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RESPONSES TO STEVE HAYES' ARTICLE ON WITCHCRAFT IN AFRICA

 

der: list.nurel@diakonos.iafrica.com
Subject: Re:Christian Responses to Witchcraft

Dear Steve,

Thanks for a well-researched article. Most of what your research says about the Zionist response to witchcraft/sorcery is confirmed by my experiences with African Independent Churches here in Maun. Like South Africa, an accusation of witchcraft (boloi) is illegal in Botswana; and the prophets and healers concentrate on healing the consequences of such without pointing out (other than in general terms) the perpetrators. Up to this point, I have not come across any specific instances of confession, repentance and baptism of sorcerers; although I have heard it talked about. Perhaps that is a line worth pursuing a bit further.


I participate in the local football leagues on the management of one of the teams. Football is an arena where belief in sorcery and its use is rampant. If I can ever get the energy, I should probably pull my observations and experiences together into an article. I have a lot of data on what the teams are supposedly using, and what the largely AIC-based responses are to this situation, especially as teams that reject sorcery come to them for help.

Kagiso (Peace),

Eugene Thieszen
Internet: GeneT@diakonos.iafrica.com

"We are a contemplative order....we meditate on Jesus, then we go


Sender: Catherine Wessinger p> I have just returned to the list after an absence, so excuse me if my question has already been covered. I have questions for the two scholars in Africa, Eugene Thieszen and Steve (please put your last name on your next posting).In the African cultures which you know, are the individuals who perform child sacrifices typically men, or women, or both?

Is it widely assumed in these cultures that the boloi will be male, or female, or both? What happens to a boloi once he or she is identified? Are they executed or rehabilitated?

Thank you for addressing this issue. It is the first time that I've seen the issue addressed of whether there are indeed persons in Africa who practice magic for evil purposes.

And lastly a question about the Yoruba in SW Nigeria, in case anyone knows. In Yorubaland it is assumed that all elderly women are aje, and this term is usually translated as witch. It is widely believed that aje kill people, rob them of their life essence, and that they will even harm their closest family members. Would the activities you are ascribing to a boloi be attributed to an aje (a woman) or to a man?

All best regards,

Catherine Wessinger
Catherine Wessinger, Religious Studies, Loyola University, 6363 St. Charles Avenue New Orleans, LA 70118504-865-3182 office 504-398-0484 home wessing@beta.loyno.edu


Sender: deane@netcom.com (Dean Edwards)
Subject: Witch term

One of my favourite quotes from the apartheid era in South Africa was, "Statutory communism has nothing to do with actual communism.?" The term was apparently used to denote those opposed to the government. The same logic seems to be applied to the terms witch and witchcraft. As statutory and common law terms, they have nothing to do with actual Witchraft or witches, but would seem to have been used to denote those who were felt to be not orthodox enough in some way and then had other accusations against them added later.

In commenting of the early use of witch. It was regularly applied to rural individuals who maintained folk traditions, particularly healing traditions. When the inquisitions began to hold trials they first focused primarily on various heretical Christian schools. The Cathars are a good example. The other trend which developed was to accuse anyone who followed earlier religious practices or folk practices of being witches. Many of these people were also Christians, but retained older ways. Such reactions were common in Medieval Europe.

In Africa today, this is also very common. Midzimu Christianity among the Shona of Zimbabwe is a contemporary non-European example. These modern Christian are very similar to those 'witches' from medieval and renaissance Europe. The negative connotations attached to "witch" come from the mistranslation of a Hebrew word for poisoner (as I understand it). The negative connotations were further enhanced by accusing such European ? Witches of associating with the devil, etc most of which I am sure a lot of you all already know about.

Some of the unfairness of this is enshrined in our term "witch-hunt". There is an excellent study of this in a movie called THREE SOVEREIGNS FOR SARA which studies the Salem Witch Trials. Curiously the only authentic "witch", a Carib Indian servant/slave was never tried. So, the use of witch is IMHO based on poor translation and was applied to denote heretical activity and association with the Devil which was a mask for hunting out those who sought to practice non-orthodox views in their life.

The use of the term witch by scholars is largely the result of anthropologists. American anthropologists, unlike their European counterparts, suffer from a fear of defining terms and personal attack. However, in the case of Europe, the history of witch trials, which demonstrates the innocence of the victims, and the horrific cruelties inflicted upon many during interrogation did combine with the poor translation to infuse witch with some very negative connotations. These were then transferred to foreign lands and attached to the most destructive violent and negative characteristics of native psychic practices. Whereas, other practices, which were actually more similar to what were called witches in Europe were not labelled as witches.

All this is called scholarship. In this case, the Europeans have also failed to examine their terms and properly and responsibly define them. For example, look at the word shaman. Going to the Swedish witchcraft trials it is easy to find the translation of the Saami(lapp) word noieta/noiete or as witch. This is the Saami word for shaman.

By common law, even in Europe, all shamans could be considered witches. The term witch when applied with its artificial meaning from the Middle Ages is more than problematic, it is easily shown to be irresponsible. Examining the conditions under which this term came to be developed and used is not a model for responsible conduct.

