Witchcraft in Africa


During my recent return visit to South Africa, I came across the following,which appeared on the front page of the Catholic paper. I have paraphrased it to avoid infringing copyright.

Catholic experts have warned that witchcraft is real, and it is destroying the Church in Africa.Scholars from the Catholic University of East Africa, in Nairobi, have warned that the Church, in continuing to dismiss the dark arts as mere superstition, is helping to advance the reign of Satan.

Many Catholics who suffer because of witchcraft, because they are dismissed by their priests and pastoral agencies, are seeking the help of witchdoctors, or turning to the evangelical denominations who provide exorcism and deliverance. In addition, many African priests fear witchcraft or are ignorant of their own power to confront the devil.
Catholics also visit diviners and magicians to find practical solutions which their church is unable to offer.

Dr M Katola, a lecturer in pastoral theology, says Africans have the perception that the Church is failing them. While the Church criticises traditional experts,such as sangomas, it does not offer any alternative.So catholics got to the sangoma when they face a problem or want to start a new project. He maintains that Africans are not more superstitious than other people,but the Church has not come to terms with the African worldview which accepts the existence of evil powers. It disregards the fears of the people and the reality of witchcraft.

Thus it is that droves of Catholics are moving over to those movements which offer deliverance,healing and exorcism because priests are unaware that they have redemptive powers.

Doctor Katola maintains that the responsiblity of fighting witchcraft lies with the clergy who need to admit the reality of the phenomenon…“If we do not admit the reality of witchcraft,the reality of satanism,then we cannot deal with it.”

Sister Munini maintains that Catholics go to the sangoma because the Church has not paid attention to integral healing. The traditional healer is much valued in Africa, but has no equivalent in the Church.

Malawian academic Father Majawa believes that the influence of witchcraft has has lead to superficiality of faith and morals in Africa and needs a serious effort. He lists 14 types of witchcraft prevalent in Africa and says the Church’s denial of their existence only escalates the problem.

Two areas are contributing to the problem: ignorance among Catholics from hierarchy to ordinary parishioners;and lack of depth in the faith held by many.

The real question is; what can be done to tackle this problem?
if it is not tackled,if the ostrich mentality continues, the Church may be lost in Africa.


I believe that witchcraft can’t affect a Christian.


Part of the reason Pentecostals are so popular in Africa, is that Pentecostals take the ‘dark arts’ seriously.


All well and good, but you are not an African who does believe that it can affect him or her.


Didn’t the Pope in 1986 invite leaders from all religions to come to pray and worship in a bascillica in Assisi, Italy? Among those present were African Voodoo priests. What did the catholic experts say then about this event? Did they foresee these types of problems arising?


Did they call themselves “Voodoo priests”? I’m just curious about the specific religious tradition referred to here. Not every Traditional African Religion ‘priest’ is a practitioner of the ‘dark arts’, by the way.


I have the impression that the Church is not doing enough worldwide to educate Catholic and to build the community. Africa does pose some very different problems.

So is the Church becoming proactive in this? Or are they just going to let this continue.


Africa in a lot of ways has a stronger sense of the supernatural or the numinous than we in the rationalised and secularised West do. Personally I don’t believe in magic or witchcraft or spirits because there is absolutely no scientific evidence (in the case of alleged magic and witchcraft) that these practices can actually cause any sort of change in states of matter, events, or the laws of nature, and in the case of spirits/ghosts and demons, there is no evidence in a scientific sense such beings exist, and in itself the notion of a spiritual substance is deeply flawed and incoherent if we consider the advances in our understandings of how concious awareness arises from organised matter.

Perhaps these things can have influence if people actually believe they do in a real manner, but then from a skeptical viewpoint (which I find is helpful in these matters) it is a phenomena of the mind rather than something one should become superstitious of.


Witchcraft can be a good thing. It’s not evil, it’s what the person does with it that determines that. I use it for only good all the time.

BUt I see your point. In Africa, I know that many forms of voodoo and ‘black magick’ is practiced. This not only destroys Christinaity, but gives a bad name to witches and destroys religions of light all around the world. But the light will always be stronger.

We just have to believe in it!:wink:


Sadly, I must add that a second danger is menacing the Church in Africa,namely the advance of Islam which is winning hearts and minds by leaps and bounds. When I asked a veteran missionary about this, he said that people are attracted to the Moslem faith because it offers seeming solutions to their lives, and because their Catholic faith is not deep-rooted and unable to stand up to pressure.


On the other hand I’ve read Islamic sources that are very concerned because about 6 million African Muslims a year are leaving islam for Christianity… usually the CC.

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