Pagan Community Notes: A new report on “witch-hunts” in Ghana, Zakroff sigil part of fundraiser to help with Ga. run-off, and TDoR

“witches” at Gambaga “witch” camp in Northern Ghana [Photo Credit: SALTN)

TWH – The murder of 90-year-old, Akua Danteh earlier this year made international news and brought global attention to “witch-hunts” and how the accusations of practicing “witchcraft” often result in violence across many countries in Africa, and specifically Ghana.

Last week a report with recommendations was made by a  team of experts from the Ghana Sociological and Anthropological Association to help quell the violence directed at people accused of practicing “witchcraft.”

At the core of their recommendations were increased efforts of education with an intense effort to demystify “witchcraft.”

They also outlined the need for a variety of governmental agencies and municipalities to coordinate with traditional and religious leaders, women’s organizations, youth groups, and other affiliated community organizations to work together to educated the population.

The team’s report also stressed the need for action to be taken when cases of violence are reported and the prosecution of groups and individuals who commit and encourage such crimes.

As TWH has reported in the past, many of those accused of practicing “witchcraft” are forced to seek refuge in “witch camps” because it is not safe to return to their homes. There has been much debate over the camps and even possibly closing them.

The report also included points of concern over the abuse of the rights of those who end up in the camps that function as sanctuaries for those accused.

Overall, the report recognizes that belief in “witchcraft” is prevalent across the country and found in nearly all demographics.

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TWH – In a separate but somewhat related article, the remake of the movie “The Witches” has come under fire from members of the disability community for its depiction of the hands and feet of the “witches” in the movie which they feel too closely resemble those who have a genetic condition called “ectrodactyly.”

Ectrodactyly refers to the congenital absence of some fingers and/or toes and only one type of malformation that is part of a broader category of abnormalities that range from cleft lips and palates to skin, teeth, and hair irregularities as well as other issues. The “witches” in the movie have hands that are deformed with three claw-like fingers, and only one large toe on their feet.

While it is unlikely that anyone who has ectrodactyly within the U.S. or much of Europe would be thought to be a “witch,” within less developed countries, any abnormality can be viewed as a sign of “witchcraft” and those who might possess such a disability are often targeted by “witch hunters.”

There is documentation of those who have the condition of albinism being kidnapped and murdered for their body parts which are often thought to possess magical attributes in providing wealth and curing illness.

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The Seal of the Office of the President and Vice President of the Navajo Nation.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation, which covers parts of the US States of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Nevada, released a statement on Sunday that it will enter lockdown today in an effort to curb coronavirus infection.  Nonessential businesses have been closed and roads within the nation are closed to visitors. The statement reported that “Navajo Department of Health, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, reported 117 new COVID19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and four more deaths. The total number of deaths is now 602 as of Sunday.”  Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said “Unfortunately, it appears that this pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. The projections from our health care experts indicate that the Navajo Nation, as well as the country, is on an upward trajectory in terms of new cases of COVID-19. The sooner we all do our part to stay home consistently, avoid gatherings, and social distance, the sooner we will reach our peak and hopefully begin to see a decline in new cases.”  The lockdown will last three weeks.

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TWH – The sigil artwork of Laura Tempest Zakroff is being featured as part of a fundraiser to benefit the Fair Fight Action and support the Georgia run-off election in January.

In “witch-hunt” news:

