Witchcraft is not harmful, but accusations of ‘witchcraft as harmful’ are!


A recent conversation with a British anthropologist and a prominent British neo-Pagan on the definition of ‘witchcraft’ in relation to Africa, revealed the extent to which modern Witches; actual practitioners and adherents of a religio-magical belief system and practice identified as Witchcraft, [0] are deliberately marginalized by academia and modern Pagan society in general, in favour of a distorted and prejudicial historical bias against Witchcraft.

Our British friends require from us that we challenge the human rights abuses of witch-hunts and witchcraft accusations, but not question the beliefs that engender them.

We see the overt results of such a bias against Witchcraft as motivating violent witch-hunts. Witch hunts are always preceded by accusations of witchcraft which are more often than not instigated by superstitious beliefs about witchcraft. I deliberately use the word superstitious – a widely held irrational and unjustified belief resulting from ignorance and fear of the unknown, that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome – to describe these beliefs, knowing that academics have repeatedly voiced their objection to its use in relation to indigenous cultural or religious beliefs.

The conceptions of causation I refer to however are indeed false and they do engender violent accusations of bewitchment. They are thus superstitious and harmful! [1]

The subversive results of such an institutionalized bias serve effectively to exclude actual Witches from engaging in human rights advocacy against witch-hunts. Where African Witches have and do openly declare their identity as practitioners of Witchcraft in opposition to witch-hunts, we are told that our public identity will further endanger the lives of people falsely accused of being witches or of bewitching others.

In other words, people’s irrational and prejudicial beliefs about Witchcraft pre-determine our fate as Witches.

African Witches are required to relinquish our right to self-identity. We must not call ourselves Witches, because “Witchcraft is unequivocally evil”. We must opt instead for the academically approved non-harmful term-of-the-day “Wicca”, because apparently only practicing neo-pagans are good and law abiding citizens. South African Witches saw the same irrational demands around issues of identity from South African Pagans in 2007. [2]

South African Witches rejected these demands then and we have no intention of accepting these demands from Europeans now, even if that means doors of opportunity to engage constructively with academics and neo-Pagans remain closed to us, for now.

Our rejection of both academic bias against Witchcraft and demands around relinquishing our identity has been perceived by a notable South African academic as disrespectful to academics and to academic protocol required in challenging historical anthropological conclusions.

In order to demonstrate that anthropology has indeed institutionalized a harmful prejudicial bias against defining what Witchcraft is in Africa, something we assumed was already common knowledge and all too visible, we are required by academics in both Europe and South Africa to show that the conclusions reached by a legion of academic studies in this field (readily available only to other academics) are prejudicial to actual Witches who regard Witchcraft as their faith.

Until then, Witches in Africa must remain the silent untouchables of the 21st century.


[0] Definitions of Witchcraft

a. Witchcraft is the use of magical faculties, most commonly for religious, divinatory or medicinal purposes.[1] This may take many forms depending on cultural context. The belief in and the practice of magic has been present since the earliest human cultures and continues to have an important religious and medicinal role in many cultures today.[1] “Magic is central not only in ‘primitive’ societies but in ‘high cultural’ societies as well…”[2] The concept of witchcraft as harmful is often treated as a cultural ideology providing a scapegoat for human misfortune.[3][4] This was particularly the case in Early Modern Europe where witchcraft came to be seen as part of a vast diabolical conspiracy of individuals in league with the Devil undermining Christianity, eventually leading to large-scale witch-hunts, especially in Protestant Europe. Witch hunts continue to this day with tragic consequences.[5] Since the mid-20th century Witchcraft has become the designation of a branch of contemporary Paganism, it is most notably practised in the Wiccan traditions, some of whom claim to practice a revival of pre-Abrahamic spirituality.[6]

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft

b. Witchcraft may be defined as:
i) the practice of sympathetic folk magic,
ii) a modern neo-Pagan religion (as Wicca, Stregheria and others)
iii) Witchcraft is not synonymous with “black” (malevolent) magic, and
iv) not cognate to / with Traditional African religio-magical belief systems.

SOURCE: South African Pagan Rights Alliance

c. What is witchcraft?
There is no universally accepted definition of witchcraft and the term means different things to different people in different places. Primarily witchcraft can be seen as a negative, malevolent force which is used by people – witches – in the spirit realm to bring about harm in the physical realm. It is the art of doing evil. However, there are some people, primarily in Europe and the United States, who call themselves ‘witches’. Such people follow a constructed neo-pagan religion, usually called Wicca, which is not witchcraft in the sense that the majority mean it.
What is a witch?
For the majority of people, a witch is an evil person who has the ability to bring about all manner of harm. Characteristics include: psychic cannibalism, being able to fly and being able to take animal form in order to bring about harm. It is often believed that the soul of the suspected witch leaves the physical body during the night and enters into the spirit or “witchcraft” world. Here, along with other witches, they cause all manner of harm such as road accidents, spreading illness, eat human flesh, joblessness, inability to save money, impotence, infertility, mental health problems etc.

SOURCE: Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN)

[1] Accusations of ‘witchcraft’ are harmful

a. Monkey stoned and burned

A vervet monkey was stoned to death and later set alight by residents of Mamelodi East Section 14, who accused the animal of witchcraft last week Sunday afternoon.

SOURCE: Looklocal.co.za | Stephen Selaluke | 25 July 2013

b. Village chief held for inhuman act

A village chief in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district and two other office bearers involved in forcing an alleged witchcraft practitioner named as Noping Khongsit to eat human excreta on July 20 in front of the villagers were arrested.

SOURCE: Press Trust of India | Shillong | 26 July 2013

c. Kenya: Police Accused of Promoting Killings

Security personnel in Kilifi County were yesterday accused of contributing to the massive killings of elderly people suspected of practicing witchcraft.

SOURCE: AllAfrica.com | Alphonce Gari | 23 JULY 2013

[2] Witches identity challenged

a. Progressive Pagan Alliance drops the “Witch” words

The Progressive Pagan Alliance (the PPA) represents a group of Eurocentric Pagan Organisations within South Africa who venerate their Ancestral religions.

In the interest of South African unity, the PPA member organisations willingly release the English words “witch” and “witchcraft” to describe ourselves and our practices. We understand that these words have contributed to centuries of colonialism and repression for the vast majority of South Africans who find these words offensive. Furthermore, the PPA calls on all South African Pagans to do the same.

SOURCE: Adrian Williams | 24 October 2007

b. The Pagan in South Africa’s Parliament

SOURCE: The Wild Hunt.org | Jason Pitzl-Waters | 9 August 2009


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