Sunday, January 1, 2012

The presence of Black Magic in Zambia

Bethany Scott

In Lusaka, Zambia

Although Zambia is considered a Christian nation with approximately 87% of the nation proclaiming their Christian faith, there is also a strong presence of a somewhat darker faith that is known as black magic or witchcraft. After researching I was unable to find an actual number of Zambian residents who practice black magic, however through conversations that I had with our bus driver and also learning the history of black magic through “Culture and Customs of Zambia, I was able to discover that there is some sort of presence or at least awareness of the practice of black magic. Similar to voodoo that is practiced in the United States, particularly in New Orleans, black magic is a phenomenon in Zambia that is viewed as a taboo subject. When extreme good luck or bad luck is found, black magic or witchcraft is often to be blamed.

Our bus driver, Jack, tells his story about his experience with black magic

After our first visit to a traditional healer, I had my first discussion about black magic with our bus driver, Jack. Jack explained to me that a few years ago his little boy was sick. After taking him to many local doctors, there was no diagnosis to be found. With no one else to turn to, Jack decided to take his son to a traditional healer. Upon entering the room, Jack said that his son’s eyes began to roll back in his head, and he started convulsing violently. Jack rushed his boy out of the room and started to drive home. Without hesitation, the boy immediately started feeling better. Jack said that to this day his son has no recollection of the events that occurred that day.

Jack described the boy’s reaction to the traditional healer as if “the boy was trying to fight off both good and bad spirits.” Apparently, the good spirits won because the boy immediately began to feel better.

Jack also explained that wizards have the power to capture lightning and power to apparate to different locations within a matter of seconds. Sometimes wizards even pose as traditional healer, which according to Jack, can be dangerous. Unexplained phenomena such as people dying with no cause can be linked to black magic according to Jack.

Another conversation out at the bar

This is not the first conversation that I have during my time in Zambia about black magic. The other week after going out to a bar, a man tapped me on the shoulder and tried to engage in a conversation with me about black magic. He explained to me that the reason could chew glass was due to the fact that he practiced black magic.

Whether one believes in black magic or not, it is evident that it either still is or at one time was practiced in Zambia.

Bethany Scott is one of 18 Ohio University students studying abroad in Zambia with the Institute for International Journalism over Winter intercession.


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