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Kambili Chimalu: On Demonic Possession, Spirits, Witchcraft & Religious Fanaticism

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dreamstime_l_24426975Religion, as well as all its trappings/ceremonies/dogma, is a big deal in Nigeria. It informs many people’s opinions, decisions, and actions so much so that sometimes, they sit patiently waiting for God himself to come down and turn their lot around.

In discussing the issues facing Nigeria, “God will save us” can be heard from every corner. In arguments, God/religion is wielded as the ultimate trump card.

I find it puzzling that for a country so religious, iniquity abounds in different forms, but that is a discussion for another day. Along with this strong belief in religion comes the belief in witches, spirits, demonic possessions, and everything dark. People blame their bad behavior and choices on “evil forces,” while conveniently absolving themselves of any personal responsibility. This deep belief in the “occult” and its power enrages me to no end. This may be because of my personal experience with the ignorance this deep conviction can create.

When I was about eight or nine years old, this woman, who I will call Mrs. A, that lived in the same apartment complex as us, accused me of demonic possession and witchcraft. It was a hot sunny afternoon and my friends and I had escaped the blazing heat by seeking shade in the corridor of another friends ground floor apartment. While we waited for her to finish eating so that we could confront the heat and resume our play, we teased each other. It was in the middle of this that Mrs. A came to drag me away from the group, claiming that she had something to tell me. Taking me to a corner, she told me that she wanted to warn me to “come out” of the coven/secret society I was in. She claimed her son had had a dream about me and she was just warning me to leave her son/family alone and not try to initiate them. To say I was stunned would be an understatement, but I recovered quickly. I was a bratty kid, so I defiantly told her that I was not in any coven. “I have warned you o” she tossed my way as she walked away. Naturally, my friends wanted to know why she called me aside and I told them. I decided to forget that insanity ever happened.

If this madness had ended there, it may have been tolerable and I may not be writing this, but Mrs. A decided to make me a target. She asked her children not to play with me. I didn’t mind because I had other friends to play with. She asked some other parents to warn their children against playing with me. Their parents were not around 24/7 to monitor them, so we played together anyway. However, just trying to make me a pariah was not enough for her. One day, an adult bought packets of biscuits for the children playing. When the packs did not get to each child, we were asked to share with others. As I opened mine to share, this woman loudly announces, “Kambili, don’t share yours. You have touched it and you are not good enough to share anything with anyone [she said this in Igbo, so this is the closest I can get to in English: I diro mma I ke ihe with onye obuna].” I thought, “yay! More for me,” but I was still dejected. I am sure I was the subject of many a vigils and crusades for Mrs. A. Boy, was she surprised when I wasn’t consumed by holy fire.

As an adult now, I think about this and see so many things wrong with this level of insanity. How does someone process the thought of confronting a freaking eight year-old about being in a coven and then proceed to make her life miserable? If she was convinced I was possessed, why didn’t she speak with my mother or any other adult in my life? I don’t know why I never actually told any adult what Mrs. A did to me. I merely avoided her and developed an intense dislike for her.

This is just one story; my story. However, a lot of Nigerians think and behave like Mrs. A. As far as I am concerned, this deep belief in witchcraft/secret society-ism is another form of religious fundamentalism. It allows people to not evaluate their own lives and provides them with a convenient scapegoat for all their sufferings/actions. If this level of ignorance was benign, maybe I would just say. “ignore it,” but the truth is that it is dangerous. It has destroyed, it is destroying, and will continue to destroy lives if left unchecked. The destructive evidence is all around us.

Just last month, I read the plea for help of a young woman who was single-handedly torpedoing her marriage, but has somehow convinced herself that dark forces are to be blamed: “My intuition tells me this issue is spiritual and someone is trying to ruin my marriage.” Could this someone be a witch?  We never can tell. People commit heinous acts and then blame it on “dark forces” in order to avoid any consequences. A while back, I watched a Battabox video where women were asked what they would do if their husband raped their daughter. The majority were quick to claim the act would be a result of “spiritual demonic attack” and professed that they would not report their husband to the authorities as it would be their duty to “save” him with prayers. What nonsense.

Just last week, I read the story of a Danish woman rescuing a little boy that had been abandoned by his family after being accused of witchcraft. Say this with me: Some. Lunatics. Abandoned. A. defenseless. Child. And. Left. Him. To. His. Own. Devices. Because. They. Were. Convinced. He. Was. A. Witch. My heart broke for the poor child. He was malnourished, all bones, and probably starving.

