Entries in Witchcraft (2)


Namibia’s ‘Dog-Headed Pig Monster’ Spurs Witchcraft Debate

Hemera/Thinkstock(OSHANA, Namibia) -- What residents in a rural African village report about a mysterious white beast with a dog-like head and backside resembling a large swine is frightening -- not because the creature will harm them, but because superstition and accusations surrounding the beast could lead them to harm each other.

“This must be the work of black magic,” an official in the Oshana region of northern Namibia told the Informante newspaper.

Regional Councilor Andreas Mundjindi said residents have spotted the beast chasing dogs and goats, and a young man said it tried to attack him as he walked home.

Several residents said they are now too scared to walk alone. One theory has it that the beast may have come from the home of a local elderly man.

“Everyone believes it is his beast and even he knows that we think so,” an unnamed resident told Informante.

Accusations like that can have serious consequences in Namibia and throughout sub-Saharan Africa where elderly people are often accused of practicing the “old ways,” or witchcraft.  Thousands have been forced to flee for their lives, and many do not survive.  Across the continent, there are frequent reports of people accused of witchcraft being murdered by family members, neighbors or frenzied mobs.

“In most cases it is a quarrel or jealousy or just superstition that drives this,” said Phepsile Maseko of the Traditional Healers Organization based in South Africa.  "When people are poor and uneducated they tend to focus on the witchhunt when there is any type of problem.”

Maseko said the widely-held belief in “black magic” in Africa can be a problem for her organization’s members who are sometimes accused of being “witch doctors” because they practice ancient, indigenous forms of medicine.

Maseko believes better education and more legal protections are needed to end witchcraft-related violence in Africa.  Until then, when strange things happen -- or are just rumored to have happened -- she fears more innocent people will be hurt.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Saudi Woman Beheaded for 'Witchcraft'

Hemera/Thinkstock(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) -- A Saudi woman was beheaded after being convicted of practicing "witchcraft and sorcery," according to the Saudi Interior Ministry, at least the second such execution for sorcery this year.

The woman, Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassar, was executed in the northern Saudi province of al-Jawf on Monday.

A source close to the Saudi religious police told Arab newspaper al Hayat that authorities who searched Nassar's home found a book about witchcraft, 35 veils and glass bottles full of "an unknown liquid used for sorcery" among her possessions. According to reports, authorities said Nassar claimed to be a healer and would sell a veil and three bottles for 1500 riyals, or about $400.

According to the ministry, Nassar's death sentence was upheld by an appeals court and the Saudi Supreme Judicial Council.

Philip Luther, the interim direct of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program, condemned Nassar's killing, calling it "deeply shocking."

"The charges of 'witchcraft and sorcery' are not defined as crimes in Saudi Arabia and to use them to subject someone to the cruel and extreme penalty of execution is truly appalling," Luther said.

Luther said that a charge of sorcery is often used by the Saudi government as a smokescreen under which they punish people for exercising freedom of speech.

Nassar was not the first person to be executed for alleged witchcraft by the Saudi government this year. In September, a Sudanese man was publicly decapitated with a sword in the city of Medina after he was found guilty of the same crime.

According to Amnesty International, at least 79 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia so far in 2011, more than three times as many as in 2010. The human rights group condemned the kingdom's reliance on capital punishment.

"Where the death penalty is used, under international law it should only be applied to the most serious crimes," Luther said.

The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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