History of Witchcraft:

African Witchcraft

Southern African Traditions

African witchcraft spreads across the continent and can be found in over 50 nations. There are many belief systems and practices included that are related to areas of witchcraft and Shamanism. However Christian missionaries have wiped out countless indigenous traditions alongside many people viewing the practice as evil. Witches are still burned for practicing witchcraft in some countries, generally by cultural practice.

In Southern Africa, there are three classifications for a witch; the Tagati, Sangoma, and Inyanga. The Tagati is often improperly translated into English as “witch”. They are defined as a spiteful person who operates in secret to harm others. The Sangoma is a diviner and shaman, like a fortune-teller that often detects illness, predicts or advised a person’s future, identifies a guilty party in a crime, and practices medicine. The Inyanga, usually translated as “witch doctor”, heals illness and injury through the practice of herbalism and naturopathy. They also provide customers with magical items for everyday use. The Tagati are almost exclusively female, the Sangoma are usually female, and Inyanga are almost exclusively male. In the past, “witch smellers” among the Zulu and Bantu speaking peoples were responsible for finding evil witches in the area, which would lead to bloodshed. In the present day, their role has waned and their activities are illegal.

The Tswana tribe of southern Africa believe there are two types of witches: day sorcerers and night witches. Day sorcerers use magic to inflict harm through the use of herbs and other medicines. Night witches are usually older women who gather in small groups and travel together to bewitch the unfortunate. 


african voodoo mask

Vodoun (or the anglicized Voodoo) is a traditional monotheistic organized religion of coastal West Africa, from Nigeria to Ghana. It has been present for more than ten thousand years and has roots in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and East Africa. It also spread to India, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. The Vodoun tradition has a single divine creator that embodies a dual cosmogenic principle, with a female (the moon) and the male (the sun). They also have a complex hierarchy of other lesser spirits known as the Loa (or the Lwa). Members of this tradition believe pleasing these gods will bring them good health, wealth and spiritual contentment. Rituals of Voudoun involve dancing and drumming and can also include animal sacrifice. Symbols called veves, are drawn into various powders and are used to call the Loa to the ritual.

Modern Persecution

Unfortunately, there is still a decent amount of persecution and violence directed towards those who practice African witchcraft. In some Central African areas, malicious magic uses are believed to be the “source” of terminal illnesses. The local community typically uses forms of abuse to get rid of the person and discourage others from interacting with people believed to be witches. In recent years there have been several mobs that have been responsible for burnings of suspected witches in Ghana, Keyna, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.