The kicker is that it is not just children who are targets. Women suffer too. Cases of women who clearly have some kind of mental illness are always recorded and posted on social media. Often, it is claimed that these women are witches that have landed on a rooftop after reverting to human form from a bird, changed from snake to human, or any other insane story anyone can concoct. You watch these videos closely and realize that these women are in distress and need immediate help. Any sane person would, but these loons convince themselves that these women are demons and proceed to treat them as such. How do we cure this level of ignorance and fanaticism?

These stories are just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the insanity that is the fanatical belief in “dark spiritual forces.” It knows no gender, age, or creed. People see it every day and think nothing of it. In fact, some actively participate in it. This is why a renowned mega pastor can slap the bejesus out of a young girl on NATIONAL TV all in the name of delivering her from demonic possession and the majority of Nigerians do not blink. This is why learned people can confidently claim that someone from their village is trying to “do/charm” them through Facebook pictures. This is why people get sick and refuse to seek medical treatment because they believe it is a spiritual attack and can be prayed away. When they die, others then want to claim they died after a “brief” illness. Puh-leeez.

I may be biased due to personal experience, but witchcraft, coven-ism, secret society, and ogbanje-ism are all one big farce. There is no spiritual attack of cancer/other illnesses on anyone. Nobody is flying on a broomstick at night. Nobody is changing into any animal and crawling around at night. Defenseless children are not witches that are bringing bad luck to the family. People that are clearly mentally ill are not witches.

This brand of fanaticism is a madness that we must work diligently to eradicate.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Human/Sarcastic Empath/Lazy Hardworker/Active Sleeper/Occasional Writer/Part-time Blogger/Unbelieving Omnist/Committed Non-Committer/Human. Default Setting: Self-Preservation. I blog my thoughts on www.optimisticnigerian.com

24 Comments

  1. cubito

    February 10, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Madam … I never believe in supernatural powers like witches or wizard too but things that have happened to me personally have made me think twice about it… If the Bible say they exist, Oga they exist! and again Pray u dont jam them… Although some people take it to the extreme, My point is dont let civilization put you in trouble.

    • Kambili Chimalu

      February 11, 2016 at 1:58 am

      I get where you are coming from, but I will take “civilization putting me in trouble” over watching people convict A CHILD of witchcraft and then abandon him. Things like that belong in the dark ages and should NEVER happen in this our Nigeria.

  2. snob

    February 10, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    if the Bible has said “be aware of spiritual devices of the devil” then you should be o, unless you’re not a christian or even believe in God, God is real and so also is evil.
    Yes it has been abused and exploited by feeble minds but so has everything so far.
    as someone said don’t let civilization put you in trouble.

  3. Noname

    February 10, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Don’t dismiss the spiritual if you don’t understand it. Simply say you don’t understand it. The writer is an omnist! That says it all!!

    • Kambili Chimalu

      February 11, 2016 at 2:03 am

      I don’t think Omnist means what you think it means. I believe in the validity of your religion. I believe in your right to practice said religion without fear of persecution. However, I DO NOT believe that your religion should be used as a weapon to inflict pain on defenseless people. Children are not witches. Mentally ill people are not witches.

      We need to move beyond this level of insanity.

  4. Yrimu

    February 10, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    They exist. In fact you should be more scared of what you don’t see. That’s why the bible says we wrestle not against flesh or blood….Ephesians 6:12
    And the weapons we use are not of this world. 2 Cor 10:4
    God is greater than them all. Anyone that wants to do juju for me, just know you are fighting against God and not me. And God has NEVER lost a fight.

  5. Olu

    February 10, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    If witches and witchcraft exist (and I believe they do), I have decided not to focus on them. Why? because I have no control over them. I leave those for God to deal with. All I can do is to keep trusting and worshipping Him.

    But I am cautious all the same. Why you think say I no dey gree make anybody touch my head when I visit my village? LOL

  6. G!

    February 10, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    I will be the last to deny that a lot of atrocities are not committed in the name of religion and religious beliefs. I also agree that sometimes, events are a result of natural causes and not necessarily spiritual causes (for e.g, most malaria cases are because people exposed themselves to be bitten by mosquitoes and not because a witch did them in).
    However, I do not want you to think that there isn’t a spiritual dimension to this life. The physical realm exists in parallel with a spiritual realm and most things that happen in the physical are dictated by the spiritual. If you are an omnist, you would agree that most religions (and not just christianity) believe in this.
    Like @Noname said, don’t dismiss the spiritual if you dont understand it.

