[The following article is a joint project between The Wild Hunt and Damon Leff, a human rights activist, Witch, and editor-in-chief of Penton Independent Alternative Media. Leff is also the director of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance, and owns his own pottery studio called Mnrva Pottery. He is currently studying Law at the University of South Africa, and lives in the Wilderness, Western Cape, South Africa.]
SOUTH AFRICA — Michael Hughes, the unofficial face of the recent February 24 mass binding ritual against the 45th President of the U.S. Donald Trump, described it as a tool for political resistance against “the Devil.” In the wake of the numerous international headlines around the world, South African Witches were left wondering whether such public magical resistance against a sitting head of state will in any way influence, or reinforce their own government’s existing negative perception of Witches. South African Witches live in a country that is still hostile to any notion of “witchcraft” as a valid spiritual pursuit. For most South Africans, including influential Traditional Healers and Traditional Leaders, Witchcraft is viewed as a wholly negative practice.
CAMEROON — In early January, Chiefs from the Eastern regions of Cameroon requested permission to use Witchcraft against the terrorist group Boko Haram. The news came through a tweet by respected investigative journalist and Chief Bisong Etahoben on Feb. 1. Shortly after, President Paul Biya responded back welcoming the assistance and use of Witchcraft in the fight to protect the nation and its people. In response to this news, Witches outside of the country are looking to help and add their magic to the protection of the region and the eradication of terrorism.
For many people, Nigeria is a country only known through stories and news reports. Most recently, the country has taken center stage as Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group, continues its violent campaign in the North Eastern portion of the country. In 2014, Nigeria faced a health crisis during one of the worst Ebola outbreaks ever recorded. The country is also home to the famous Pentecostal preacher Lady Apostle Helen Ukpabio, and others like her, who regular speak out against Witchcraft. But there is another side to the West African nation – a vibrant, indigenous spirituality and history that calls out to many Americans.
Last week notorious “witch-hunter” Helen Ukpabio, known as Lady Apostle, arrived in London to hold a 3 day revival meeting called a ”Season for Disconnections From All Spiritual Attack.” Ukpabio’s message is made very clear in a widely circulated poster that asks “Are you under Witchcraft attack? Mermaid Attack? Ancestral Spirit Attack?” It adds: “Come and be disconnected” a service that is “free of charge.”
Ukpabio is the founder of Nigeria’s Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries which claims to have more than 150 churches in that country alone. Allegedly Ukpabio is looking to open one in the UK to serve its large African-born population. More specifically she is targeting its large Nigerian-born population which has grown over 110% since 2001.
This past week we witnessed a crescendo of frustration and fury fly from the global Pagan community in the direction of a Facebook Fan Page called “Witches Must Die by Fire” and a Facebook Group called “Those Witches nd Wizzards [sic] should die by Fire by Force.” The rally cries came by way of social media, blogs and email. At this point, I would include the links but the “pages” were removed by Facebook around 4pm EST on Thursday, August 23 2013. These offending Facebook “pages” advocated for the extrication and burning of alleged witches and wizards throughout the world. Using a Christian fundamentalist context, the moderators repeatedly preached their gospel on the evils of witchcraft while celebrating all attempts to defeat it. As proof of witchcraft’s existence, the Fan Page displayed a photo of a South African-Zimbabwe sensationalist rag called H Metro Zim with a headline that read something like “Woman gives birth to frogs…daily.”
Let’s first examine the pages themselves and who owned them? The answer is important because it contextualizes the accusations and religious zealotry.