As part of trying to understand how Public Authority operates in such impoverished, marginal and conflict-affected places, Robin Oryem has been interviewing local witch doctors.
One thing every Acholi person wants to avoid is being associated with a witch doctor, but I took courage and informed the bodaboda (motorbike taxi) man that I was heading to the witch doctor’s place. He bombarded me with questions: What is your problem? Are you looking for riches? Has someone bewitched you? And his last word was that these people (witch doctors) are bad.
People certainly associate witch doctors with bad acts. They don’t associate witch doctors with, for example, deciding whether widows, with or without children, can stay on the land of their dead husbands, return to their maiden home or have the choice to reject or accept a protector (male relative of their late husband)?
Yet these are just some of the roles I discovered when I interviewed some witch doctors in Northern Uganda as part of my research for CPAID. Let’s hear from Akumu Christen (a female witch doctor):
‘It was in 2009 when I became a witch doctor, even though I never wanted to be one. In 2005 I was attacked by a ‘jok’ for the first time’.
A jok is a class of spirit within the traditional Acholi belief system that is viewed as the cause of illness. Traditional healers (known as ajwaka) first identify the jok in question and then make an appropriate sacrifice and ceremony to counter them. Alternatively if such an approach is unsuccessful the person possessed by the jok can go through a series of rituals to gain some level of control over the jok and then themselves become ajwaka.
‘This jok wanted me to become a witch doctor. When I resisted, I became mad for three months, but in the fourth month I was taken from the forest and became a born-again Christian and the jok left me alone. But that liberty only lasted for two years and then I suffered the hardest attack yet from the jok. I became mad for the second time and lived in trees like a monkey for three months without eating food or drinking water and without coming down to the ground. Then my sister brought another witch doctor to initiate me into being a witch doctor, which was what the jok wanted all along, and that’s how I became a witch doctor.
‘I was scared because of what people would say but I now have realised that this jok–known as jokajula- does not support wrong-doing like killing people. I don’t do rituals to kill people but to help them’.
Akumu Christen now helps the people in her neighbourhood town. Paico, in different ways, including:
Mental Health Worker: Helping victims or Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) returnees by trying to stop or prevent spirits from attacking them. Or stop them from being haunted or rerunning in their minds the bad things that they did in the bush, preventing nightmares and helping them cope in their community.
Peace Maker: Participating in the reconciliation of two clans, where one killed a person from the other clan. Beside that she is also involved in summoning the spirit of the dead to ask him who should receive the ‘kwo money’(blood money paid to the victim’s family/clan).
Family Therapist: End barrenness in both men and women, which is hugely important because children are very significant to an Acholi: for a home to be called a home it should have children around.
Repair broken marriages or relationships.
Livelihoods Promotion: Remove bad luck and make people rich, especially those who have been put into bondage by bad people who want them to remain poor.
Disaster Prevention: She is summoned by the community elders to perform rituals to prevent natural calamities like drought or floods.
These are some of the things she does, but she is also a mother of two children with a very loving husband.
So now let me ask you again, do you still think witch doctors are bad people?
Robin Oryem (@oryem_robin ) is a researcher for LSE’s CPAID programme in northern Uganda.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of the Africa at LSE blog, the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa or the London School of Economics and Political Science.
I love my female witch doctor from Zimbabwe. I had problems in the pass with men getting fresh with me using their powers in a inappropriate way. It was a blessing to find this women because she had helped me get rid of curses that people put on me, you won’t believe what I’ve been through
Someone that I know went to Liberia. He saw a withch doctor bring a dead person back to life…is this possible, because when he saw this the young man no longer believed in God.
Hi there, may I speak with her? Down below is my email address email@example.com
Please email me. Thanks
I need to meet this ajwaka as well for my research. Kindly email me her number and location on my email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Robin, you have a good heart and a sincere belief you are investigating truth but It’s not whether they are “good” or “bad” people. It’s that she is **spiritually enslaved** by the jok who uses her to get the local people to be reliant on worshipping the jok in the area. If you are a Christian, you were complicit in her oppression – you should have prayed that for her to be released and for the blood of Jesus over her. This is all demonic activity. Reading this made me realize how much we need to trust and rely only on God. I pray for your eyes to be opened to the biggest spiritual deception of all time. The God of Abraham / Jesus Christ is the only true spiritual liberator for these people to gain their minds back, and for them to progress as a society. Let’s pray that the Will of God be done, every knee bow and every tongue confess — Jesus is Lord!
Lila I will like to chat with you! Your comment just helped me make a great decision! Thank God for you!
Oh witch Doctor I need to get my grandchildren’s for there foster parents that has do nothing by lying to me childs
Mhh. Which one to agree now?
Hi, I’m Tara and I am reaching out because I would like to share my story with someone who consideres themself knowledgeable of this topic, Witch Doctor and curses…. I am of sound mind and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol meaning I’m not here to waste anyone’s time and not here playing a joke at anyone I genuinely have some questions for the right person…. Truth is that this concept, or erm,more so my “far fetched” theories may not be too far off in reality…after all, SOMETHING has to explain a life time of this crap, Please reach out via my email… I don’t do Facebook, sorry. Thank you, all!