Witchcraft! We absolutely couldn’t resist. This is always such a fun subject. Until we calculate its effect, that is.
In Tuesday’s paper, several people in Ganta, Nimba County, confessed to destroying lives using witchcraft. One woman said she had taken her daughters’ undergarments to the underworld to prevent them from having children. Several teenagers confessed to outright murder.
Before the war, this craft was largely kept under wraps. The most we knew about it involved ritualistic killing. Every now and then, bodies would turn up in out-of-the-way neighborhoods with parts missing. The perpetrators were called “heartmen” because they often extracted the hearts of their victims for ritualistic purposes. Human organs are said to be used to gain and maintain power and/or wealth. Some prophets allege that witchcraft has been used by every Liberian president since Arthur Barclay.
Since the war, however, the craft in all of its various forms has been exposed and brought to town. One no longer has to travel far to find it. Witchcraft is available right here in Monrovia. If a woman wants to attract the affections of a certain man (typically a rich man), she can find her potion here. When the magic is worked, he will hate the sight of his own wife and children. If a man wants his supervisor’s job, he can arrange his death, give him a very dignified burial, even offer money to his now destitute family, and assume the position.
Of course, said death can be made to look very natural. But there are telltale signs. The ailment often manifests as sugar – a sudden hike in sugar that doctors find impossible to bring down. Other manifestations include an adult outbreak of epilepsy, never before experienced by the victim. Sudden madness is another. A young man goes to the American Embassy to get his visa and walks home stark naked. Other ‘medical’ conditions are only felt by the victim, but doctors can find absolutely nothing. A woman lives and works in London but is always anemic. Her blood is always dry. A man feels something crawling in his body but doctors can find nothing.
Sometimes the perpetrators are the people we least suspect. A woman wonders why every time she approaches a breakthrough in her life, the problems rewind. Suddenly, as if by revelation, she realizes that the setback occurs every time she speaks to her sister. She decides to stop telling her sister her plans, and her life dramatically improves.
Some children are under water in the demonic world – either by choice or by forced initiation – in which case trying to educate them is an exercise in futility unless they undergo deliverance.
The culture of witchcraft seems completely averse to education, or any kind of development for that matter. Anyone trying to bring development to any part of the country, especially outside of Monrovia, will face intense opposition. A certain zoe, notorious in Liberia for his demonic prowess, once said that if a school was ever planted in his village, grass would grow in his palm. The problem then becomes how do we develop this country? Interestingly, said zoe is currently ill, literally rotting on his feet.
The art of witchcraft (commonly known as African science) is very destructive – not just to the lives of others but to one self. This is a buyer beware notice to all of those harnessing the powers of the dark world.
We will all have to give account for the things that we have done, which may have much farther reaching consequences than we ever intended. For example, if someone kills a woman who was destined to open a medical practice in the hinterlands, the blood of all those lives she would have saved as well as her blood is on the hands of the murderer.
What shall it profit a man…?