Witchcraft, The Money-Spinner

charismatic worship

God is BIG business. If you don’t believe me, ask any preacher or prophet or son of God in any charismatic denomination and you’ll have your answer. You can also look no further than Mfonobong Nsehe’s profiling of the Five Richest Pastors in Nigeria . Theirs are religious franchises- think Chris Oyakhilome’s Christ Embassy, David Oyedepo’s Living Water World Outreach Ministry, etc.

The former reminds me of my varsity years when fellow-students had a knack for doing that distinctive hairstyle that looked like an entire jar of gel was used on the hair (to mimic Oyakhilome’s, I suppose) and with the latter I recall the period just before Y2K when some were happy to swap their frilly Sunday skirts for jeans to church.

The age of men and women of the cloth living near-pauper existences seems to be a thing of the past. Nsehe sums it up nicely by writing, “…while the Bible expressly states that salvation is free, at times it comes with a cost; offerings, tithes, gifts to spiritual leaders…”

For me, this brings memories of sitting in church a few months ago with about twenty Rand in my purse-my last money- wondering if it would be enough to pay for the second of two offerings in one service (plus tithe). There were also subtle threats that one’s blessings would be locked up somewhere if tithe is not paid.

On about two occasions that I sat in that church, one couldn’t help but feel as if we’d just switched on to a sales channel as the prophet brought out the big guns: A bottle of ‘holy’ perfume that he endorsed for being able to help one attract a divine partner and any other opportunity one desired. He also brought out a bottle of anointed oil, originally bottled as a combination of olive & other essential oils from Checkers. Yep, that green bottle behind the pew. No less than R 100 a pop.

As the witchcraft trilogy comes to conclusion, I am reminded of Newton’s third Law of motion; for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this instance, the belief in witchcraft, -while for years has filled the coffers of traditional/witch-doctors through individuals who sought to ‘protect’ themselves and/or cause harm to others- also created a gap in the spiritual “market” which continues to be exploited by charismatic evangelists.

Sitting among a group of people during deliverance and hearing some bizarre testimonies, as well as a conversation with a very religious friend of mine proved just how seriously witchcraft is taken. Since I couldn’t point a finger at anyone specific for my apparent ‘misfortune’ (nobody had been killed by my prayers) I had to wonder if witchcraft mechanics fear big city lights; whether they prefer to roam around in the still darkness that characterizes most villages instead.

An article by BBC Africa Live states that witchcraft has, for many years played a role in rebellions, fighting wars and possibly found its way into every nook and cranny of society. This has made the success of charismatic churches an easy one, as they laugh all the way to the bank for commodifying God and identifying a spiritual gap that conventional churches seemingly can’t fill.

Most importantly, the charismatic movement continues to appeal to the need for instant gratification that a lot of people have. For some, money is no issue if they can get their divine partner, marriage, money, or if they can get those haters off their backs. Many are attracted by the idea of attaining things they haven’t worked a day in their lives for; many are desperate for miracles. Are they any different to a person who visits a traditional doctor to achieve the same result? Is it a case of the kettle calling the pot black?

I believe that a lot of people cannot deal with their reality, especially if it turns out to be less than desirable. I also believe that one’s overall perception can be affected by that. Some resort to extreme measures, others look to faith and others remain despondent. In all situations every action has consequences.

It would be naïve for anyone to assume that there aren’t things bigger than us-(good or bad) or people who always stand to gain from others’ misfortune – yet we must always remember that the universe works in our favour once we learn to be the masters of our individual destinies.

In closing, consider this Bible verse: Matthew 7:15

 


Witchcraft, the Scapegoat

Despite the infamous Oscar Pistorius murder trial gradually shifting out of our collective psyche because we’ve just generally grown weary from all the waiting, it has served as an interesting lesson in-among other things- scapegoating.

Having browsed some texts where commentators posed the hypothetical question on what would have been had Oscar been Black; would he get the same kind of media coverage? Would he get a TV channel dedicated to him? Would he even be allowed to undergo psychiatric evaluation as an out-patient? Hell, would he have been able to afford the million bucks bail? I’d have to say that those are interesting but not particularly useful questions.

