I took a class on witchcraft last semester and we learned extensively about the Azande Tribe in Africa. They don’t have magic in witchcraft in the sense that they make potions and have spells to do things, rather, witches don’t necessarily know they are witches and they cause bad things to happen, even unintentionally. This is because a substance in their stomach called, “mangu.” And this is supposedly a black substance that causes you to be a witch. It can be removed but only by a witch doctor. A witch doctor, unlike a witch knows of their powers and must train and learn from another witch doctor, the secrets of the trade. For example, there is the one ceremony a witch doctor can perform to heal a person of a sickness. The ceremony involves herbs and rubbing various medicines on the person, and the final part is where the witch doctor pulls out a substance from the person’s stomach – and this substance is what caused their illness and once it is removed, the person can heal. However, the witch doctor doesn’t actually remove anything and only makes it appear as though this has happened because of the placebo effect of it. It makes people feel better to see that something’s been removed even though it’s the various herbs and medicines that make the person better and not the removal of a substance. And that would be some sort of thing you’d learn from a witch doctor, if you wanted to become one.
I found this very interesting for two reasons. The first is because we have such a set idea of what a witch is, that to hear a completely different take on it is cool to me. Witchcraft in Africa is closer to what science is here. It is an explanation for when things happen. If something fell on a person maybe a witch got angry at them and the mangu caused the thing to fall? It’s just very interesting to think about magic in such a different light. The second reason I find this interesting is because of the strength of the placebo effect. Here in America, the placebo effect is widely used by doctors, and the fact that it gets used in Africa as well, just shows the effectiveness of it.
I’ve only heard of witches being evil ladies who cast spell, so it’s interesting to see people perceive witches as beings who unintentionally cause magic to happen.