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QUEENIEKE Women Yoga Leggings Workout Pants Running Peach Hip Size S Color Black
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IUGA High Waist Yoga Pants with Pockets, Tummy Control, Workout Pants for Women 4 Way Stretch Yoga Leggings with Pockets (Capri 7881 Black, Small)
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- ***ATTENTION*** Please ensure the leggings that you are purchasing are "Sold by IUGA" and "Fulfilled by Amazon". Products from SELLERS OTHER THAN "IUGA" are not The Same Fits, Colors, Fabrics and Qualities. And please be notified that so far we still haven't authorized any third parties to sell "IUGA" products.
Witchcraft in African Religions
A closer look at the social and spiritual implications of being a woman within African religions.
The explanation of women as witches can be attributed to a strong belief in magic and invisible forces in African religions. Although often seen in a negative light, there are some positive and necessary aspects of the belief in magic in these African religious communities. This belief in magic is essential to the make of these various religions that focus deeply on creating stability and harmony within the current world. According to John S. Mbiti, belief in magic and "belief in these mystical powers helps people to find explanations when things go wrong" (Mbiti 168). Essentially, just like every other human in the world, followers of African religions look for explanations and reasons for inexplicable life situations. Furthermore, as Mbiti explains, "By putting the blame on the practice of magic or sorcery or witchcraft by someone in the community, people are able to reach an answer which appears to them satisfactory. Such an answer harmonizes with the view of the universe which recognizes that there are many invisible forces at work and that some of them are available to human beings" (Mbiti 168). Again, Mbiti emphasizes the importance placed on any invisible forces governing the universe. He further explains that the communities need these beliefs and that "the belief becomes the factor for stabilizing relations among relatives, neighbors, and members of the community" (Mbiti 168). The belief, and sometimes fear, of these magical forces creates a sense of responsibility for each person to uphold their morals and duties within society. It keeps people from offenses like stealing, rudeness, committing crimes, or even deliberately offending someone.
However, the belief in, and use of, magic does not always provide a positive outcome within African religious communities. According to Mbiti, "These mystical forces of the universe are neither evil nor good in themselves, they are just like other natural things at man's disposal" (Mbiti 166). Essentially, these forces are inherently neutral until they are placed in the hands of humankind. Therefore, although African peoples believe in the positive attributes of mystical forces, they understand that if placed in the wrong hands, these forces can be used in malice and in order to create harm. Additionally, although these religious communities are focused on creating harmonious relationships throughout their lives, there is bound to be conflict. According to Benjamin Ray, "in a kinship-based society, evil is self-willed individualism which exploits society for personal ends" (Ray 151). His explanation is that those who think in terms of benefiting themselves rather than benefiting society as a whole upset the cosmic balance within the community. In other words, these mystics forces in which Africans so strongly belief are not inherently evil. It is only when they enter into the hands of the malice individual that these forces produce harm.
Witchcraft is the most common manifestation of these evil and malice forces at work. When something in a community goes wrong, people need an explanation as to why it happened. According to Ray, the belief in witchcraft "attempts to explain the inexplicable and to control the uncontrollable - undeserved misfortune, death, and illness" (Ray 150). However, often it is not even enough to simply have an explanation; they need someone to blame for the wrongdoing. Women are most often connected to the role of witchcraft in communities because they "are considered to be more emotional than men and thus as more susceptible to spirit possessions" (Peach 302). Because of a woman's close link to nature and the earth itself, they are seen as possessing strong powers. According to Peach while these powers within women are often respected, there is the more common view that "their powers are...mysterious and uncontrolled, polluting, and a potential threat to be controlled, especially in order to prevent disorder or misfortune" (Peach 302). Similar to so many other religions, women are seen as having respectable powers that they are unable to properly control without the enforcement of the community and men. By placing women in the role of witches, they are automatically a threat to the community and something that must be controlled for the sake of the greater society.
The specific institution of witchcraft within African religions has many different forms and methods. As with any other aspect of African religion, there are different methods within every different tribe or community. However, there are some distinct and common themes and behaviors among witches that seem to run throughout all communities within these African religions. According to Parrinder, "Women are the most prone to suspicion of witchcraft. In some parts of Africa all witches are believed to be female, and in others the most dangerous are" (Parrinder 131). Furthermore, "Many African peoples think that all or most witches are women, and that the mother passes down her witchcraft to her daughter, but it is not inherited by her sons" (Parrinder 124). Men are completely overlooked in these descriptions of witches, as most African religious tribes view the role of witchcraft as uniquely possessed by women. The only mention of men partaking in witchcraft comes from one specific tribe where it is said that "The Nupe of Nigeria think that men also can be witches, but they are not so dangerous as the female of the species" (Parrinder 124). Again, although men are included in this description, they are barely mentioned whereas the impact of women in witchcraft is amplified and portrayed as something to fear.
The practice of witchcraft among women is not simply seen as a choice of behavior or social tendency. It is seen as an ulterior world, one that goes against all of the sacred teaching of African religion. Ray makes an interesting point when he states that "The world of witches is not just a different world; it is a mirror world, a complete reversal of the original sacred order" (Ray 150). Witchcraft is inherently evil, and unlike other more acceptable uses of magic within African religions, witches are seen as more dangerous because of their ability to affect people without using any outside sources. Specifically, according to Ray, "Witches inherit their power and need not use any special means, such as sacred objects, to employ it" (Ray 151). Essentially, witches are thought to be able to fulfill their desires simply by thinking negatively about someone or something. Most people believe that "witches act from envy or jealousy and use their power to cause illness and kill" (Ray 151). Almost unanimously, witchcraft among women is seen as something dangerous and something that needs to be controlled by the more powerful religious figures within the society.