It has been rather intriguing how Pistorius has shifted the blame to everyone but himself for some of the events that have occurred in his life; from estranged friends, to the burglar in the toilet and his hand (God forbid it has a mind of its own!) for pulling the trigger. Never himself. Still, one can’t help but wonder whether a black Pistorius would have at least one more avenue to exploit. Perhaps he would believe in a third force, supernatural elements? Would he also blame witchcraft for his ‘misfortune’? Who knows!

Dwight D. Elsenhauser once said, “The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions”. Indeed it is easier for most people to shift blame to someone/thing else when backed up against a corner or when the heat gets turned up. While the assumption of responsibility forces one to take a hard look in the mirror and to confront the ugly truth, scapegoating on the other hand lends a comfortable cushion that allows the user convenient ignorance and denialism.

Human beings are interesting creatures, we love taking responsibility for all the good things that occur in our lives but rarely do the same with the undesirable, bad stuff. My last post discussed how deeply entrenched witchcraft belief is in our society (and in many other African countries as well). If you’ve been following the Farlam Commission into the Marikana massacre of 2012 you would have heard Mr “X”’s testimony about the extent to which supernatural belief played a role in the occurrence of gruesome and sadistic rituals carried out by miners in the run-up to the tragedy.

Not only did those beliefs prove fatal for security guards and policemen killed before, but ultimately for the miners themselves in believing they were invincible- a double-edged sword. There are many reasons why people believe in witchcraft, if we define witchcraft as acts of evil done purposely with the intent to harm others.

blame

However, there are two overriding factors that make the top of the list, that is, one is either successful or not. Success defined in terms of material, the reverence of community members, social status, etc. The former will believe that there are people who aren’t happy with that success and therefore will work towards causing harm or reversing this. The latter will believe that their lack of progress in life is a result of some supernatural conspiracy.

I can neither confirm nor deny. However, I can relate a personal story about being taken to a Nigerian prophet known for assisting people with these “things”. I clearly remember the look on my old man’s face as he told us of other-worldly things-stuff beyond us. It was shortly after my cousin dropped by to show us his new car.

There we were, my sister and I, in our mid-twenties (okay, late twenties in my case). Willing and able post-graduates. Unemployed. Stuck. Like hundreds of thousands of other graduates in this country. Somebody was panicking and it wasn’t either of us. I suppose witches were/are working over-time then? Never mind the socio-economic milieu or the level of corruption in our midst, there was something new we could seriously consider as the root and cause of our stagnation. It was someone else; someone close, the prophet said on our first meeting. Great!

Nervous conditions can create fertile ground for suspicion and paranoia, which may prove dangerous for people who are wrongfully accused of committing witchcraft. In the article “Victims of witch-hunts in South Africa are ignored, DamonLeff writes, “South Africa faces a growing refugee crisis as many victims of witchcraft accusation who survive assault are forcibly expelled from their communities by community leaders, traditional leaders and traditional healers, sometimes after being tried in traditional courts and found guilty through divination alone…

It is during the state of panic that a man’s character is revealed. When faced with the option of fight or flight, a lot of people choose the latter; which means we do not get the opportunity to explore the depth of our resilience…


Witchcraft: The Naked Story

I’ve been mulling over the subject of witchcraft for a while now; probably weeks on end. I guess it’s   pretty tough trying to wrap one’s head around things you’ll probably never understand. It’s worse when they are as old as time because, it would seem the more you try to understand the less you know. So, what do you do? Do you stop questioning, or keep pushing the lid? I choose the latter.

As I was sitting on a taxi headed back home one Friday evening next to an elderly woman, her phone rang, playing Umanji’s Moloi. I thought; what a rather odd song to load as a ringtone and…what a coincidence! All of this happening presented me with an uneasy predicament: I wondered whether this old woman really liked the song because of its catchy tune or that she genuinely identified with the content- that perhaps she felt vindicated by the song, somehow.

