The Hellish Practice: Superstition, Fear & Witchcraft in Africa

I am often asked why we post so much information about attacks on accused witches on PaganCentric. Aren’t Pagans supposed to be about Love and Light and Fluffy Bunnies? Why post all this negative stuff? Our reality can be summed up by the tagline that we associate with PaganCentric – “A home for the first to fall”. It’s all well and good to focus solely on the positive aspects of Paganism, witchcraft and Wicca. There’s a place for that, and there’s certainly no shortage of people and organizations out there who are doing just that. But as a hereditary which who has had to defend herself since childhood from all manner of accusation and recrimination, I’ve never felt very safe in my own country.

When I read reports from other countries of old women accused of witchcraft being burned , or accused witches having their hair sheared off in public squares to publicly humiliate them, or dozens of people being hacked to death with machetes, or couples having their eyes gouged out with scissors, I am at a loss to explain the basic inhumanity of human beings. And I’m even more aware as I interact with my neighbors through the uneasy truce that exists between us that if it were not for the rule of law in the United States, I might well find my neighbors at my doorstep with machetes and torches. The hatred is often evident in the sideways glances, and I’ve heard minor grumblings that any misfortune that has befallen them might have something to do with an unrepentant witch living in their neighborhood – if not a curse, then possibly a rebuke from God for tolerating witchcraft.

It’s from the perspective of someone who has spent her life feeling as if she is far behind enemy lines that I read articles from national and world news and cringe. When one is aware of the horrors committed against accused witches in other countries, it’s hard to feel safe in the United States when you wear your religious beliefs on your sleeve. Most often, just as it was during the Inquisition, the accused witches in these other countries were not witches at all. It’s hard not to imagine what would befall someone like me should I be tossed among them. It’s even more disturbing to imagine what might happen to me if some of the people committing those horrors were to move to the United States, with those same faith-based atrocities listed as viable options in their playbook.

With all this in mind, it was with some horror that I read an article today from Malawi. The article did not discuss withcraft as if it was, as it usually is in African countries, unfounded accusations leveled at innocent people, but rather as a very real problem that needs to be addressed according to Islamic law. In other words, witchcraft in Malawi is an epidemic that must be destroyed. I encourage anyone who reads these occasional articles that we post on PaganCentric to read the article in full and imagine what would happen to us as Pagans, witches and Wiccans if we were to suddenly find ourselves in Malawi, attempting to live our lives and openly as we do in the United States. If nothing else, read the article and consider the tone it was written in. It is an old article, but little has changed there or in Africa as a whole. In fact, it seems to get worse with every passing week.

The Hellish Practice: Witchcraft in Africa
by Raphael Mweninguwe
Correspondent, Malawi

Malawi is one of the countries in the region where issues of witchcraft have become so frequently dominant in the media. On the radio and television, even in the printed magazines, witchcraft is always debated, with children claiming that old men and women are teaching them the “trade.”

The issue has become a concern, not only to governmental and nongovernmental organizations but also to religious leaders and followers among the Muslim community, most of whom have condemned the practice.

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