Child witches in Africa
March 29, 2004 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Things fall apart Stressed societies move in strange directions. In Angola, shattered by a decades-long civil war, children and even infants are accused of being witches. Burkina Faso is also having a witchcraft epidemic. Are there parallels with conditions in Salem and Early Modern Europe?
posted by SealWyf (16 comments total)
Look, you're never going to end witchcraft without a touch of the short, sharp shock. Other witches will see this and get the message that they're not welcome. The first link is pretty bad journalism-- the author seems to be going on the assumption that the little girl isn't a witch without fully investigating.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:40 AM on March 29, 2004

didn't i see something not too long ago about european witchcraft outbreaks being linked to a hallucinogenic wheat fungus?

maybe i just immagined it...
posted by hob at 11:50 AM on March 29, 2004

Truly sad state of affairs over there.
Nice reference to a good book, SealWyf.
I can't help but wonder if the Harry Potter books have been released in Angola. BLAME POTTER!
Interesting timing of The Liars new album. hmm...
posted by shoepal at 12:01 PM on March 29, 2004

That does look like a good book, shoepal. But the reference was to Yeats' The Second Coming.
posted by SealWyf at 12:06 PM on March 29, 2004

Quite a strange coincidence given the subject of the post and the locales discussed.
posted by shoepal at 12:12 PM on March 29, 2004

Stressed societies move in strange directions... How stressed was American society in the 1980s, when huge numbers of our law enforcement officials went on a literal, non-symbolic, totally deadpan, serious, and terribly effective witch hunt -- and I'm not talking about looking for communists, but looking for witches, finding them and persecuting them?
posted by Faze at 12:23 PM on March 29, 2004

The book, the poem, and the song.
posted by holloway at 1:45 PM on March 29, 2004

"And when you see your mother this evening, be sure and tell her SATAN SATAN SATAN !!!!!"
-- Butthole Surfers

...of course, our current Attorney General believes calico cats are sent from the devil, and the President believes Jeebus wants him to bomb the living shit out of the Muslim world.

I'd trade all that in for a good ol' witch hunt or two.

And yes, hob, the ergot fungus that grows on rye bread (I think) has mildly hallucinogenic qualities, perfect for paranoid Puritans.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:05 PM on March 29, 2004

ergot link
posted by putzface_dickman at 3:16 PM on March 29, 2004

Sad to see people abandoning rational thought, logic, science and due process in favor of superstition and 'traditional values'.

But enough about USA, let's talk about Angola.
posted by spazzm at 3:20 PM on March 29, 2004

This is so awful. What I wouldn't give to be able to take at least one of those children out of that situation.
posted by orange swan at 5:46 PM on March 29, 2004

I'm not sure how it came to be called an "epidemic." The notion of "witchcraft" is well engrained in many societies. Anthropologist Evans-Pritchard, for one, has extensively studied it among the Azande.
Though I'm not in favour of torturing children, I find the attitude that witchcraft is necessarily bad and backwards problematically colonialist. What right does the West have to impose its values on other parts of the world?
posted by statisticalpurposes at 7:18 PM on March 29, 2004

Statisticalpurposes, I don't think anyone's really objecting to the fact that there are cultures that believe in witchcraft. Hell, we have many people living in the West who believe that they ARE witches. What's necessarily bad is that people - of all ages - are getting tortured because of it.
posted by orange swan at 4:08 AM on March 30, 2004

...of course, our current Attorney General believes calico cats are sent from the devil,

Our Attorney General believes that calico cats are sent from the devil??? Where did THAT come from???
posted by Beansidhe at 5:15 AM on March 30, 2004

another fantastic book on witchcraft is Huxley's The Devils of Loudun. i couldn't find much of it online, but the epilogue on self-transcendence is especially interesting considering some of his other work.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:26 AM on March 30, 2004

statisticalpurposes, that's true what you say about Evans-Pritchard's work with the Azande, but the point even there is that cultural notions of witchcraft serve a social function (economic and sexual mediation, in the case of the Azande, as I recall...). I think Sealwyf's posted question speaks to that--what underlying social context makes public accusations of witchcraft conducive to getting what one wants? Or perhaps, what other processes for mediation are absent, making witchcraft a viable avenue for agency? Why does witchcraft crop up--is there a common thread?
posted by ifjuly at 7:03 AM on March 31, 2004

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