  • In the community of Omualu in Namibia, Love Nwanyawu was brutally beaten by her husband’s younger brother, Councillor Blackson Nwanyawu, who is also the leader of the Etche legislative assembly in the Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State. Love Nwanyawu told police that Councillor Nwanyawu accused her of practicing “witchcraft” and bringing misfortune to their family, and then along with two others attacked her. The police arrested Councillor Nwanyawu, and are investigating the assault. Councillor Nwanyawu issued a public statement that alleged his sister-in-law had insulted him and disparaged him on social media. He expressed no regret for the assault, and seemed to dismiss the attack by saying, ““There is no point talking too much because these things happen when you are in public office.” Rights advocacy groups are demanding justice for Love Nwanyawu. The International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA), the Rivers State branch, and members of the Rivers State Civil Society Organizations are closely watching the progress of the case.
  • A video recently released shows a traditional priestess, Akosua Naaba, assaulting 46-year-old Mariatu Iddrisu. The assault happened six months ago at Aportoyiwa in the Ahafo Region of Ghana. Iddrisu had sought out Naaba for help with her husband’s epilepsy on the recommendation of a friend who said Naaba was a powerful healer. Instead of receiving any healing for Dramani Iddrisu, Mariatu Iddrisu was accused of practicing “witchcraft” and was beaten by Naaba who was also wielding a cutlass. Dramani Iddrisu, who had paid in advance for a “cure” for his epilepsy, stated that Naaba and attempted to cut the throat of his wife, but witnesses had intervened. After six months, there is still no resolution in the case which continues to be postponed. Samuel Agbotse affiliated with Amnesty International is providing legal support to the family, and recognizes that trauma and stigma for families accused of practicing “witchcraft.”
  • The Guardian reported last week that cases of those accused of “sorcery” are on the rise in Papua New Guinea. leaving people feeling fearful and helpless. In just one week five people were murdered in what are believed to be “witch-killings.” Among those murdered and all in the same village of Gavien, a woman and teenage student, and another 13-year-old boy who was found hanged after allegedly being kidnapped. Three people have been charged with “wilful murder” and officials believe the murders may be connected to the death of a man who was ill in February in the nearby village of Angoram. Shortly after the man’s death, villagers began accusing one another of practicing “witchcraft,” and resorted to killing. Despite the repeal of Papua New Guinea’s Sorcery Act in 2013, and replacing it with a new law that recognizes any killings connected to “sorcery” as murder, no one has been convicted under the law. As in most countries where “witch-hunts” and killings connected to “sorcery” are prevalent, the lack of awareness, poor education, and limited policing are all contributing factors.
  • A 27-year-old woman in the city of Durbin in KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa was reported as having been doused with gasoline and set on fire. The victim who was unnamed in media reports also suffered stab wounds and a broken ankle in addition to burns and was taken to the hospital by police who found her. A police spokesperson said that charges of attempted murder are being considered, though no one has yet been named as a suspect.
  • A documentary titled The Letter has been submitted by the Kenya Film Commission for consideration as the country’s official entry as an Oscar nominee in the best international film category for 2021. The documentary centers around a threatening letter to an elderly woman who has been accused of practicing “witchcraft” receives. The film is also a tribute to 94-year-old Margaret Kamango, who aided by her grandson and other allies, fought against her own relatives to hold onto her ancestral lands after they accused her of “witchcraft” in an attempt to take her land. The documentary that was directed by Maia Lekow and Christopher King, premiered in 2019 at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. On November 11-19, it will be virtually screened at DOC NYC as part of its ‘International Perspectives’ section, and then November 17 through December 13 at the African Diaspora International Film Festival.

In other news:

  • Recent excavations in Amida Mound, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Diyarbakır in the historical Sur district in southeast Turkey, have revealed burial chambers that date to the Roman-era, and the third century. Researchers found several burial chambers that were below what had been Roman palaces that were either adapted or built anew upon. So far the excavation team has found the remains and tombs of at least eight people and expects to find more as progress on the site continues.
  • Workers made an interesting find during sewer repair in Athens, Greece on Friday. They discovered a bust of the god Hermes. According to the  Greek Culture Ministry, such sculptures were commonly used as street markers in ancient Athens. They believe the head of Hermes, which is in good condition, dates to either the early third century or late fourth century, or around 300 B.C. One thing that is notably different about the head is that Hermes is depicted as “mature” rather than the usual youthful depiction.
  • This is Transgender Awareness Week and November 20 marks the 21st annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). The first TDoR was established by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999 as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998, and to commemorate all the transgender people lost to violence that year.


Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Guardian of the Night, by MJ Cullinane,  published by The Crow Tarot Shop.

Card: Queen of Pentacles

This week may call for decisions and approaches to problem-solving to be underwritten with kindness, generosity, and supportive consideration for all who may be affected by choices made. No matter what stress the week carries, the underlying energy that can be tapped into is that of grounded stability, and that a loving and supported space that is inclusive for all can be created and maintained.

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.

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