Think witch and what comes to mind? The Chronicles of Narnia? Supernatural? Season of the Witch? Good Witch? Harry Potter? Digressing a bit here, but you get the picture, right? For most, the word witchcraft conjures up, pun intended, various movie and TV scenes, played wonderfully by various actors and actresses with a fair bit of visual effects thrown in the brew for good measure.
For some others, being a witch could also mean being a Wiccan, a New Age Paganism that does not believe in harming anyone or anybody and is more of a new age religion than the actual practice of magic. There are spells aplenty in Wicca too, and the pentagram is also used by many Wiccan followers.
However, in some countries – unbelievable though it may sound – witchcraft, sorcery, and black magic is still a prevalent belief with laws against the practice and many innocent souls often killed once branded a witch. The Salem witch trials, the Spanish inquisition – these people have learned nothing from the horrific atrocities been committed during these dark days and to date, even the government and local authorities believe in witchcraft. Read on and shudder.
15. The Child Witches of Congo
In Congo, if you do not want your child any more, or a step child or relative who has been foisted upon you, there’s a simple and easy way to get rid of the child – brand him or her a witch. If you don’t want the responsibility of a child that is not yours, or simply have too many children to feed or handle, get rid of a couple this way, and you have a family you can now successfully feed.
Of course, many “loving parents” do get their children cured through exorcisms performed by Catholic priests or high priestesses. The exorcism involves making the child drink a whole lot of salt water, poking fingers in his mouth, belly, or nose, and even squeezing his eyeballs for good measure!
Sounds like a plot from a third grade horror flick but it is the sad truth of many Congo children, some 50,000 of whom live on the streets having been branded as witches and thrown out by their respective families. Some having been beaten, hacked with axes, and raped too…
14. Cameroon Fights Boko Haram With Witchcraft
In 2016, the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya urged the residents of Cameroon to unite and fight against the Boko Haram insurgents, telling them to fight for their country. Admirable sentiment, really – however the “weapon” that Biya asked his countrymen and women to use… was witchcraft.
Ironically, witchcraft is illegal in Cameroon in a bid by the government and authorities to stop quacks and con artists from looting money from hapless citizens who tended to go to them for help, rather than doctors or the authorities.
Concerned citizens go to the so-called sorcerers or marabouts as they are called and choose lucky charms or talismans. These charms belong to two lines of witchcraft – fetishism where incantations are written down and worn, or vampirisms where objects replace the written word. Either way, Boko Haram does not seem to be suffering much from this sorcery.
13. The Witch Hunts of India
Urban India is pretty much at par with the world, or at least it likes to think so. So witchcraft in urban India would be regarded with the same skepticism in any Westernized country.
Rural India weaves its own horror story. Witches are often referred to as dayan which is nothing but a derivative of the Greek Goddess Diana, who was a deity of hunting. In rural India though, if you are branded a dayan then there are innumerable tortures in store for you – you will of course be beaten horribly, raped, repeatedly burned by various burning and red hot objects, asked to repent, and sometimes even murdered. All in the name of curing you of the witch who has taken hold of your soul!
Then of course there are these so-called black magic wizards called tantriks – who rural Indians go to for a variety of cures from epilepsy to malaria, wanting to be blessed by a son of fortune, or even curing a possessed soul. Obviously the tantric will ask for exorbitant sums of money and the “customer” has to pay for fear of being cursed by the tantric instead.
12. Swaziland’s Witchery Aviation Laws
If you are a witch in Swaziland, which you might as well be since the witchcraft business is booming here, you may use your broom to fly and scatter your portions as you so deem fit but you better fly under 150m (500 feet). Otherwise, you surely will be arrested.
This aerial limit is not just limited to witches flying on broom sticks but also on kites, toy helicopters, drones, and toy airplanes. To date, a few residents have been arrested for flying their toys higher than the prescribed limit, but no witches have been arrested for the same.
So does that mean that there are no witches? Nope, it simply means that flying witches of Swaziland are a law-abiding lot… And this is a real law in Swaziland in the 21st century, trying to regulate the nocturnal witch flights.