    • Kambili Chimalu

      February 11, 2016 at 2:10 am

      If people want to believe in a spiritual dimension to this life, that is their prerogative. I believe and will defend their rights to believe whatever they want to without fear of persecution. I may not agree with other people’s beliefs, but I will respect it [so long as those beliefs are not harming anyone else].

      Do you know what I will dismiss though? Someone accusing A CHILD of witchcraft and then abandoning that child. Someone accusing a mentally ill woman of witchcraft. That kind of belief I will and do dismiss.

  7. Hephie Brown

    February 10, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Im totally going to write on my blog about the nasty experiences I have seen or heard about this writers “besties” on my blog.

    I found myself one day, living in a society of people who claim that they are in control of their lives and generally believe in the last words of this writer. I could not educate them. I was too tired. They schooled in foreign countries and had sheltered lives(maybe). I wasnt so lucky to be protected from Principalities and Powers. I have seen(mostly heard, because my parents locks us in the house when it happens), mouth cannot tell all. I have seen people get shot at and well, they don’t get hurt. Girl, if you don’t understand something, then don’t just bother talking about it. I wasnt going to comment but I got to the last part and i’m like “woah, who is this child”? We wrestle not against flesh and blood. Everything in the natural is controlled by the supernatural. You believe in the healing power of God and the holy spirit but you don’t believe in evil spirits, im getting you.

    I understand that Nigerians take things to the extreme, everything, from stealing public funds(all countries do it but well), to morals, to religion. Yes Nigerians blame forces because they can, because they actually exist! But growing up, i always said, “Some countries have earthquakes and hurricanes, we have witches and wizards, God is fair” To a large extent i still believe that.. So in south park, Micheal Jackson goes “that’s just ignorant”. yea that’s what im saying to you right now. No offence, but biko, take several seats. Sigh. Olorun o ni je ki o ri ogun esu.

    hephiebrown.wordpress.com

    • Kambili Chimalu

      February 11, 2016 at 2:22 am

      Full disclosure: I love tea, so if you are “totally going to write on [your] blog about the nasty experiences [you] have seen or heard about this writers ‘besties’,” I will bring the tea, popcorn, zobo, and all the small chops you can eat. Just make sure the tea spilling is reliable and not just a cry for attention.

      You know what, I am not going to discount your experiences with principalities and powers. They must have given you the gift of “seeing everything under the sun,” seeing as you know me and my friends personally.

  8. The real D

    February 10, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    First let me say this, I am a Christian and believe that what the Bible say about wrestling not against flesh and blood…… it is true. Nevertheless, I agree with the author as well. We have become so lazy and irresponsible that taking responsibility for our actions is now a foreign concept. See an arrested armed robber that does not flinch in killing another human, tell you it was the devil or so you did not realize the devil was having a birthday bash with fireworks and the all shebang in you until you were caught??????

    A close family member once told me I had a seductive spirit, I was at the age when I thought boys were the bane of the earth so I no even like boys sef at that point but said spirit revealer had said this because THEN, people used to claim i was the prettiest of my siblings. I was praying that God should deliver me. Now, I look back and realize I had no business believing that lie such things have a way of scarring one. I will never forget that especially coming from someone who should be protecting from such. Now I am the only big (weight wise) amongst my siblings. I should go back and ask about that seductive spirit again self.

    Yes many adults are sooo miserable in life and take out their misery on poor defenseless kids using religion and forces of darkness as an excuse of their wicked acts. So yes I get the author’s point

  9. Frosh

    February 10, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA at the comments Cheiiiii odi egwu have you ever seen a group of people so polarized, blinded and disillusioned by poverty, unnecessary sufferings and problems in life that nonsensical theories that would cause other people to keel over with laughter become the every day norm??? Cheiiii, not only is it terribly sad, it is worrisome, that this mind-set would belong to future world leaders and influencers of the status quo?? honestly I am too tired to argue all I can say is if we had more people with your mind-set Kambali Nigeria would be a faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar better place than it is now and it is about time we band together to create a force who would fight hard to dispel this beyond pathetic ideologies we have held on for too long. Kambali I would read your blog and I would send you my email, we need minds like yours!!

    ps

    that’s how one buffoon so called pastor who used to fuck all the girls in the hood and was married btw, after he got deported from the UK called me aside and told me to go to the mountain and seek deliverance because I am not married, just because I turned down his advances!!! fraudsters.

