African Witchcraft – The History, the Practices and the Controversies
African Witchcraft is a collective term used to describe the spiritual traditions (both past and present) of the various ethnic groups in Africa. From a historical point of view, Egyptian Witchcraft and Arabic Sihr traditionally formed a part of the mix. These two ceremonial forms of Witchcraft are nearly extinct, and have been replaced by the Islamic faith.
The witchcraft practiced in the rest of Africa is shamanistic in nature. Long before the East and the West converged on the continent, the shamanistic practices of Africans were remarkably similar in spite of the ethnic and tribal diversity that prevailed.
This is no longer the case, though. The influences of the Christian and the Islamic religions on African Witchcraft are noticeable. The colonization of Africa by the English, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Germans, brought its own set of cultural influences too. This accounts for the diversity now to be found in the practice of African witchcraft from ethnic grouping to ethnic grouping and from tribe to tribe.
This diversification should not be interpreted as dilution or intensification, though. It merely implies that African witchcraft in its purest form has been exchanged for African shamanism of an eclectic form.
The heinous practice of slave trading led to the export of African witchcraft to the Americas, where it now survives under the auspices of religions such as Voudun, Obeah, Santera, Quimbanda and Candombl.
What is African Witchcraft?
African witchcraft is a nature based religion, where one or more Deities, nature spirits and ancestral spirits are worshipped. The witchdoctor, with his or her ability to commune with Deity, nature spirits and ancestral spirits, is traditionally held in awe – an awe which is an odd mixture of respect and fear.
The reason for this fear is simple. Magic in the African sense may be used for both positive and negative purposes. It can be used to bless and to curse, to cure and cause disease, to bring peace and to initiate battle, to protect and to harm, to create and to destroy.
The witchdoctor can be either male or female. Although there is no gender equality in African culture, no distinction is generally made where spiritual practices are concerned. The witchdoctor is responsibile for divination, healing, presiding over rituals, conducting rites of passage, performing sacrifices, finding lost cattle, protecting warriors, casting and removing spells, and narrating the history and myths of old.
For harmony between the living and the dead, which is an essential component of leading a trouble-free life, ancestors are shown respect by means of daily offerings, prayers and songs, elaborate rituals and animal sacrifice.
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