Since the beginning of time, a man had a habit of assigning everything that happens in this world to a “higher”, “divine” power. This certainly helps us sleep better at night, not having to take responsibility for anything we did or what happened to us during the day.
From ancient times, people worshiped different gods and performed rituals that they believed could call on the spirits, ghosts, wealth, and so on. They believed that different symbols brought happiness or misfortune. They burned women who were ahead of their time and believed in supernatural powers.
As time passed and people became more and more educated, they started dismissing most of the beliefs and considered them “fairytales”.
Or perhaps not?
Even today we believe in different gods, in “higher power,” symbols, and in all places in the world there is some sort of “black magic”. In Serbia we have “Vlaska” magic, in America, it is generally known as Woodoo, while in Nigeria and other West African countries it is known as “Juju” magic.
From some personal perspective and experience, belief in supernatural forces and demons is related to the level of education. Therefore, in Nigeria where the percentage of educated people is low, people are more likely to believe in strange phenomena. Above all, they are afraid of the evil forces – the devil from the Bible, the demons, the witches, and the Juju magic.
I want to emphasize that beliefs in Juju magic and similar are much stronger in rural and non-educated parts of Nigeria. But since Nigeria is large (180 million inhabitants, remember?), it appears as if there are a lot of beliefs in supernatural powers.
Name Juju comes from the French word “joujou” which means a toy or a thing to play. Juju magic is widespread throughout Western Africa, but I will focus on my personal experiences and knowledge of Juju magic in Nigeria.
Although at the beginning juju was only part of the magic that signified the casting of a spell on a particular object, in Nigeria, it is much more than that. Most of the Nigerians are terrified of juju magic, especially those living in smaller towns and villages.
I first heard of Juju almost as soon as I came to Nigeria. Somebody mentioned it and of course, I asked what it was. They explained to me. During the years I spent here I heard a lot of stories and experienced a lot of events where juju was involved.
In one of my stories as well as on my Instagram I have mentioned that I get to travel often to one of the villages in the southeast of Nigeria. That’s where I had many opportunities to “experience” the significance of juju magic and learn a lot about it.
In this village that has neither electricity nor water nor roads, there is an entire street full of houses of Juju magicians. They openly keep signs and various bones and symbols calling for the customers to buy their services. Nails, hair and menstrual blood are used for the rituals, as well the skin of a snake or a lizard, a bone and similar; anything to give “a customer” what she/he wants.
Nigerians are very afraid of snakes and lizard. Apart from being a devil’s servant in the Bible, a snake is the most used animal for Juju magic. Lizards and wild cats follow. Various rituals and ceremonies are performed, objects are burned, and there is even Juju music (which you can listen to on Youtube) to invoke black forces.
Many use the fear of this magic to manipulate young, uneducated girls and also men to make them do what they want. Let me give you an example. I read that in some parts, in cooperation with a priest, Juju magicians manipulated young girls and promised them that they would help them go abroad and find wealth and love, with the help of magic. The girls believed blindly, gave them money and followed the instructions, until they were sex trafficked to England, Italy and other European Union countries, and further.
While I was staying in that village, I worked on a construction project and we had problems with one man who claimed that the land next to the one we were building on (and we have encroached on it), belonged to him although he did not have any papers. While we were trying to sort out the issue in a civilized and legal manner, one morning I came to the construction site and found about 300 workers gathered on the border of the two lands. When I asked them what they were doing, they showed me a sign newly built on the “neighbor’s” land with a doll-like figure and an inscription prohibiting people from coming in. They explained that it was Juju magic and that a great tragedy would hit us if we stepped on that land. I started laughing and told them to get rid of that nonsense and to continue working.
Do you believe that none of the 300 and more people, from different parts of Nigeria, belonging to different religions and tribes, wanted to remove the sign? Moreover, nobody made one step towards the land. When my colleague and I decided to remove the sign ourselves, one of the workers cried and begged me not to cross, explaining how my tongue will roll over and I will choke if I do.
No one has died nor choked, and all the tongues remained intact. Juju symbol was successfully removed without any tragedy.
In some parts of Nigeria, there is a belief that albino people are magical, especially children. They mercilessly kidnap, kill, and cut parts of the bodies of albinos to use them for magic rituals and ceremonies.
In other parts of the county, there is a belief that children who are crying too much, are possessed by demons. While some tribes make traditional scars on their faces ( by cutting or burning child’s cheeks), others kick them out on the street and leave little children to die of starvation or simply kill them themselves.
Many Nigerians believe that herdsmen from one tribe carry the magic sticks that they use to control the herd and move the herd around.
It is also believed that Nigerians with blue or green eyes are witches. This belief is sometimes extended to white people.
Juju magic is also useful. Many mothers use it to calm down and discipline their children. “Do not go there, there is juju magic in that place” and the similar.
HOW I BECAME A WITCH
Since I’m already suspicious because of my skin complexion and the color of my eyes, it was not hard for the rumor of me being a witch to begin.
A few years ago we were renovating top floors in the building where I lived. Imagine the amount of drunken and drugged workers that were there on a daily bases. Meanwhile, we had an issue with the light in the hallway, so it was absolutely dark.
One evening, while I was sitting in my apartment, I heard people climbing up the stairs in the hallway and talking. I could not see who they were, but they were climbing up and down and talking loudly. I assumed that they were some of the workers; however, I grabbed some pipe and turned on the flashlight on my phone. I opened the door as they were climbing upstairs, pointed the light towards them and asked who they were. To my great surprise, they began to run terrified, escaping from the building.
A few days later, I heard how they told everyone that they found me on the roof of the building (???), wearing black (possible, it’s my favorite color of clothes), holding a candle (???) in my hand and summoning demons. Interesting. I really want to know what they were on.
A couple of years after that incident, while we worked in the above-mentioned village on the construction project, after a turbulent day and lots of noise, I liked to climb to the top of the building and sit and meditate in complete darkness. I already mentioned that the village had no electricity, and our lighting was poor, so the sky and the stars looked fascinating. Sometimes I would do a couple of yoga poses.
I do not know who had such a great sight to see me, but the story of my nighttime witchcraft rituals that involved some strange movements (yoga, which is not known in that part of Nigeria) spread with incredible speed, and the fear of me was visibly increased. Well, I had a reputation to maintain.
Since childhood, I was fascinated by Harry Potter and similar books and stories, believed in magic, dragons, and fairies. It seems to me that my dream of becoming a witch got accidentally fulfilled. And I did not have to get any letter, nor attend the school of witchcraft and wizardry.
Do you have some interesting story about magic from your country?