Thursday, July 28, 2011
Witches and Witch Doctors
Tidbits you may or may not know about Malagasy witches:
1. Witches can turn bandits into rats, if they are being pursued. This actually works in favor of the bandits, as no one can catch them as rats.
2. Witches get their power from the ancestral spirits (principalities of the dark).
3. Witches learn how to be witches by training with another witch or having a dream that tells them how to be one.
4. Witches can be male or female (same for witch doctors).
5. Witches are the reason people don’t like to walk at night because they jump on people and ride on their backs, controlling them, until the person collapses in exhaustion or death.
My Malagasy friends were filling me in on all things witches, the other day, on the way to the village of Amandrovany. It seems everyone has a witch story that has happened to a friend (or friend of a friend of a friend). Upon arriving in the village, I found my old friend Dada Be (a witch doctor) confused about the origins of “his” power and, sadly, having no clue what is going to happen to him when he dies. He thinks this lack of understanding is both normal and unavoidable.
People come from hours away to bring Dada Be to their houses because he gets possessed by a spirit that can heal broken bones. If they can’t bring him to their house, they bring a small container for his spit; because they believe even that has healing qualities.
Dada Be is tired, mostly deaf, and knows he is close to death. He would like to pass this spirit onto his grandson, but his grandson is unsure. He is hesitant to accept the spirit because the process of passing it from one person to another involves a bone needing to be broken in his own family. Dada Be believes the spirit is good, because it instructs him in dreams and tells him not to accept money for the healing services. When I ask him what the spirit tells him about Jesus, he won’t answer. When I ask him what he believes about God, he can’t/won’t say. He just admits, “I have no idea what will happen to me when I die.”
I know that God came “to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). This is good news that I couldn’t keep inside. I shared the gospel with him and he looked at me, blankly. After a minute, he hobbled over to get more wood for the fire. He understood the words, but not that this is life-changing truth. “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5).