11. Saudi Arabia Beheads Its Witches
In Saudi Arabia, the law is far stricter than just regulating your nightly broomstick flight, that is, if you are a witch. The legal system of Saudi Arabia classifies witchcraft or sorcery as a capital offence – if you are branded a witch and found to be one by the courts, it’s going to be off with your head. Of course in this country of Saabs and Jaguars and filthy rich Sheikhs, you can also be publically executed over alcohol, being gay, adultery, burglary, robbery, murder, and apostasy.
So anyways, getting back to the point – if you are in Saudi Arabia, don’t even think of witchery or sorcery. The Mutawa (the religious police) is watching. And waiting. And not just that, Saudi Arabia has a special Magical Unit that arrests witches, puts them on trial with laughable evidence and even manages to get some of them beheaded. Other common punishments include jail time and of course the public favorite, public lashing.
10. The Widowed Witches of Nepal
If you are unlucky enough to be a widow living in a village in Nepal then be prepared for being branded a bokshi, a witch. The fact that your husband died is for sure your fault and then, if anything else goes wrong in the village – like a drought, a few more deaths, or perhaps even if the chickens stop laying eggs – the blame will be brought to your door.
And once they have labeled you a witch, god too seemingly forsakes you. The widows of Nepal are an unwanted lot – they are illiterate and can’t provide for themselves and since their husbands are gone, they are just mouths that nobody wants to feed. News of mob attacks on women branded as witches are common and feature horrific details. The torture includes but is not limited to being burnt with innumerable red hot spoons, pelted with rocks, beaten to a bloody pulp, cut with blades, and sometimes even burned alive.
9. The Witch Murderers of Uganda
What was once perhaps common and accepted in tribal Uganda has become a source of suspicion and contention in the “modern” Uganda. Witch doctors are revered, feared, and yet reviled lot. People with deep pockets go to them in a bid to get the supernatural aid needed for so-called success.
These witch doctors in turn have reportedly kidnapped children to perform child sacrifices “essential” to cast their spells. Sometimes it’s just the killing of the child that does the trick but sometimes, various organs and parts of the child are needed to make a “successful” potion. Every year, some 10-20 children are officially listed as witchcraft victims – the non-reported number might be higher. There have also been gruesome cases of parents selling their own children to be led like goats to their slaughter for some economic relief.
8. The Witches & Jinns of Iran
In 2011, many close aids and confidantes of the then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were accused of witchcraft, sorcery, and summoning jinns by the clerics of the country. Much like the angels in Christianity and the belief of many of the firm-in-faith in their benign presence, many in the Arab world do believe in the presence of jinns. The jinn also find reference in the Koran which states that Allah created three types of beings – humans from earth, angels from divine light, and jinns from smokeless fire.
A sorcerer also claimed that President Ahmadinejad had approached him to gather intelligence on the jinns working for Israel, the Mossad, and the American intelligence. When news of this made headlines, a former spiritual leader claimed that perhaps the president himself was ensnared in a spell, or else he would not be dabbling in the occult at all. Remember, all of this was stated and published in utmost seriousness.
7. Papua New Guinea’s Staunch Beliefs
Up until 2013, it was perfectly alright to kill someone who was accused of witchcraft, for it was nothing but self-defense, in Papua New Guinea. Various humane agencies and most of the violence-abhorring world forced this country to change this law and today it is illegal and punishable by jail or worse if you murder a witch. What the world and the government of Papua New Guinea could not do, is change the mindset of its populace.
Any death in Papua New Guinea that cannot be explained by old age, has to be the dark work of a witch – especially if it’s a young death of a child or youth. Then a glas meri is called, a good sorcerer who can spot evil witches and name them. And then the whole mob descends on that hapless person, more often a woman than not. She is stripped and tied up, tortured till she confesses and finally burnt on tires, garbage, and wood. According to some of the activists working there, almost 90 people in a 100 believe in witchcraft.
6. The Turkey Witches of Colombia
So we all know what turkeys are, right? They are poultry, much sought after for Christmas Eve dinners and Thanksgiving luncheons. But there is something far more sinister about the turkeys of Colombia – they are in fact shape-shifting witches!
Most, if not all, witches in Colombia are women. The men certainly believe so. And there have been many reports both recent and old of women being killed since they were suspected to be witches. Until now, all the cases in any of these countries calls for the woman to be stripped, as if the witchery merely lies in her clothes and undressing her strips her of her sorcery too.
