If you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you’ve heard about witches and there’s a chance that you believe witches are real. So who is a witch? I will use two definitions. One, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary
a woman thought to have evil magical powers.
Pay attention to 2 words there: ‘woman’ and ‘thought’. We’ll come back to those words later.
The second definition is mine. You can disagree with it but it’s a product of my understanding as an African.
A witch is a woman who flies in the spiritual realm at night, drinks people’s blood in the spiritual realm, and punishes people with terrible misfortune.
Yeah. Never mind. That’s who a witch is supposed to be. However, see that everything happens in the spiritual realm. Nothing physical. The flying is done in the spiritual realm. The drinking of blood is done in the spiritual realm. So how do we now physically recognize someone who does everything in the spiritual realm? The word ‘thought’ in the dictionary definition above suggests that we just think that someone is a witch. We never have the evidence.
Exodus 22:18 says
‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’
I’m just thinking. If we were to be applying this law in 2016, how would we identify witches? By revelations, visions, dreams, trances, oracles? Not reliable enough. By self-confessions? Not realiable too. It’s been shown that such confessions are psychiatric symptoms that require medical attention. Unfortunately, our society doesn’t know any better.
By noticing bad-mannered girls or women around us? Well, that’s also not reliable. You could be scapegoating an innocent soul! Or by democracy, i.e. a handful of persons just agreeing that that particular girl or woman must be a witch? Once again, you would be scapegoating.
Perhaps by Google search? By radiological scanning? By some electronic scanner? Perhaps we’ll see a mark on their heads or their eyes would be red? It’s clear that humans have not been able to agree on the criteria for naming someone a witch.
Nobody is yet to conclusively describe how to identify a witch. So I’ve taken up the task. How do we know witches? I found 3 characteristics of those whom Nigerians accuse of witchcraft.
1. They’re Not Witches
The first characteristic of witches is that they’re not witches. People have problems in life and they need to provide explanations. It’s a good coping mechanism. Externalizing the causation of disasters soothes the human mind. So you quickly look for one woman nearby and hold her responsible for your ordeals. She’s actually not responsible for your ordeals.
Sometimes people think when we talk, we’re just spreading ideas that have no African connection. People will interprete what I’m saying in this article as something coming from the mouth of a fake African. They ask, ‘how can you call yourself a true son of Africa and doubt that witches exist?’ For your information, thousands of women were burnt alive for witchcraft allegations in the 17th century Europe. The ‘witch craze’ was a practice that continued till the 20th century. Europeans stopped the nonsense when they discovered the stupidity in the practice. So that we’re saying you should stop picking witches is not being unAfrican. We’re just being progressive.
It stopped in Europe because they became knowledgeable. The witch craze coincided with the surge of mysterious illnesses killing people. In fact, high death toll rates were recorded and the deaths could not be explained by the knowledge available at the time. But by the time scientific knowledge increased and they knew about bacteria and viruses, they realized the people they had accused of being witches weren’t actually the real witches. They discovered that the germs were the real witches. They had to stop killing innocent women.
Those people you call witches aren’t witches. They’re just innocent people who themselves don’t know anything about what you’re talking about. The so-called witch confessions are just manifestations of permanent or transient psychological imbalances. Yes. I conclude that witches are an illusion. The more enlightened a society is, the less they believe in magical things like witchcraft.
2. They’re the powerless of the society
The second characteristic of witches is that they’re the powerless of the society. The vulnerable members of our society are the so-called witches. Who are these? Women, especially if they’re old. Children. Mentally challenged. Destitutes. The poor and the dregs of the society.
Women. They’re the weaker vessel as one holy book says. They’re the ones who must take excuse from a man before they travel as another holy book says. They’re the ones who are unholy several days every month as some religions have declared. They’re the ones that must not speak in the church as dictated by a foremost Christian apostle and must not lead prayers according to Islam. They’re the ones that were deceived by the serpent in the garden and thus dragged the whole humanity into everlasting agony. They’re the ones who can’t lead a war. They’re the ones that can be married in multiples (polygyny) and must not marry in multiples (polyandry). They’re the ones not to be counted in censuses in ancient times. They just must be the witches.
And when a woman is old, her troubles double. She looks funny with a completely withered face. Here goes the erroneous thinking. Her edentulousness must be useful for sucking blood while her sunken, enophthalmic eyes are good for seeing things normal humans can’t see. And even though she looks frail, she’s omnipowerful in the spirit realm. She must be a witch.