Umanji, the late South African folklore singer who was born in Zebediela, Limpopo province warns in the song “Witch” against people destroying each other unnecessarily with false assumptions. In this case, it is the idea that the witch is embodied by old; ugly and unkempt women. Conversely, he asserts that it is the college-going bunch that is beautiful and, seemingly harmless, that one must beware of.

good-and-evil-ID-10018327

The late 1990s presented South Africa with a wave of witch-hunts, especially in Limpopo. Paging through that tabloid some of us love to hate on any given day gives one the impression that it hasn’t stopped. What’s clear is that the belief in the existence of the supernatural is firmly entrenched in many corners of our country.

Described by Media for Justice as, “a publication notorious for publishing untested rumour and unexamined accusations and allegations regarding the supernatural” Daily Sun is probably (at face value) a newspaper for the guy who’s lazy to read. It is not hard to imagine the guy at the bottom of the food chain having it in hand, whether for the purpose of reading or using it as toilet paper. It takes flak in intellectual conversations, if it even makes it there in the first place. Who in the upwardly mobile department wants to be associated with ‘nonsense’?

The truth is the belief in witchcraft seeps into many spheres. Although predominant in rural areas, its reach is indiscriminate with respect to social or financial status. It goes beyond religious commitment, education or even age. Of course much of the intent of religion is to fight spiritual warfare and therefore acknowledges that evil in its many forms exists side by side with good.

The most recent case in point is that of a senior cabinet reportedly embroiled in a messy divorce with his ex-wife. According to The Times, accusations of witchcraft and/or the “causing of witchcraft practices and rituals to be conducted” in their home were levelled against the respondent.

Now, I’ll have to admit that I’ve laughed off some rather absurd-sounding things like people being able to purchase lightning and other sinister things  destined for unsuspecting victims for as little as fifty bucks from openly public places like taxi ranks.

But some of the stories I have heard among peers and old folk alike can make for some chilling experience and quickly dampen the mood. One person recounted how they witnessed someone stark naked in another’s house in the dead of night. Manala, MJ explains that “The essence of witchcraft and sorcery is the causing of harm to persons or property by invisible means”. So “go tshwarega” is an expression describing a perceived witch being caught in the act, and possibly not being able to flee the scene. It is common belief that witches turn against their own people as opposed to strangers and driven by envy, malice and jealousy.

In all respects it is not easy to gauge the extents to which people can go when they feel that life has dealt them unfair blows in comparison to others. Therefore, it is easy to dismiss the belief in witchcraft as nothing more than unfounded accusations and rumours that could be averted by educating certain groups of people. Unfortunately, the issue runs far deeper and has created other societal challenges like ritual killings for muti and the sale of body parts.

It makes one realise that just because you don’t believe in something doesn’t mean it does not exist. In the same breath, it’s all the more clear that whatever one believes manifests. Such irony…

 

 

 

 


A Step Back In Time

A love letter from Napolean Bonaparte to his love Joséphine de Beauharnais:

 

I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil.

Sweet incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart!

Yielding to the profound feelings which overwhelm me, I draw from your lips, from your heart a love which consumes me with fire?

Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire.

 

Now, I know Valentine’s has passed its sell-by date for this year therefore cheapskates amongst us will have to wait next year to buy fake roses, illustrious mugs and other frivolous novelties. Imagine that; a freakin’ coffee mug in the middle of summer?! Well, that’s just life.

Anyway that’s beside the point. The past week or so has been an interesting one, especially because it gave me a bit of faith that chivalry (and I’m not referring to the wholesale hogwash we have to endure on February 14th) hasn’t kicked the bucket- just yet.

So I recently witnessed an acquaintance receive a stunning bunch of red roses on a crisp Monday morning. We’ll just keep guessing why because these days we are told that nothing’s for mahala (free) but at least two things can be ruled out. It wasn’t Valentine’s and it wasn’t her birthday. So, there is at least one guy out there in the universe who knows his thing. The brother deserves a Bell’s!