    NIGERIANS PLSSSSSS WAKE UP!!!

    • Kambili Chimalu

      February 11, 2016 at 2:26 am

      A friend told me that people cannot act above what they know. I am a live and let live kind of person, but when people use their beliefs to endanger others, I become militant. I deeply believe that Nigeria is getting there.

  10. Honeycrown

    February 10, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    There’s a very fine line between fanaticism and insanity. It’s dangerous when people thread on this line ….

  11. Manny

    February 10, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Some adults should be ashamed of themselves. How can you accuse a young child of witchcraft just like that. When I was in sec sch, my aunt who had been married legally to her husband but not traditionally was finally convinced to come to Nigeria for the trad wedding. After 2 children. Anyway, she bought clothes for all her nieces including me – to wear to the event. Mine was a very nice dark navy dress. So the party commenced, we were eating and drinking and suddenly the heavens opened and boy did it pour. There were tents but not enough and the rain generally impeded things.
    That’s how one aunty agbaya, not even a member of the family, walked up to me and very loudly started berating me. She said in yoruba – Ehn ehn you have succeeded in ruining your aunty’s event abi. That’s why your egbe told you to wear black to the event. Thank God for my family members, everyone shut her down. Just imagine. I was maybe 13 yrs then.
    This same woman can jam someone on the road and claim that you just stole her ovaries.
    Nigerians are sooooo paranoid!!!!!
    PS: I no believe say witchcraft no dey oh.

    • Kambili Chimalu

      February 11, 2016 at 2:29 am

      Thank God for small mercies eh. I am glad you had your family members to stand up for you.

  12. Tosin

    February 10, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    Thank you for writing, KC. We def need to open our eyes more to the ways all these dark beliefs can ruin us or make us wicked to one another. If it brings about love, it is good. If it brings destruction, then it’s bad. Don’t go and start beating witches upandown, even Jesus didn’t do that sooooo….let’s face the productive part of religion abi? Love God, love your neighbour, leave winch matter 🙂

  13. molarah

    February 10, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    To author, I think some things could be made clearer. For one, it is possible for children to get enamored by black/white magic and as a result, get involved in occultism, that’s very possible. It even happens outside Africa – in Europe et al (Harry Potter, anyone?). However, it is at this point I part ways with the typical Nigerian response to these issues. Like Mrs A in your story was messed up! If she was convinced you were possessed, the most logical thing to have done was to inform your parents, not you, and let them decide what the next course of action was. Her choice of behavior makes me believe that she was the possessed one – for someone that had the ability to “see spiritual things”, she definitely lacked wisdom. Or maybe she just had issues with you and needed a spiritual cover to express her feelings. Those that punish or disfigure children in the name of exorcising them are woefully ignorant of what true Christianity is about. There was no instance where Jesus Christ slapped or beat or burnt an individual to get a demon out of them, so on what grounds do they conduct such practices? These are just expressions of vileness that don’t sit comfortably in any corner of the Christianity outlined in the Bible. That’s the kind of stuff one does when all they know about being a christian is what Nollywood taught them, or what their pastor, who watches way too much Nollywood, taught them. There would always be people that would use spirituality as a cover for nefarious practices and behavior – this in itself cannot change the facts of a situation or make every religious person bad.

