There’s possibly no other assumption made about African Belief Systems (ABS) that is more common than the supposed practice of witchcraft. Whenever the topic about ABS comes up, many people use their understanding of witchcraft as reason enough to write off they entire belief system as inherently evil and malign. Unlike religion, people generally assume that whatever they think about ABS is true, regardless of whether or not it is based on experience or fact. Yet, reactions towards misconceptions about ABS are always adverse and extreme. Let me give you an example; 3 people die. 1 was intentionally run over with a car. 1 was stabbed to death. The other, it is believed that they were “bewitched”. Which one of these deaths seems more “evil”?
Our fear of the very idea of witchcraft is rarely based on any factual evidence. Instead, it is deeply subconscious, visceral reaction that is based on something we’ve spent our entire lives trying blind ourselves to. This is the possibility that we actually have access to our own souls. We have an almost universal yet unspoken belief that witchcraft affects a person right down to their very core. This is why it terrifies us so much.
We have grown up believing that our souls, or our spiritual selves, is this child-like, innocent, benevolent part of ourselves that is safely tucked away from the world, and ourselves, somewhere behind the layers of our own ignorance. We want to believe that our mental and physical actions have no impact on that part of ourselves. Let me ask you this, from a religious point of view. If you believe that your soul is not affected by your actions, if it remains pure and innocent, then why is it your soul that goes to heaven/hell?
Ancestrally speaking, if you think that your actions are separate from your soul, then when you pass over, who are people talking to when they phahla? If your soul is not still reflection of who you are, then who are your descendants talking to? In everyday life, we believe that our soul is somewhere in some green field next to a calm river. When a man rapes a woman, somehow he believes that it is only his body and woman’s body that are involved. When we hurt each other, we believe that these acts happen somewhere beyond our inner selves. When a person suffers from depression, somehow we believe that it is only a chemical imbalance and lack of motivation that is afflicting them.
We want to believe all of these because we believe that it absolves us from responsibility and consequences of knowing that we have impacted a person soul, and our own.
If you believe that witchcraft negatively affects a person’s very spirit, then you also have to believe that the opposite is true. You have to believe that it is actually possible for us to impact each other, at our very soul, positively. It becomes inherent that you believe that you can help to build a person, from their core. It means you are not blind to the fact that connecting with people is just about group selfies and hashtags. You have to believe in soul connections, even if it is between two people who barely know each other.
The foundation of witchcraft is harbouring ill-will towards another person. The actual use of medicines to affect this ill-will is a mere technicality. The same way you can run a person over with a car is the technical part of wanting someone dead.