost, but when they had to deal with an affliction, they went to diviners or spiritualists for treatment (Offiong, 1983, pg. 73-74). When they were plagued with a problem, their main reaction was to blame the problem on witchcraft with no logical explanation behind it. The existence of witchcraft started in Nigeria, due to the continuous process of blaming witchcraft for unexplainable problems.
Once witchcraft became the cause of the unexplained problem, people started accusing each other of being witches. Research conducted by Daniel A. Offiong, suggests that the people who were more prone to be accused of witchcraft were people that did not fit into the model of a good person (Offiong, 1983, pg. 74)). Other people who were accused of being witches were traditional members of the tribe like the elders. According to William A. Haviland, one of the authors of Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge, states that the older the person is in the tribe the greater the chances of being accused as well as being a model of a bad person or failure also increases the chances of being accused of witchcraft. This example shows the “intergenerational hostility” in an ever changing environment, where the youngsters of the tribe are disrespecting and mistreating the elders of the tribe (Haviland, 2008, pg. 330).
In a society where people are accusing each other of being witches, these people had methods of confirming a witch from a non-witch. Offiong states that these people have ways of determining a witch after an accusation was bestowed on the accused (Offiong, 1983, pg.75-76). The first method they used is called “divination or prognostication”. This is when a spiritualist or diviner does a ritual and asks the accused if he/she has used witchcraft on the accuser or anyone else. If the accused answers yes they are immediately executed but...