Children. Of course, what power does a child have? A parent can easily look at that little thing and say she’s the one responsible for all his woes. Can the child defend herself? How does she prove that she’s not a witch? Bishop Oyedepo, a foremost Nigerian pastorpreneur, even slapped an innocent child sometime ago and he’ll never face any repercussions for it. Watch the video below.
Destitutes and lunatics. Here goes the erroneous thinking. Of course, why will a normal person be living in an uncompleted building or a cemetery if not that she is busy communing with the spirits? Have you heard a lunatic speak before? You can’t understand half of what she’s saying. It’s because she’s speaking to her fellow witches. Or better still, she must have become a lunatic because all the innocent people she sucked dead have boomeranged on her. Don’t move close to a lunatic. She can be a witch.
As you can see, witches are a product of our deep slant in gender inequality and inhumanity. That’s why the definition above contains the word ‘woman’. It has to be a woman. And even the woman must be socially disadvantaged. Kemi Adeosun or Okonjo-Iweala can never be called witches. They’re powerful women. That’s why. And if you’re brave enough, try calling Fashola’s mum a witch and try organizing a stoning session for her. I leave you with whatever consequences you’re faced with.
If your mother is accused of being a witch, it means you’re a nobody. It’s the mother of nonentities and nobodies that gets accused of witchcraft. And if you support the accusation or you even initiate it, you’re a moron.
3. They live in the wrong society
This is the third attribute of witches. They are innocent folks who find themselves among stupid, ignorant people. As I said earlier, countries who have outgrown the superstitious infancy of human history no longer accuse people of witches. Even in Nigeria here, how come witches don’t live in Victoria Island, Lagos or Asokoro, Abuja? All the witches live in the villages or the slum parts of the cities (like Iyana-Ipaja or Oshodi in Lagos). That’s to show you that the more enlightened a society is, the less they do moronic things like accuse people of witches.
In societies where human rights are taken seriously, you can no longer accuse someone of something frivolous like witchcraft. But of course in countries like my beloved Nigeria where people don’t even know there’s something called ‘human rights’, any vulnerable person can be victimized with next to no consequences. People still get burned alive for being called witches in Nigeria in 2016, a practice that has been abandoned in other parts of the world. Of course, a place where the police can just assault you on the highway for no reason, who will prevent the vulnerable group against witchcraft allegations?
Nigeria is now notorious for child witches. The story of Hope, the Nigerian boy that was saved by Ms. Loven, a Danish philanthropist was all over the Internet recently. That was a sad story on all fronts. We can now boast of witch hunters more than any other nation in the world. One of the top witch hunters in the country goes by the name Helen Ukpabio. She is a foremost evangelical pastor whose church has branches all over the country and West Africa. In one of her books, she described a witch child as,
‘Under the age of two, the child screams at night, cries, is always feverish suddenly deteriorates in health, puts up an attitude of fear, and may not feed very well.’
Please, should someone who describes the symptoms of malaria as symptoms of witchcraft be allowed to be walking free talk less of even owning a wealthy church empire? And when you consider the fact that Nigeria has one of the highest malaria mortality rates in children under age 5 in the whole world, you would weep as you’re reading this. That was why she was banned in the UK. And that was why Oyedepo too was prevented from starting a school in the UK. Anyone who abuses children and calls them witches can’t start a school in a sane nation.
In summary, we can generate another definition of witch by combining the three aforementioned characteristics:
A witch is a poor old woman or a similarly powerless person who is actually not a witch but a victim of the stupidity of an ignorant, superstitious society in which they unfortunately live in.
While you get headlines like ‘Scientists discover signs of a new exoplanet’ from other countries, what you get from Nigeria are ‘Witch crashlands in Yaba’ and ‘Head of Witches In Benin Reveals Shocking Things’. When grown-ups, adults, believe that a witch that was flying in the spiritual realm collided with physical high-tension cables, you can’t but feel sorry for us as a people.
And you should feel very sorry for your idiocy if you believe that someone turned to a cat without you having any video evidence of the process of turning. The stupidity around here is unbearable and generally irritating. We need to wake up as soon as possible. It’s too late already as the rest of the world has moved light years ahead of us but at least, we can achieve something if we stop believing nonsensical things.