  14. Jesus is my saviour

    February 11, 2016 at 7:32 am

    I get the writer’s point, all she’s saying is that people now blame dark forces for everything, e.G you won’t read for your exam because you are lazy after you fail, you’ll now say it’s the devil or witches that made you fail, meanwhile it was your lazyness. That being said however we do have sinister/occultic/evIL forces in operation in almost every nook and cranny in this nation, I dare to even say in the world as well, my belief is that in every extended family in Nigeria you have a member who practices occultism or witchcraft, just as Christianity is your religion there are many people whose religion is an occultic one or witchcraft. Also it’s very possible for a child to be involved or initiated into witchcraft for example your parents are christians when you are born, they take you to church and dedicate you, and because of your parents influence and teachings you take up Christianity as your religion (later on when you are old enough to choose your religion you might decide to continue in that or not), it’s the same with a muslim they raise up their children in their religion, and thus it’s the same as witchcraft and occultism, if your parents/ family are practise witchcraft or occultism they will bring you up in that religion, in some cases it might be a family member or family friend who practises that might initiate the child, however beating the child or maltreatment them is not the solution, and most times theses things are done out of fear. Thats why Jesus came to earth to die for us, by doing so he has given us authority over the devil and the kingdom of darkness, once one is a born again christain, the devil is beneath your feet and you have the ability to cast out demons and bring to nought the works of witchcraft and occultism through the power of the holyspirit.
    In summary there are dark powers, however God’s power is far greater and can deliver anyone from anything if only you turn to him today, there is no situation or problem he cannot solve, give your life to Jesus today, ask him to come into your life and attend a real bible be living church. Sorry for the long epistle, I apologize if I’m incoherent in some places still in bed. Lolz

  15. tolu

    February 11, 2016 at 7:36 am

    Why is it so difficult for people to understand what they read. The writer speciffically talked about the way some people believe in witchcraft en d likes when they av problem. Yes we av evil people around us, people go to herbalists, alfas and pastors to do evil things but yes theres nothing like someone turns to bird. It has never happened. Its jst mere u hear en i hear. Nollywood contributes alot to dis especially yoruba en igbo films. I was driving to oshodi last year and people gathered to watch a bird that turned to a woman. They all believed what they didnt see, jst lunatic woman on d ground. I pity black people. Fear is d problem of people. Jst take fear out of ur life en live. I used to be like dat way back but hey av outgrown dat en im so free. People will see black cat and shout jesus. Damn!

  16. Naim

    February 11, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Most of all these fanaticism is just because of poverty and general hardship in the land. If Nigeria wasn’t this poor, I’d love to have seen if all these people that are claiming assistant Jesus Christ would be overdoing things. Gosh, innocent birds can’t even chirp at night without the declaration of ‘blood of Jesus’ flying left right and centre.
    I tell people, be religious if you like but don’t be stupid!

  17. Tee

    February 12, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    The writer has touched on a very important subject of which many people would rather is left alone, the fact of the matter is that after the advent of the new age Christianity many people has become so brainwashed that they have lost the sense of reasoning, and these pastors are cashing in on their ignorance,what perpetuate the situation more is the fact that government does not provide basic amenities for the masses, it is only in Nigeria that anyone can just wake up one day and claim to be prophet or pastor, even armed robber who have killed and maimed innocent will claim to be born again and open a church; before you know it they will start making miracles and laughing all the way to the bank, just look around you all you can see is wickedness and selfishness and evil in a society that purport to be religions, everything is just contradiction. i felt really bad that a foreigner had to come to our country to save that baby , is just show how pathetic our mentality is . Other countries that religious are doing well they are advancing in engineering and medicine and nuclear but we are set in our dogmatic ways; nothing is working corruption is everywhere look at India for example their religion is Hindus but they are manufacturing things and developing new medicine and putting satellite in space, The miracle seeking mindset has had its toll on the nation and we need to shake if off. it is bordering on fanaticism . The people that gave us the religion have abandon it for it has served its purpose part which is to the denigrate our culture and identity, everything that is part of our cultural identity is now seen as bad, Our people now use the same to further enslave ourselves, Chinese now have herbal shops in Nigeria and we patronize them , but when it is Nigerian herbs it is seen as bad or evil, we are lost we look to other to approve of us ,no humanity just selfishness and ostentatious and grandstanding on emptiness, it is sad.

  18. Prince John

    May 23, 2016 at 9:05 am

    I just stumbled across this blog doing research for a game I’m creating and I had to comment. After reading all the comments all I can say is that a lot of Nigerians are afraid. Life is scary so they need some umbrella of evil if you will to shield them from any responsibility. Yes there are some people that study satanism or witchcraft but that doesn’t mean that it is powerful. If God is not your personal genie then why is the devil? There is a very strange mix of ignorance and narcissism passed down from previous generations fuelling this nonsense. And I’m tired of that statement “it’s because you don’t understand it”, just because you don’t understand depression that doesn’t make it witchcraft. People need to open their eyes and help make life better for everyone. The way you behave = the kind of life you have, if you keep believing in these things then of course everything will seem negative.

    P.S. Earthquakes are not even the same thing as demons.

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