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'Kamuti': The scientific explanation to witchcraft


The Nairobian of Friday, May 1, published an article titled, Toa lock: When couples get ‘stuck.’ In the piece, the writer mainly focused on the Akamba and some coastal people. The implication was that witchcraft is widely used by these communities to trap men who sleep with other people’s wives. The power of such a spell, it is said, punishes culprits by ‘locking’ them in the act, until cuckolded man turns up. In dismissing this claim, Ken Ouko, a sociology lecturer at the University of Nairobi, made this sweeping statement: “Among the Luo, if an old woman undresses and flashes her behind at you, it is believed that you will go blind and be cursed, but there is no scientific relation between an old woman’s nakedness and blindness.”

What disturbs me is the statement that, “there is no scientific relation...” What scientific barometer does the lecturer use to make that claim? What is science? I put it to Ken Ouko that a lot of what we call witchcraft is largely scientific.

African scholars have failed us when it comes to the subject of witchcraft, by taking refuge in the white man’s uninformed dismissal of the same. I am talking about a subject I have taken interest in for many years as a researcher.

I have put my findings in a forthcoming book titled Revelation of Traditional Witchcraft, focusing on the Akamba community.

In order to throw light into my argument, let me present a documented example from my community. The incident took place in the 1950s and  involved an old woman and her grandson. Let’s call them Kalewa and Musau respectivelly. Kalewa was a traditionalist well-versed in the art of witchcraft.

Kalewa’s family had a fearsome bull called Masimba. The bull had terrorised the whole village especially women. The family lived with the fear that one day Masimba would kill a person.

With time, the family decided to get rid of the bull by selling it to butchers. Kalewa, who loved the bull in spite of its aggression was opposed to the decision of getting rid of it. She requested to be given a few days to think about the matter.

Kalewa summoned Musau, with whom she shared many secrets, and said, “Do me a favour, when the cows are brought home in the evening, keep an eye on family members. Tell me when no one is around.” Musau didn’t ask why.

With the coast clear, Musau rushed to report the same to his grandmother, who excused herself and shortly returned holding her loin cloth, ithalu, traditionally worn by women. It was common knowledge that women hardly washed the ithalu. They would wear it unwashed until it was worn out then throw it away for a new one.

She handed Musau the ithalu with clear instructions: “Take this thing with you and go to Masimba in the cowshed. When it charges, hit it with this on the head then bring the cloth back to me.”

After hitting the bull with the ithalu, it recoiled and backed off. He then took back the clothing to the grandmother who cryptically said: “Masimba is now castrated. He will start licking people when they come close to him. Don’t ever tell anyone what we have done.”

From that day on, Masimba became as docile as a domestic cat and was never sold.

One does not need rocket science to conclude that Kalewa’s genital covering carried extraordinarily powers capable of neutralising and immobilising Masimba’s aggression permanently. If you want to call it witchcraft, be my guest. The explanation is that the human body is capable of producing extraordinary electromagnetic charges. Those charges are particularly concentrated in certain zones of the body such as the genitals, the breast, fingers, lips and so on.

It should also be understood that particular people have more charges than others.

Stories abound about people with the ‘evil eye.’ It is said that if such a person looks at a lovely child and comments about the baby’s looks, the skin of the child would start developing rashes. In my mother tongue, that effect is called kita, the most potent being kithemengu, which goes by the same name in Gikuyu.

These electromagnetic charges are the ones sniffer dogs use to trace people. The dog is charged by sniffing an item belonging to a victim. Thereafter, the dog traces the movements of the said person to their final destination.

Back to Ken Ouko’s tale of the old Luo woman. Africa is flooded with stories about curses. The so-called curses are delivered in electromagnetic charges produced by molested person when the molestation reaches the highest degree.

Ouko should know that the human hair, bones, sweat, saliva, among others, have incredible genetic properties. These have been exploited for millennia by African witches to manufacture lethal concoctions. It’s sheer biochemistry.

If African scholars cannot research this incredibly rich field, then the white man will eventually discover the treasure and colour the results to suit his needs.

Dr David Maillu is an author. He is also the chairman and founder of the Centre for African Aesthetics.

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