The taboo among African religions against women in witchcraft is only deepened when a witch's methods are discussed. The most commonly shared belief among African religious groups is that witches act at night. There are countless descriptions of witches' methods that include performing their duties under the veil of darkness. Several writers have described a witch's methods stating that "they act at night, disobey relatives, break sexual dietary taboos, dwell in the bush, and pronounce curses" (Ray 150)...that "the spirit of the witches leaves them at night and goes to eat away the victim, thus causing him to weaken and eventually die" (Mbiti 167).... and also that "the principle behind all witchcraft belief is that the witch sends out her soul, to prey on other sleeping souls, and to meet with fellow-witches in some remote place" (Parrinder 125). Although the activities themselves vary, every encounter deals with witches working at night. Darkness is often associated with evils, so it makes perfect sense that these women work at night to achieve their goals.
Additionally, there are other methods described that do not specifically entail working at night. Witches are seen as secretive and crafty and, other than working in the dark, witches are known to harm through other means. According to Mbiti, "It is believed that a witch uses incantations, words, rituals, and magic objects to inflict harm on the victim. To do this she may use nails, hair, clothes, or other possessions of the victim which she burns, pricks, or wishes evil to. The belief is that by inflicting harm on what once belonged to a person, that person is automatically harmed" (Mbiti 167). This passage is important in that it shows that witches require a rather close relationship to the person they are harming in order to obtain their personal belongings. It is widely known throughout African religions that witches and evil magic are not generally used towards strangers but are used towards some of the people closest to the witch. For instance, "If there is a dispute between neighbors or relatives, one party may want to get rid of the other by means of mystical forces" (Mbiti 168). Familial and community ties make anyone susceptible to the punishments of a witch.
Understandably, due to the presence of witches within these African religions, there is a need to counteract their evil wrong doings. According to Parrinder, "The male role is to combat witchcraft and keep women in subjection" (Parrinder 131). In almost every African religion, those who are responsible for this duty are almost always men, further empowering men and distinguishing women as more susceptible to evil forces. Accused witches are forced to undergo a number of situations to prove their innocence or guilt. According to Parrinder, "Accused witches are often made to submit to an ordeal to test their guilt or innocence. This may consist of some semi-poisonous matter to be swallowed" (Parrinder 127). Additionally, "The accused witches had to drink a reddish soapy medicine out of bottles...The witches also had to surrender their horn of witchcraft, and if they denied having any their houses would be searched" (Parrinder 127). Essentially, these techniques are used to force women into submission and allow the community to scapegoat a specific person for any conflict or wrongdoing. It's important to note however, that these people in these religious communities fully believe that they are warding out evildoers and helping to sustain their communities. They do not actively scapegoat a specific person in order to solve a problem.
However, there were certain times when women refused to confess to any participation in witchcraft. Again, certain situations were put into place to decide innocence or guilt or to force a confession. According to Parrinder,
"A woman who refused to confess was made to pass through an ordeal. She had to bring a fowl, some gin, and some money. The gin was poured on the altar, and the fowl had its throat half severed. It would run about and finally collapse, the way in which it lay showing guilt or innocence. If it fell on its back with breast upwards that was proof of innocence. If the ordeal was unfavourable the first time, that woman could try again, on payment of fees. Most women confessed, some willingly, some under threats. A few were beaten to death for their obdurate protestations of innocence. (Parrinder 129)"
Although certain women opted to undergo this treatment to uphold their dignity and innocence, many more women found it easier to simply confess than to undergo this treatment. Most often people would rather accuse the woman of guilt and have an answer to the cause of a problem than seek out the truth and innocence for her.
Essentially, there are mystical forces practiced in every religion, by any gender. The fact that magic is an integral part of life is not the most important aspect. What is important is the intense gender identification with being a witch. In almost every African religion, witches are almost always classified as being women. It's important to understand the societal factors that go behind instating such a taboo against women. By signifying women as witches, they are lowered in society and certain rights are removed from them. The institution of witches follows a long path of the subordination of women in African religions. According to Nadel, "Witchcraft accusations thus act as a releasing mechanism for tensions inherent in the system of social relations" (Nadel 407). By allowing women to be blamed for the ills of the community, many in the community are comforted that the evils in their community are being done away with.
Even worse, women are often linked to witchcraft based on specific bodily functions that are biologically inherent to the female body. According to Peach, "Women are often linked to witchcraft, especially in relation to infertility and adultery, and regulated by menstrual and pregnancy taboos" (Peach 302). By using women as a scapegoat simply because of their biological functions, men are able to create a stigma surrounding some of life's most important natural traits. Women cannot help these biological characteristics and often cannot explain their significance, so it is easy for men to subordinate them based on these issues. Using witchcraft as an explanation for these characteristics associates the female body with evil forces on the earth.
It is important to note that although witchcraft is often given a negative connotation by those who study African religion, we must remember that it might also be a very empowering factor in women's lives. Although often associated with evil forces, witchcraft might provide a community for women who are often excluded from any significant role in traditional African religious rituals. However, there is a clear segregation created through the institution of witchcraft within African religions. Similarly to almost every other religion throughout the world, these women are subordinated and segregated, leaving the men in charge to deal with the running of both the community and the religious aspects of life.
Mbiti, John S. Introduction to African Religion. New York: Heinemann International Inc., 1991.
Nadel, S. F. "Witchcraft in Four African Societies: An Essay in Comparison." Cultures and Societies of Africa. By Pheobe Ottenburg. Ed. Simon Ottenburg. New York: Random House.
Parrinder, Edward. African Traditional Religion. London: Hutchinson's University Library.
Peach, Lucinda J. Women and World Religions. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.
Ray, Benjamin C. African Religions : Symbol, Ritual, and Community. New York: Prentice Hall P, 1976.