Wednesday, January 06, 2016

"African Science"

The Liberian Observer's editorial today is on witchcraft. The author takes it as given that this is perfectly real. The story inspiring the editorial says "At the Tokay Hill Community in Ganta, hundreds of residents turned out yesterday to witness the confessions, which were done publicly without the help of witchdoctors." Although witchdoctors were involved:
A witchdoctor dug out a sealed pot from the home of one of the accused and some pieces of chalk owned by Yei Luolay of Nenghen Town near Ganta.

According to her confession, Yei Luolay said the pot is used to cook their human victims and sometimes they place anything taken from their victims into the pot in order to suppress their progress in life, either preventing them from bearing a child, blocking their luck or making them face perpetual hardships.
The confession took place in the presence of the National Traditional Council of Liberia’s General Inspector, herbalist Orando Z. Tuayen.

"A Guinean herbalist, Zoe Konah, who was brought from Guinea to oversee the confessions, said most of the inhabitants of Nenghen Town were involved in witchcraft." Hmm. I'm not sure what to make of that--it could be self-serving "You still need my services," or he could be using a broad definition of witchcraft that picks up local pagan traditions, or maybe the town really is heavily into trying to do magic.

Someone (Lewis?) said that the fact that we didn't hang witches anymore didn't mean we were more morally pure than those who did, it just meant we didn't believe in them anymore. These folks do, and have an interesting approach to dealing with it: "Witchcraft is very common in Nimba County where hundreds of alleged witches are taken to Dahnplay, a town in Buu Yao, every month to take oaths intended to prevent them from practicing witchcraft."

"African science" is their phrase, not mine.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I believe it was Lewis, yes. It's hard to look up, however, because the field is so crowded with those who insist that he leads us into the occult and away from Biblical teaching. I have mentioned it before, attributing it to Lewis without being specific. That might explain your association without being able to pin it down. I'm guessing Mere Christianity. It seems similar to his thought that the belief in magic and occult grew up at the same time as the sciences, and from the same source. A cousin.

We would certainly attempt to punish in some way a neighbor who was doing harm to our crops or children from a distance, just as much today as in the period 1400-1700. In fact, in certain types of environmentalism, we can expect this to increase.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Ah! Found it moments later, as it is his Wikipedia entry. It is indeed from Mere Christianity. "I have met people who exaggerate the differences, because they have not distinguished between differences of morality and differences of belief about facts. For example, one man said to me, "Three hundred years ago people in England were putting witches to death. Was that what you call the Rule of Human Nature or Right Conduct?" But surely the reason we do not execute witches is that we do not believe there are such things. If we did – if we really thought that there were people going about who had sold themselves to the devil and received supernatural powers from him in return and were using these powers to kill their neighbours or drive them mad or bring bad weather, surely we would all agree that if anyone deserved the death penalty, then these filthy quislings did. There is no difference of moral principle here: the difference is simply about matter of fact. It may be a great advance in knowledge not to believe in witches: there is no moral advance in not executing them when you do not think they are there. You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house."

james said...

Thanks! I knew it had to be somewhere among the regulars.