12.08.2007 Feature Article

Witches, Traditional Exorcists and Progress

Witches, Traditional Exorcists and Progress
12.08.2007 LISTEN

Despite the apparent incursion of Judeo-Christian tradition into Ghanaians' spiritual life since they came into contact with the Europeans some 500 years ago, broadly, some aspects of traditional Ghanaian cultural cosmology see God as battling major evil, personified in fearlessly diabolical figures. The diabolical figures can come in all sorts of imaginations, images and physical attributes. Broadly, most of these major evil figures are interpreted as either witches or wizards.

In most traditional Ghana settings, misfortune are interpreted, cosmologically, in this sense – witches or wizards battling good, innocent people to visit all kinds of troubles on them for varied reasons, some as weird as looking good or being intelligent. The witches/evil spirits are chronic to progress; a process where in the larger progress of Ghana, has implications in poverty alleviation and democratization. Witches, wizards or evil figures have been attributed so much power of destruction that they are even feared more than God in certain traditional spiritual circles, making it difficult over the years, for some Ghanaians, no matter their education level, to extricate themselves from such believes.

It is such culture of witchcraft/evil forces that has given booming work for “Prof” Aridu Sabo Azeez, a Ghanaian-Nigerian traditional exorcist, based at a remote village in Ghana's Eastern Region. Talking to the Accra-based “The Statesman” (11/08/2007), Azeez, milking the lucrative witchcraft-exorcist business, claims he can contain “flying children killing people, a tree filled with human body parts and a pregnancy lasting for six years.” While in some aspects of traditional Ghanaian cosmology this is believable, such believes is increasingly clashing with the increasing rationalization of the world - Ghana included. I know a woman who could not give birth for some time. Some members of her Asante families thought it was the mechanizations of witches/evil spirits in her family. For some time, she and some members of her family roamed through traditional Ghana, visiting the likes of Azeez, not only to know whether witches/evil forces have blocked her womb but also get traditional healing to cure her infertility. She was tipped to access modern medicine including the use of ultra-sonic – she got pregnant.

The conundrum is how to separate the interpretation of witches/evil forces from the administer of the actual traditional medicine so as to give an enlightened sense of how the disease occurred. This monumental challenge has affected many a modern science attempts, as part of the on-going Ghanaian/African progress, to refine some of the inhibitions in traditional Ghanaian/African medicine darkened by the battle between witches/evil spirits and diseases. The riddle, as Azeez told The Statesman's Lauren Taylor, is how to scientifically explain how people allegedly “cursed by a disease or bad luck by witches and those who have acquired the powers of witchcraft themselves using it for deviancies or crime” and how this implicates on diseases. In a country where traditional medicine practitioners outnumber modern doctors, and where most Ghanaians access traditional medicine more than orthodox medicine, for obvious reasons, Ghanaians are yet to see openly at what length the two can walk together in order not only to get a sense of the two, but also, if possible, to explain, reconcile and sharpen the two to co-exist more healthily – more especially refine the excessive sway of witchcraft and other evil spirits in the interpretation of diseases by the Azeezs.

For the idea, traditionally, of exorcists, like Azeez, with all their incomprehensibly fearful accoutrements battling “the rage of witches,” gives witches/evil spirits fatalistically immense powers to cause diseases and not many a Ghanaians' sanitation and human agencies. The innocent, ignorant Ghanaian, and they are in majority, caught in the cross-current of witches/evil spirits, growing diseases, poor sanitation, and traditional exorcists, is under the heavy sway of some aspects of traditional Ghanaian cosmology that sees God battling major evil spirits, personified in fearlessly diabolical figures. This is against the backdrop of a Ghana riddled by witches and other evil spirits in the face of disturbing poverty and other “drawbacks,” as President Kufour says. Sometimes, to some degree, the traditional exorcist wrongly muddles God by telling the ignorant Ghanaian that his/her disease is a punishment from God – thus wrapping God, witches, wizards and other evil spirits together in the average Ghanaians' burden of diseases and helplessness.

Pretty much of Ghana's Judeo-Christian tradition, more so the “in-your-face, born-again” Spiritual Churches mode that have taking on a good dose of traditional Ghanaian cosmology with their preaching of witches and evil spirits responsible for this or that – is not helping matters either, a good number playing the traditional Ghanaian exorcist card by attributing diseases and other misfortunes to witches and other evil spirits. So from either traditional Ghanaian cosmology or the Judeo-Christian tradition, the hapless Ghanaian is under the barrage of evil spirits and witches that stroll the Ghanaian environment, like “Milton's defiant Lucifer,” causing diseases and misfortunes and “flying children killing people, a tree filled with human body parts and a pregnancy lasting for six years.” In such ambiance, human agencies and scientific thinking are thrown into the Gulf of Guinea, and when this happens, “Prof.” Aridu Sabo Azeez, the traditional master exorcist, battle the “rage of witches” to free Ghana from diseases and misfortunes

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