Busakatsi Witchcraft in Africa: Religion Or Criminal Act
The world is under the impression that the scourge of witch hunts came to an end in the 18th century. Cory was among the seven women and one man hanged as witches on September 22, 1692 in America and Anna Göldi was an 18th-century Swiss woman who was the last person to be executed in Europe for witchcraft on June 13, 1782. However, in this day and age, the specter still darkens the cultural landscape of Africa, where witch hunts and - executions are still regularly conducted.
Advertisement of reward for Anna Göldi's capture in Zürcher Zeitung. ( Public Domain )
On March 16, 2020 in South Africa an 83-year-old woman was assaulted, drowned to death in a water drum and her body was torched in her hut in the Majuba Village, outside Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape. The mob accused her of being responsible for the death of a young man. Her 23-year-old grandchild escaped when the paraffin her attacker poured on her body failed to ignite. A man has been arrested for the attack and charged with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm, arson, murder and attempted murder. In May 2019, 78-year-old Ntombizodwa Toto-Madikizela was axed to death in front of her grandchildren. Her family, including 13 children, fled the village after their homestead was torched. The grandmother was one of 30 people killed in witchcraft-related incidents in the village since 2016. The victims include 16 women who were all accused of witchcraft and hacked to death, some in front of their children.
Christian martyrs burned at the stake by Ranavalona I in Madagascar by John Joseph Kilpin Fletcher (1900) ( Public Domain )
Ancient Belief In Witchcraft In Africa
In Africa, witches are continuously still being executed in the 21st century, not only by hacking them to death but also often by setting them on fire or they are lynched. Belief in witchcraft is not limited to rural areas but exists even among literate city dwellers. A 2009 African Health Sciences report documented between: “ 50 to 60 bodies of elderly women brought to Umtata General Hospital (South Africa) mortuary every year (who) had been implicated in witchcraft ”. Shockingly, the report states: “there is some sort of community consensus or permission to eliminate these witches ”.
The ancient belief in witchcraft, prevailing in Africa for centuries, is that evil spirits take possession of a person – male, female or child – thereby rendering the body of such a ‘witch’ as a shell, housing the evil spirit, which needs to be exorcised.
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