Witchcraft is an age-less and complex phenomenon. Existing in almost every human culture and targeting mostly women, witchcraft has been used to both empower and oppress women throughout history. The present is no different. In many African countries, such as Ghana, witchcraft is widely accepted and feared. This had led to many issues for Ghanaian women, who once accused of witchcraft are subject to numerous abuses and mistreatments. Scholars, having long debated solutions to this issue, suggest outlawing anti-witchcraft practices and eradicating belief in witchcraft. Both of these solutions are unsatisfactory. In this paper I will explore the Ghanaian belief in witchcraft and the resulting ...view middle of the document...
Ghanaians tend to believe that witches work with each other, holding nocturnal meetings in inaccessible places . At these meetings they capture the kra of people. The kra is similar to someone’s soul. It carries their destiny and acts like a double of the person’s physical body. It is through that kra that witches attack. Once they have captured the kra, anything they do to it will also happen to the person, to whom the kra belongs. For example, a witch could remove the uterus of the kra in order to make a woman barren.
The powers that witches have, the ability to capture kra, is thought to be acquired matrilineal. That is, a mother can pass the witchcraft substance, called bayi, onto their children during childbirth. It can be acquired from bathing in rivers that witches have recently bathed in and can also be given or bought.
The belief and fear in Ghana surrounding witchcraft has led to numerous anti-witchcraft movements. Aberewa and Tigare are two examples of such movements. These movements are categorized by oracles, who have the sole power to determine if someone contains bayi, which they can then remove from the person through ritual and/or medicine . These practices widely included both coerced confessions and trial-by-ordeal. Those found to be Witches were exiled or “cleansed” in rituals, which would oftentimes lead to death. Such mistreatments were brought to the attention of colonial leaders. Although the practice of “witch-finding” was soon outlawed, this only brought about more stigma and pressure for witches to self-identify through confession.
Despite the best efforts of many individuals through the history of Ghana, mistreatment in the name of witchcraft still persists in Ghana today. Many of those accused of witchcraft, experience physical assaults that can be fatal. These are usually committed by members of their family as a result of the familial ties that characterize Ghanaian witchcraft. Those lucky enough to survive or avoid the physical assaults are routinely exiled from their families and their communities. This practice is so common that numerous “witch camps” exist in Ghana. One such camp is Gambaga, located in northern Ghana. Originally a sanctuary to protect exiled witches from further mistreatment and murder, the situation in the camps have deteriorated due to overpopulation, making food, shelter, clothing, and medical access difficult. .
With high levels of abuse of accused witches, it becomes clear that a thorough understanding of theses cultural practices is necessary. One of the most intriguing things we find when looking at how witchcraft plays out in society, is also one of the easiest to notice: the gender of witchcraft. In Ghana, witchcraft is almost always associated with the female. Women are disproportionately accused of witchcraft and subsequently abused and mistreated. According to reports, out of the 815 people living in “witch camps”, only 13 of them were male .
While it is clear that...