Talk about witchcraft in the day in Colombia and you will be met with laughter and a funny little lecture to keep the witches at bay. Sleep with your underwear inside out, and the devil will be too busy trying to straighten it to bother you. Now if only there was a way of getting rid of those witches, errrrr, turkeys…
5. The Import of Witch Doctors In Gambia
What do you say to a country where the President himself is part of inhumane witch hunts and subsequent executions? There have been reports of entire villages being rounded up and taken to secret locations (including the President’s farm) and being forced to drink various hallucinogenic substances that caused them to fall ill and behave in a drugged, erratic manner. The liquid also affected the kidneys of many and a few even died from the subsequent effects of this.
Witch doctors are often imported from the nearby Papua New Guinea, which as we have seen abounds in all things witchcraft, and these doctors are going about Gambia, trying to cure the citizens of this godforsaken country, of their witchery. Other than drinking of suspicious liquids, the cure also entails beating these people to a pulp, mostly to the point of death, and leaving them to heal their broken bodies without any medicine, food, or humanity.
4. The Last Solution: Witchcraft In Kenya
Kenya is relatively a globalized country of Africa. It’s westernized and modern, and witchcraft has long since been deemed illegal here. That said, enter Nairobi and you will find these lettering stuck to poles. Written in Swahili, these signs offer the services of wagangas aka witchdoctors who can help you in matters of love, money, or health.
Ask a Kenyan and he’d advise you not to call these wagangas for these are likely to be con artists. That said, he’d probably recommend the waganga he regularly goes to and the wondrous results he experienced. This white magic or black magic power is known as juju in Kenya and everybody but the neighborhood loon wants strong juju. Strong juju can only be given by a good waganga and you’d better take all his potions and pay all his money, or else you will have bad juju indeed.
3. Tanzania: No Place For Albinos
If you are an albino in Tanzania, chances are you will be kidnapped, killed, and brutally dismembered. Why? Because you, dear person, are a highly prized ingredient in the various acts and potions of Tanzania’s witches that perpetuate wealth! As compared to its neighbors, Tanzania was perhaps less colonized which is why the dark arts flourish here.
And it doesn’t matter what your practicing faith is here, everybody, including the Tanzanian Muslims and Christians turn to black magic when all else fails. Sacrifices to ancestors bring about good luck and a study has indicated that over 60% of Tanzanians believe in the power of witchcraft.
And yet, on the other side of the coin, albinos are reviled and driven out of their homes and often face prejudice and animosity for their neighbors. People are also slain for being suspected of witchery that harms, and elderly women seem to be a favorite of this murderous mob. In 2011 alone, an estimated 600 elderly women were killed, branded as witches.
2. The President Who Believed: Indonesia
You’d think that a country plagued with inflation, traffic issues, frequent natural disasters, and terrorist attacks would find something more worthy to do of its time than believing in witchcraft. Nope, no such luck. In fact Indonesia is a staunch believer in witchcraft and there are these spell-sayers called dukun who can take your poor luck away, for a little money.
In a tell-all book by the ex-President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, he mentioned a horror-movie kind of supernatural encounter with black magic at his home. He wrote about a black cloud trying to enter his room, hovering under the ceiling in the corridor. Upon his prayers to Allah and his family joining him in praying and opening all the doors of the house, the black revolving cloud went away. The Indonesian government has repeatedly tried to outlaw black magic and sorcery but till now, no such act has been passed by the legislation.
1. The Witch Tax of Romania
To a non-Roma, Romania means witches, gypsies, and the like. And frankly even for a Roma, the witches of Romania hold sway. At least one in every 10 Roma visits a witch to have their fortunes told, or for a spell for something. And some of the witches of Romania are rich with houses that could rival top business people.
In 2011, the Romanian government expanded its tax code to include the occupations of witch, fortuneteller, as well as astrologer to increase its coffers by making them give 16% of their income. The witches promised retribution with a coven throwing poisonous mandrake into the Danube river claiming it would affect the government and the people behind it. No further reports of anyone in the tax department or the ruling government suffering any ill effects came to light, even the spells of the much famed witches of Romania should be taken with a pinch of salt!