By David Francis E.
It was an amazing day, that hot afternoon, when the heat of Ekpoma hills dealt with us in the valley. I had just finished eating my first ever black soup with pounded yam when he came in. I mean that tall, huge and muscular boy with a thin-long face whose father was a chief in Auchi. He, the boy, had been called so many names, names because of his father’s wealth, but I chosed to call him Anderson.
Like the teens of his age, Anderson was quite as much curious as he was social. When he knocked at my door that afternoon, it wasn’t a surprise. I had thought he wanted to pick up my violin for another round of worthless playing and noise making. “Sir, Sir,” he sobbed quietly, “the whole village is calling her a witch.” I left the book I was reading on the table immediately. When I turned to face him, his eyes drooped.
“Are you talking about Josephine or what,” I had asked in shock. I wasn’t in want, to suspect it was Josephine. I never did see her myself, but I could imagine how Anderson loved her from the way she spoke about her. “Sir, even my dad threw me out of the house.” Our eyes met painfully and with an expectant courage, he held my hands firmly and said, “Sir, please come and talk to my dad. He’ll listen to you. He respects you.”
It had seemed as if even time itself was against my impromptu visit to Dr. Erugbe’s house. I stood there thinking if I should go and see “the witch” girl first or go straight to meet Dr. Erugbe inside. “Sir, please don’t go to her house. It’s dangerous,” Anderson seemed to have whispered with concern. I had looked right into his eyes and thundered, “are you stupid? In fact, I am going to her house right now!” I turned and walked away from his right. “Take me there my friend!” I said, as I started moving.
We entered a hilly compound whose walls were fading away. Anderson stood at the wood gate, which seemed to have been supported by a single nail. With fear in his eyes, and reflecting in his voice he said, pointing to a fallen door, “that’s where she stays sir.” I stared at the direction of his fingers and moved my gaze towards him, wondering why the Chief’s son came here in the first place. Just as I was about to knock at the door, a young lady came out. I never doubted she was the Josephine. Only that, with almond eyes and oval lips, she came out fair, beautiful and attractive. “Is this the witch?” I kept muttering even before I realized I didn’t introduce myself.
After my encounter with Josephine that melancholic evening, I went back home. I went back to my library and discovered a history I never paid attention to. It was the history behind witches: “we owe that shadow to the patriarchy — the masculine societal rule that has pervaded the planet for over five thousand years. This is important — not male , not gender, but a perversion of masculine energy which brutalized, raped, suppressed the feminine.
The witch-hunts of Salem and Europe whipped up a hysterical mob mentality against women, against the feminine. It rounded up and killed the wise women, the natural healers, any women with land they wanted or those outside of the societal status quo, who refused to conform to Christian and Patriarchal rule.
Basically, in fear of the power of the feminine, women, the earth, and its creatures, were slaughtered under false and hysterical pretenses.”
Ironically today, unlike “the Malleus Maleficarum,” (Latin for “Hammer of The Witches”) which was a witch-hunting manual written in 1486 by two German monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, Sarah Durham Wilson, had even went as far as stating rather brilliantly, what she termed, “signs that you are a witch” (in www.rebellesociety.com/2014/01/17/13-signs-youre-a-witch/).
Her approach to witchery offers hope to folks who align themselves to Mother Earth and to Nature. This would make sense to you if you understand that the Malleus Maleficarum was used by both Catholics and Protestants for several hundred years, outlining how to identify a witch, what makes a woman more likely than a man to be a witch, how to put a witch on trial, and how to punish a witch. The book defines a witch as evil and typically female.
One way or the other and like Richard’s article titled “Causality in African Ontology (in www.reasonchapel.com), the phenomenon of witches are even more obvious in Africa today than anywhere else. One wouludn’t also be so blind to the Patriarchal systems of Medieval Catholicism and Protestantism where witches were either devils or worshippers of devils.
Hence, fears about witchcraft rose to fever pitch and sometimes led to large-scale witch-hunts . The key century was the fifteenth, which saw a dramatic rise in awareness and terror of witchcraft, culminating in the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum, but prepared by such fanatical popular preachers as Bernardino of Siena.
Throughout this time, it was increasingly believed that Christianity was engaged in an apocalyptic battle against the Devil and his secret army of witches, who had entered into a diabolical pact . In total, tens or hundreds of thousands of people were executed, and others were imprisoned, tortured, banished, and had lands and possessions confiscated. The majority of those accused were women” (cf. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft).
Each time I ruminate on the thoughts of Josephine, I will always ponder intermittently on the remote causes of the belief in witches in 21st century Africa and Nigeria. Refreshingly, while the book on witches was banned and outlawed by Medieval Europe in 1490, Modern Africa, by oral tradition still preaches that: a rich boy who falls in love with a poor girl was bewitched to do so; a businessman who never succeeds was bewitched by her finance; a male student who fails helplessly was bewitched by the mother, and so on.
Unfortunately, some pastors, bishops, Imams, dibias, academicians, etc still at different altars, preach a new kind of witch-hunting on the African soil. A deadly kind of witch-hunting that massages the ego of the wealthy as well as the blame game of thousands of tribes and of citizens, who are yet to take charge of their lives.
Shamelessly they wail about witches in offices, in market places, in relationships, in lecture halls, in resident areas and even inside coffins. Shamelessly they create an illusory entity wielding it with unimaginable powers that needs truncating. “The devil is alive,” they’d say, “he lives within that witch!” For the sake of the next century, may this unseen book of ignorance be, not only banned but burnt!