As it would occur, I hadn’t the faintest idea the following day would have a surprise in store for moi. Yes. A neatly folded love letter pushed under my door awaited me as I arrived from the office: The kind of letter that would put the likes of monsieur Bonaparte to shame. Hand-written. Check. Cheesy poem. Check. I solemnly swear my intention is not to make fun of anybody, least of all the guy who wrote that (long) note.

famous_love_letters

I reckon it’s a special thing to be the recipient of a hand-written, properly thought-out letter in this day and age. I suppose the most probable reason it ended up under my door is because someone didn’t have my digits, otherwise I could have easily received a text to this effect: “I DIG U” –or something similar- in my inbox.

All that cheesy stuff left me rather red in the face. The sort of admiration that drives people to leave notes in strategic places can be sweet but a little…unsettling. It did take me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane when letter writing was still in style. That was way back when one would write the same letter over and over again, ensuring the penmanship was faultless. Perhaps you would sprinkle a little cheap body spray there for added effect, to enhance daydreaming.

It brought back memories of mother scolding me in primary school after she had found a letter from a boy in my dress pocket. Even of a time when another boy, in middle school got his cousin to write me sweet nothings inside a Sanlam card. So priceless.

Susan Tardanico writes that, “as human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication”. More importantly, Tardanico emphasizes that with all the powerful social technologies at our disposal, we are more connected –and potentially more disconnected- than ever before.

And so my response to my new found admirer was a simple, “writing is not old-fashioned”. In fact, it is a breath of fresh air from the hybrid texting that we have comfortably adopted into every sphere of life. Hand-writing is one of those things we take for granted when it could easily tell a story about an individual. It can reveal if they are clumsy, hasty or careful, thoughtful and neat. The only thing we are able to tell is whether someone is lazy or not, determined by whether they’ll type “Um cumn ta C U” or “I am coming to see you”. Then again, we care very little about anything these days!

 

 


Vusi Nova – Nguwe

Definitely one of my favourite tracks at the moment. Adding that to my music library no doubt.

May Love and Light be the overriding features in your lives!

Happy Friday folks!


Vat en Sit- ‘Way to Go?

LR COHABITATION PH

One of the lessons shared by veteran actor Jerry Mofokeng and wife Claudine on marriage recently is that, in order for the institution of marriage to weather the storms, two parties need to be friends. Reminiscent of Mpharanyane’s  “Nka nako ho mo tseba” (take time to know her), they made it clear that getting to know one another is an integral part of that process.

Now, I don’t know how folks way back in the day did their thing with the absence of mobile phones, social media and all. While long, elaborate and imaginative letters bridged the gap between lovers; the most probable assumption is that older generations didn’t get to really know one another until they were married.

The contrast would be stark if one had to compare a typical 27 year-old like me, even 40 year-olds’ state of mind in present day to individuals of the same age 60 years ago. Our priorities are completely different.  Sometimes one has to admit that the current generation behave in a manner that suggests that they might live forever. However, that isn’t another suggestion that we must then pursue unfulfilling lives plagued by scores of kids or general frustration or being black-mailed into making a home with someone we don’t have affection for. We have all the liberties that past generations could only dream of.

One of the liberties that we have grabbed and ran with is that of co-habitation or in common terms, vat en sit. They say good relationships are “built upon knowing and enjoying each other on social, recreational, spiritual, intellectual and communicative levels”. Yes, and of course the sexual levels! For some people, cohabiting is a necessary litmus test on how to proceed with a relationship.

Obviously this is at odds with older generations who find the rationale of demo’ marriages disrespectful because the absence of a formal agreement between two families to unite two people means that, in the legal sense, there is no leg to stand on. Again, what parent wants to have a constant “returned soldier” on their door-step because she simply isn’t cutting it?

It begs the question; how long does it take to really get to know someone? I hear the going rate is two years, which is when some people will start contemplating marriage. Then again, we all probably know people who have cohabited for five, ten, and fifteen…donkey years! What the hell does that mean? They are comfortable or complacent? God forbid, they are still getting to know each other!

