My good friend and colleague at Crooked Cat, Ailsa Abraham is my very first guest author. In order to complement the theme of dark psychological drama which runs as a thread through BREATH OF AFRICA, I commissioned her to write something about magic throughout the world – and she has done so in splendid fashion!
Magic, as opposed to religion, which is why I am not covering Wicca here. There is ample information on the internet on that subject alone if anyone cares to google it.
The most common form of magic found all around the world is shamanic. This is probably the original animist magic in which every object, tree, stone, water, air, place has a spirit. These spirits need to be propitiated. Simple example being, the river is rising and your village is threatened with flooding. Somebody has to communicate with the spirit of the river to find out how to stop this happening. An offering might be made. A practice that is harmful to the river may need to be stopped. This obviously means that a “spirit communicator” needs to be found. Hence the need for a shaman.
These people have gone by many different names in different parts of the world. The African Witch Doctor is no different from the Native American Spirit Dancer or the Latvian Shaman. Each has learned how to journey to the spirit world and communicate.
Native American Spirit Dancer
Individual spirit communication is necessary to cure someone of an illness, which of course is caused by an evil spirit having entered their body. Sometimes, while journeying, a shaman will wear a mask to hide their true identity, to stop evil spirits “following them home”.
Even in my own more mundane “hedge witchery” which is a more European form, self-protection is necessary. When working on healing a person I will take steps to make sure that negative energy (easily seen as an evil spirit) does not transfer to me and make me ill in its turn.
Divination is also seen as a form of magic. Fortune telling, palm reading, pendulum work, card reading and the interpretation of oracles are all seen as magic in some circles.
Sympathetic Magic is the expression used to describe work which uses objects to represent the desired effect. If, for example the practitioner needs to draw money to them for a specific purpose, either real coins or representations of coins might be placed with the correct spell in a specific place at the correct time.
Voodoo has a very bad name which is unjustified. The practice originated from animist religions in Africa and was brought to the Caribbean and United States by African slaves. Forced into Christianity by their owners, they continued to practice their native beliefs and because these were misunderstood and done in secret, they were perceived to be evil “black magic”. If the slaves were using their magic to try to extract some form of retribution, I don’t think they can be blamed.
Black Magic does exist but due to sensationalism in the media it has become inextricably linked in the public mind with Satanism which is a religion. Black magic is merely magic done AGAINST people instead of to help them and is generally condemned by most witches. There is a widespread belief in the West that the law of Three Fold Return guarantees that whatever is sent out by a magic user will come back to them three times stronger, good or bad.