Animism, totemism and fetishism are integral parts of African Witchcraft. Initiates into Witchcraft in the Toma tribes undergo years of study, are taken away from then: parents at birth, and when ready must submit to the torture of having a hundred fifty cuts on their bodies, without anesthesia or sterilization, forming a definite design, which markings make them full-fledged witchdoctors ... if they survive the ordeal! Gri gris, dolls, fetishes, herbs, animal skins, claws and teeth, herbs, poison and mind-magic are taught.
The "Divine King" of the Bakuba retains a special witchdoctor called the Yumi whose function it is to rub red pepper in the eyes of his many wives who become Unruly! The plate-lipped Ubangi came about because their husbands inserted large wooden discs in their lips to make them unattractive to the Arab slave traders. Today there are only seven of them left in Africa and they live in a tiny village in the African Congo, near Lake Albert.
Though legally outlawed cannibalism is still practiced as part of a religious witchcraft ritual. Eating the heart of a brave man guarantees the same courage and strength. Eating his brains insures his wisdom. Years ago old witch doctors would eat young children in the hope of becoming young again. Among the Ngongo it is the man who goes through the labor pains when his wife is giving birth. He screams, yells, rolls on the ground, and holds his stomach.
What's more it's not the pregnant wife who goes to bed but the husband! He is attended by male friends who fan him, bring him water, and offer sympathy and comfort. He moans and groans until his wife gives birth ... Without a whimper! After this he has a "drink with the boys." He has established that he is the father of the child ... and it makes no difference whether he is in fact ... the social father is the accepted one.
The Bangwana are descendants of many tribes who have banded together and live in isolated villages in the Bast Congo. They were employed by the Arabs to raid other tribes for slaves. They are Muslims and wear the flowing robes. Elephant hunters, they have almost exterminated the species in their greed for the ivory tusks. They are both hated and feared by other tribes and considered to be sorcerers and black magicians. They did practice witchcraft but most of them were poison experts and got rid of their enemies this way.
This is an African 'gris-gris! His name is derived from the protective amulets that he wears.
The Watutsi live in Ruanda and all of them are over 6'6" tall. Descendants from the ancient Egyptians with traces of Hamitic and Nilotic blood, and distantly related to natives indigenous to Ethiopia they were slaughtered by the thousands by other tribes when Ruanda became independent. Their religious and witchcraft practices are a direct link to their Egyptian heritage.
The Masai in Tanganyika are a tall proud race who eat and drink blood, A young Masai to prove his manhood must hunt and kill a lion with a spear, and only a spear. The Zulus were always warlike and now use their colorful shields, ostrich feathers, headdresses, and monkey-fur trimmings as a tourist attraction. Their secret rites are never seen by the white man. The Warega is still a savage Congolese tribe, addicted to cannibalism, and they form a close alliance with the Pygmies. They traditionally recognize this by their chief marrying a pygmy girl as a wife. He sleeps with her only one night and she never marries again.
In describing the African witchdoctor or fetish-men, one writer Read has said: "These fetish-men are priest-doctors like those of the ancient Germans. They haw a profound knowledge of herbs, and also of human nature, for they always monopolize the real power in the state. But it is very doubtful whether they possess any secrets save that of extracting virtue and poison from plants.
During the first trip which I made into the bush I sent for one of these doctors. At that time I was staying among the Shekani, who are celebrated for their fetish. He came attended by a half-dozen disciples. He was a tall man dressed in white, with a girdle of leopard skin, from which hung an iron bell, of the same shape as our sheep bells. He had two chalk marks over his eyes. I took some of my own hair, frizzled it with a burning glass and gave it to him. He popped it with alacrity into his little grass bag; for white man's hair is fetish of the first order. Then I poured out some raspberry vinegar into a glass, drank a little of it first, counter fashion, and offered it to him, telling him that it was blood from the brains of great doctors.
Upon this he received it with great reverence, and dipping his fingers into it as if it was snap-dragon, sprinkled his forehead with it, both feet between the two first toes, and the ground behind his back. He then handed his glass to a disciple, who emptied it, and smacked his lips afterwards in a very secular manner. I then desired to see a little of his fetish. He drew on the ground with red chalk some hieroglyphics, among which I distinguished the circle, the cross, and the crescent. He said that if I would give him a fine 'dush,' he would tell me all about it. But as he would not take anything in reason, and as I knew that he would tell me nothing of very great importance in public, negotiations were suspended."
The power of witchcraft and secret societies, implemented by force, can't be underestimated. It has been the germ of independence for many African nations, notably that of the Mau Mau whose leader, Jomo Kenyatta, is now President of Kenya. They used force against the white man. Witchcraft fear against the black man. The combination of both proved a powerful weapon in their fight for freedom.
The Ngil are a society of African black-magicians, who are also exorcists and witch-finders. They hate and fear other witches not members of their society as rivals. In Tripolitania, North Africa, there is a tribe of women who have the reputation of being able to turn into foxes the first night of the full moon every month. They live in caves and only come out at night The Gnaoua are a Black African sect in Morocco known for ecstatic dancing and possession trances. Their patron saint is Sidi Bilal, who was Mohammed's muezzin.
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