The truth is that women who go into a vat en sit situation often than not aspire to marriage. Whether men aspire to same is the million rand question. Armed with tunnel vision into the happily-ever- after with the stop nonsense and 2.5 kids, many soon learn that there are no guarantees in life. They soon realize that rather than becoming a catalyst for marriage, cohabitation puts it all in slow motion.

Take it from someone who in her early twenties dabbled in a bit of shacking up. I became so engrossed with cleaning up after a varsity sweetheart; gaily doing his laundry, cooking his meals and dishing out good nookie. The reality of the relationship collapsing hit home very hard. When we recently gathered to celebrate the shot-gun nuptials of my 57 year-old uncle; a bona fide hard-core bachelor for ever, another opportunity to assess cohabitation presented itself.

He did not marry his long-time live-in partner whom he had been with for thirteen years. He did not marry the woman that enjoyed a close relationship with the family or the one who dutifully attended family gatherings and was at his hospital bedside on his sick occasions. No. He married someone he introduced at Christmas a few months before. I rest my case.

Isn’t it so easy to take such things for granted?

 

 

 


Roses are Red, Baby Not so Cute…

aifo

Ever wondered what some people looked like as children? That moneyed boyfriend of yours who isn’t such a looker, maybe? You are probably pouting and declaring, “Looks aren’t everything!”

Well, of course not! How about that girlfriend of yours whose looks resemble those of a certain police chief? Oops! She’s wife material, you say: Whatever makes you sleep at night, man.

One of my aunts usually says that in her eyes, all babies look the same. To be blunt, she won’t be caught dead cooing babies. Perhaps in a bid not to ‘over-do’ things she’ll cuddle the child briefly and hand them over to the next person.

During a recent family gathering, one of my cousins caught her dangling a set of keys over a six month-old’s face –trying to be playful. The latter was not going to let it go and teased my aunt for  daring to do that in this “day and age”.

Anyway, I’m not too sure I agree with her sentiment. In fact, I totally disagree! Babies are NOT the same and as much as they all are born looking like they have just survived a spin in a tumble-dryer; let’s be careful not to make sweeping statements here.

Every parent (some more than others) thinks their child is beautiful, intelligent and smart, etc. That is a wonderful thing because under no circumstances should a child be made to feel that his/her parent is not proud of them.

At the same time most mothers want to hear that their new additions are adorable; I clearly remember taking offense when my best friend took surprise at my daughter’s otherwise large nose soon after birth. I was ready to disown people when comments like, “ngwana wa gago ga a na nko” (your daughter has a small nose) came from relatives.

But, shall we be brutally honest for a second? How many times have you been caught in the dilemma between saying absolutely nothing about how someone’s child looks and telling a white lie? Of course the former is NEVER an option if one doesn’t want to build a database of “frienemies” (friendly enemies), because you couldn’t at least muster a, “Ah, baby’s sooo cute!”

Attention comes ever so naturally with some babies and one can tell by how effortlessly they get people wrapped around their little pinkies like it ain’t sh*t, “All in a day’s work mama… I got this!” Someone would have to eventually step in and save the poor child from being cuddled, bounced up and down; smooched and harassed. With other babies, well…

Just the other day, I encountered a photo of a child of someone known to me and it took me a while before concluding that the child looked ‘interesting’. Shall we leave it at that? Not. I mean, I couldn’t help delving into all sorts of political correctness and usual over-analysis.

You’ve probably seen those kids that look like they are grown-up already; like they’ll tell you where to get off if you try and coo them? It’s worse if they have burdensome names like Amos and Albino at such tender ages. Dammit!

Honestly, sometimes one hopes for a moth turning into a butterfly type of situation for these little souls because playtime can be nightmarish when you are teased about your looks as a child. We all want to churn out ‘beautiful’ babies; which isn’t entirely up to us.

I not only refer to women because as it would occur, men secretly pray for sons who make the girls cry; are competitive and tough. Our biggest task as parents is to build character into the souls we give life to in order for them to be assertive and self-assured, with a healthy self-image.

 

 

 


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