This is, of course, my personal viewpoint,

Dean Edwards
deane@netcom.comDeanEdwards


Sender: bdavy@ccs.carleton.ca (Barb Davy)
Subject: Re: Witchraft/Wicca/Paganism:

Someone else observed that a lot of confusion is caused by semantics. And given the fact that Wiccans also like to call themselves witches, perhaps one should not be surprised if people take them at their word and associate them with all the kinds of activities that are associated with witches - such as ritual murder (of which human sacrifice is one form).Perhaps we who study these religions should respect how those who practice the religions wish to define themselves.

Many modern Witches wish to call their religion "Witchcraft" to draw attention to the scapegoating of people in the witch-hunts. They believe that these people were not evil but were only called such. Thus they see no problem with associating themselves with previous so-called witches."Witch," initially, was a label assigned by Christians to those they accused of malevolence. As Dean Edwards commented, "witchcraft" is an English term applied with this meaning in cultures around the globe. Perhaps it is a problem of anthropologists etc. that they insist on applying this term in multiple cultures. I am aware the terminology is commonly used academically to indicate malevolent users of magic, in many fields outside religious studies.

However, I think it is somewhat inappropriate to try to insist that adherents to a particular religion call it something else because of semantic confusion in academics. Most of the practitioners of "Modern North American Witchcraft" who I am familiar with do not use the terms "Wicca" and "Wiccan" to describe the irreligion. They prefer the terms "Witchcraft" and "Witch." It is quite common for them to call their religion "the Craft." This is the term I generally use in writing about their religion, to distinguish it from what other fields call "witchcraft."

Having looked at the site a bit more (though I still have not studied what they were saying in detail), perhaps I could make some further comments. It confirms what I thought when you first mentioned it - that they are confusing Wicca and witchcraft. Something Ronald Hutton wrote in his "Pagan religions of the ancient British Isles" seems relevant here:

By assuming that witchcraft and paganism were formerly the same phenomenon, they (Wiccans) are mixing two utterly different archaic concepts and placing themselves in a certain amount of difficulty. The advantage of the label 'witch' is that it has all the exciting connotations of a figure who flouts the conventions of normal society and is possessed of powers unavailable to it, at once feared and persecuted. It is a marvellous rallying-point for a counter-culture, and also one of the few images of independent female power in early modern European civilization.

The disadvantage is that by identifying themselves with a very old stereotype of menace, derived from the pre-Christian world itself, modern pagans have drawn upon themselves a great deal of unnecessary suspicion, vituperation and victimization which they are perpetually struggling to assuage. (Source: Hutton, Pagan religions of the ancient British Isles, 1991:335).

Such misunderstandings apart, however, the documents on display at that site seemed to be a mixture of fact and fiction, and sometimes facts (usually negative) juxtaposed in such a way as to make it appear that there was a link between them when there was not. The semantic confusion between witchcraft and Wicca helped them to make those links and draw inferences from them that are not true. Like many Wiccans, they appear to confuse pagan religion and witchcraft - what Hutton terms "two utterly different archaic concepts". Actually they aren't so archaic; perhaps they are in the British Isles, which Hutton was writing about, but in many other parts of the world they are commonplace. In actual fact, pagan religion is dead set against witchcraft - and was in pre-modern Europe as well, as Hutton demonstrates. But don't take my word for it... here's an interview with a contemporary pagan diviner (witchdoctor, shaman):

There seem to be just as many problems with the term "pagan" as there are with "witchcraft." In the broader Neopagan community contemporary pagans often call themselves Witches, just as practitioners of the Craft do. I have seen "pagan" used to refer to the religion of ancient Greece (e.g. in David Miller's The New Polytheism), any polytheist groups, the religion of any or all non-Christian groups, as well as modern/post-modern Neopagans. I expect that most cultures which support a belief in magic would be against its use for harmful purposes. Practitioners of the Craft certainly are. Again, they call themselves Witches because they think most accusations so-called "black magic" are likely the result of the projections of the accusers or simply instances of scapegoating, and hence false. ,p> Barb Davy

bdavy@ccs.carleton.ca


Sender: Bruce Robinson ocrt@limestone.kosone.com
Subject: Re: Withes

Someone else observed that a lot of confusion is caused by semantics. And given the fact that Wiccans also like to call themselves witches, perhaps one should not be surprised if people take them at their word and associate them with all the kinds of activities that are associated with witches - such as ritual murder (of which human >sacrifice is one form). Actually, the WWW site that I mentioned continually referred to were very clear about the Wiccan individuals and Wiccan organizations that they were referring to:

But witches very often DO practise ritual murder, and if Wiccans call themselves witches (as they often do) there is a fruitful field for semantic confusion.

Which Witches might they be? The only recent examples of ritual murder by religious groups in North America that we have found are the occasional, accidental, unintentional killings that happen rarely during Christian exorcisms (2 in 1995). Then there was the ritual killing (wooden stake through his heart) of an infant by the Solar Temple folks (a religion combining a form of Christianity with New Age). Of course, there are the ritual deaths of a few people who allow themselves to be bitten by snakes during rituals, but that is a form of ritual suicide rather than ritual murder.

Regards, Bruce Robinson,
Coordinator,
The "Ontario Centre for Religious Tolerance: provides accurate information on small religions, and exposes groundless religious hatred.
Address: OCRT, Box 27026, Frontenac PO, Kingston, ON, Canada K7M8W5.

Visit our home page; our URL is:

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