Belief In Witchcraft: The Bane Of The Ghanaians Intellectual Growth

GhanaWeb, 13 Sept. 2010, Samuel Adjei Sarfo

In the late 1999, the people from my hometown, Effiduase-Koforidua, woke up to be witnesses of a repugnant crime committed by a young man: convinced by his spiritual master that his mother’s sister was responsible for his miseries in life, he hacked her into pieces and left her on a farm.

Later that year, a pastor convinced a woman in Accra that her beautiful car, which his husband had shipped to her from America, was a spiritual coffin which was bound to send her to her grave. Out of fear, the woman gave the car to the pastor who used it for many years. Many years later, a con man convinced a fairly rich man to part with huge amounts of money which he claimed he could triple for the man. When the scheme eventually failed, the con man explained to the rich man that his mother was responsible for the fiasco. The man went to his family house and subjected his mother to severe beating. Recently, a science teacher in a reputable high school blamed the death of his paramount chief on another paramount chief whom he accused of witchcraft. Last month, an old man that had lived in America for decades, told me that he went to Ghana and slept in his family house, only to see a flash of light in the middle of the night. He concluded that her mother’s sister, who had treated this man like her own son throughout his life, was a witch who had emitted the flashing light in her attempt to blind him. His mother’s brother approved of the conclusion and helped him to harass his aunt. In 2001, my elderly friend who had bought an old car which kept on giving him problems, rose up one morning and threatened his son with witchcraft, demanding that he confessed that he was responsible for the problems with the car. The son confessed, and my friend put him in a church house for seven days to be exorcized of his witchcraft. Last week, a story was published on a Ghanaian news network about church members who chased a cobra into a culvert. Thereafter, a homeless woman emerged from under the bridge. This woman was nearly lynched by the mob who thought she was the snake that had turned into a human being.


Long, long ago, in medieval England, a trial by ordeal consisted in hanging a heavy stone around the neck of one accused of witchcraft and leaving her in the middle of a deep river. If the person sank to the bottom and drowned, she was exonerated and her death ruled a tragedy. If perchance, such a person defied gravity and floated on the water, she was quickly rescued and burnt at the stake. The church itself approved of variations on these strange trials, burning many people, including Joan of Arc, at the stake, after accusing them of witchcraft. Later in the mid seventeenth century America, a group of girls in Salem led superstitious adults to lead a witch-hunt, resulting in a pogrom of revenge killings.


It is not difficult for an otherwise normal human being to wrap his own brain in a cellophane of superstition and refuse to see the real world for what it is. And so it is with witchcraft. Wrap your head in it, and you are ensconced in phantasmagoria-black cats, owls, dragons, unicorns and cockatrices become your center of attention, dictating to you what your life is, and how it is fated to be. Women are usually victims of witchcraft; yet they are the most ardent purveyors of the belief in it. Women daily throng religious shrines to ask about their destinies, and if a pastor points a finger to their housemaids, sisters or enemies, they heave a sigh of relief and go after these people, tormenting them to death. People have beaten up their mothers, sisters and spouses, after accusing them of wreaking a spiritual havoc on them through their witchcraft.


When the Ghanaian drinks too much alcohol, he will complain that the witches have put a barrel in his stomach; when he becomes addicted to drugs and goes berserk, he will accuse the witches of mortgaging his mental powers; when he makes imprudent decisions and reaps the reward of failure, he will concoct a witch-based fallacy to explain away his blight and plight.


Indeed, reality is a hard thing to confront, especially where the individual’s ineptitude becomes the visceral cause of his own downfall, and where acceptance of responsibility for failure lingers on the mind as a despicable trope of perpetual guilt. But as Thomas Jefferson said, the world belongs in usufruct to the living; the {spirits} have no power…….We are architects of our destinies; no power influences our course of life more than us-our state of mind…..


There is some truth in the assertion that if witches exist at all, then we are our own witches! Our states of mind create those “witches” that haunt us. In the first place, powerful psychological forces existing in our own minds determine what and how we will become. If we conceive ourselves as strong, capable and able, then nothing can prevent us from succeeding in any enterprise. If we consider ourselves as minions of forces stronger than us, we will do the biddings of those forces, and nothing will deliver us from our self-imposed status as puppets and neophytes. Napoleon Hill says: Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the man can achieve. But that conception and achievement will not come on a silver platter; they have to be coupled with an extreme determination to let what is not become what is! The mind is a soft tissue of untrammeled power; we can harness it do anything we want. It can rise to the highest heaven or sink into the lowest abyss. It can turn us into gods or dogs…???


It should occur to us as oxymoronic that the weakest amongst us: the poor, the needy, the step-children, the maidservants and the disabled, are those we accuse of witchcraft. We are ascribing supernatural powers to these helpless folks and deeming them inherently strong enough to thwart the sublimest of our efforts. At the same time, we see them as vulnerable and helpless and incapable of using this same power to advance their own circumstances, or to save themselves from attacks from us! Secondly, we make the god we worship look stupid for investing this magnitude of power in these individuals, to the extent that he is incapable of protecting us from their attacks. Most importantly, the surest way to abridge creative thinking is to abridge it with notions of witchcraft. Explaining away problems by ascribing them to witches will inhibit the brain from operating at its fullest capacity.


Notions of the existence of God are only great if they keep us morally upright. In the privacy of our homes and the secrets of our thoughts, if we are surfeited with honesty, love, kindness, generosity and charity, those qualities will yield positive dividends and create a powerful aura to countermand any negative vibrations that oppress our progress. For there is an inexplicable “something” in the world that invokes the reward of good for the work of good, love for the work of love, kindness for the work of kindness, and peace for the work of peace. Likewise, the pool of jealousy, envy, hatred, nepotism and treachery, if allowed to gather in our backyard, will become a cesspool of filth invading our spirit. Our life is guided by the “spirits” we invoke….We are our own witches insofar as we are the sole architects of our destiny. Stated differently, witchcraft does not exist; but an evil mind does. The evil that we do comes back to haunt us and to design our lot in life! To be free of fear of witchcraft is akin to being free from evil and lining your ducks for the successful, prosperous life. For no evil done shall go unpunished, but the minutest good, done with the noblest heart, shall be abundantly rewarded. If we are consistent in what we do right, and stay in the cause of knowledge, integrity and honesty, cultivating the mind with healthy thoughts, and vesting our ways with selfless acts, we shall become confident by the day, and our fear of witches will dispel. We will become courageous too, ready to assume our responsibilities in life and become models for all humanity.


Indeed, only idiots believe in witches. However for many of these idiots, blaming others for their failures in life is an escapist conduit for denying their responsibilities in life. Consider how convenient it is to blame some fugitive spirits for your misfortunes in life. If that “spirit” happens to be your mother or father, it simply relieves you of culpability and responsibility. This is one major attraction for those bent on believing in the charmed nonsense of witchcraft.


If any spiritual master has ever told you that somebody else is a witch, I implore you to go and re-educate him regarding the falsity of his claim, and you will gain redemption thereby. And if you have been ignorant enough to fall prey to the yarn of these mountebanks, go and kneel for forgiveness from those whom you have been misled to accuse as witches. From today, free yourself from the shackles of superstition; the power is in your hands to reverse your retrogression, to enhance your intellectual power, to harness your inner energy, to lighten your path, and to set things right……


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