Primitive superstition rears its ugly head yet again…


The BBC reports:

Armed with a sharp knife, a megaphone and dressed all in black, Gbenga Adewoyin could have passed for a medieval witch hunter, a herbal salesman or an urban preacher as he walked around a market in the south-western Nigerian city of Ibadan.

Those curious enough to get close in the Gbagi market quickly dispersed when they heard his message. “Anyone that can provide any evidence for the existence of the supernatural, be it juju or voodoo magic, will be offered 2.5m naira ($6,000, £4,650),” he announced repeatedly in Yoruba and English.

The 24-year-old atheist has recently emerged as a rebel publicly contesting the powers of the supernatural in this deeply religious country.

Belief in African traditional religions and its juju components are widespread in Nigeria … Many Nigerians believe that magic charms can allow humans to morph into cats, protect bare skins from sharp blades and make money appear in a clay pot.

These beliefs are not just held by the uneducated, they exist even at the highest level of Nigeria’s academia.

Dr Olaleye Kayode, a senior lecturer in African Indigenous Religions at the University of Ibadan, told the BBC that money-making juju rituals – where human body parts mixed with charms makes money spew out of a pot – really work.

The naira notes that supposedly appear “are gotten by spirits from existing banks”, he told the BBC.

Jude Akanbi, a lecturer at the Crowther Graduate Theological Seminary in Abẹ́òkúta, is also unequivocal about juju.

“This ability to be able to transform yourself to [a] cat, to disappear and reappear, these things are possible within the dynamics of traditional African religion.

“Although [it] sounds illogical, like old wives’ tales, however from what we have seen and heard, these things are possible,” he said.

Such beliefs, especially that human body parts and charms can produce money from a clay pot, have led to a recent wave of gruesome murders in the country, with single women often the victims.

. . .

“If money ritual worked, we would have seen a massive inflation in the economy for the decades that we have believed in it,” Mr Adewoyin told the BBC.

He was in Ibadan, Oyo state, on the second of three planned in-country tours offering 2.5m naira, crowd-funded via Twitter, to anyone that can publicly demonstrate these juju powers.

“The knife is for anyone that claims their juju makes them blade-proof,” he said.

There’s more at the link.

We’ve spoken of widespread primitive animist superstition among Africans on several prior occasions, including the murder and mutilation of albinos to obtain their body parts and organs for use in making “muti” (“medicine);  the “smelling out” and murder of witches, which has led to the establishment of protected villages where those accused of witchcraft can live under police protection (without which they’d be killed);  and even cannibalism.

Trouble is, many Africans – possibly a majority – still make use of witchcraft in their own interests.  I’ve personally witnessed the latter on numerous occasions.  They may be afraid of it being used against them, but they’ll gladly make use of it against others.

We in the First World need not feel superior to them.  When a mainstream newspaper like the New York Post runs articles about astrology and its influence on people (such as, for example, this one) and publishes daily astrology forecasts, it’s demonstrating just as much superstition and credulity as those believing in witchcraft in Africa.  I wish it wouldn’t, but I guess at least some of its readers like it – so we’re stuck with it.




  1. Two comments.

    1. That rate of exchange $6000 USD = 2.5 million naira works out to over 400 naira to 1 USD
    When I was there on oil company business in the early 90s, the official bank exchange rate was 20 naira to 1 USD,
    with the black market rate often 30 naira to 1 USD.
    Inflation rears its ugly head…

    2. The Lagos Sheraton always had "bush meat" in the buffet line.
    I declined to participate.

    That said, I often worked in Africa during the next two decades, and I enjoyed my trips to various countries there.
    (Knowing I had a guaranteed escape back home…)
    I've got plenty of Africa stories, so I always enjoy your and other's Africa tales.

  2. I agree that we in the First World can't feel superior to them, when professors in our medical schools actually apologize for saying that "only women can get pregnant"!

  3. Women may have penises is another illogical belief, regrettably being accepted by people who do know better (but want to keep their jobs).

    Failing civilizations often descend into madness near the end days.

  4. Wait a minute.

    You mean to tell me those alien signals I tune with my tooth fillings aren't real? And certain planet-star alignment doesn't really mean that at just the right moment I won't become a billionaire?

    I am crushed. Whatever will I do?


  5. It doesn't take much for most humans to find an excuse to murder someone or something. Different cultures just couch it in different fables.

  6. Sure we can feel superior to them. We are, in point of historical fact, superior to them in just about every way imaginable. The exact same applies to any newspaper from New York. Doesn't really matter what color the idiots are that run them. The lesson is that at least half the people you meet every day are morons statistically.
    You know, those on the left side of the normal IQ curve. Review your George Carlin.

  7. Humans are capable of believing anything they want to believe. That's how we have such insane concepts as suicide bombers.
    The caution I always extend to myself and anyone else is that the smarter you are, the more subject you are to confirmation bias, because you'll be better able to find it. So about anything I read about current events, the first question I ask is "And you WANT to believe this WHY?" With massive spin and disinformation from every direction, epistemology, logic, and critical analysis has much to teach us.

  8. I believe the clay pot= money is true. How else could the Nigerian prince have made so much money that he is willing to share it with me if I send him my banking information?

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