Always looking for animals

Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa

Witchy witchy magicy magic

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Africa is magical, really magical, and not in some sort of soppy metaphorical way. Witches are a common topic of conversation and if something goes wrong in your life it’s probably a witch who put a spell on you, I mean why else would you get AIDS? You have to be careful because anyone could be a witch. If someone in a traditional community is doing really well financially, it’s probably not because they worked hard, it’s because they’re a witch and made it happen using spells.

People believe this stuff and during my PhD interviews I’ve been finding out more about traditional beliefs.

In our local newspaper the other week, this article was printed…


To summarise: at a restaurant in our local town, Louis Trichardt (aka Makhado) some diners were having a meal and someone pulled a human arm out of the freezer and started waving it around. Apparently a woman was murdered for her body parts because African magic dictates that if you keep human limbs on your business premises then your business will do well. The man who waved the arm helped with the murder and felt that the restaurant owner didn’t give him his fair payment for helping and got angry hence the arm waving. Although you probably can’t read the small text of the article, there is a quote from the President of the South African Council of Traditional Healers who recommends that if you want to attract more customers to your business you should advertise more rather than killing innocent people. Sound advice I think! It makes me wonder how many of the restaurants and shops we visit have human arms in the backroom…

Traditional healers are often consulted for help if people are feeling sick or want to win the lottery or want a bigger penis or want to avenge a cheating lover, etc. Whatever your problem is, don’t worry you can always go to see the traditional healer or sangoma! They are able to speak to the spirits and mix together animal and plant parts to find a cure for your ailment.

I recently visited a traditional healer for my PhD. I wanted to find out how they use hyaena parts in their medicines. It was very interesting. Traditional healers can also predict the future by throwing bones of powerful animals. I had the sangoma do this for me while I was there. She told me all about my sister (I don’t have one). She also told me that my father’s mother was dead. When I told her this wasn’t true, she wisely amended it to my father’s grandmother. I also found out that I should stay in the job I have because the spirits have given it to me especially (via Russell I guess) and that it will make me very rich. If I get rich in conservation biology, that’ll be a first!!

People in Africa are also very afraid of Tokoloshes. A Tokolosh is a small demon that can bewitch you. They take many forms and are especially active at night. When we were in Zimbabwe some of our adult male friends were afraid to walk at night because they might bump into one.

But again don’t worry – There’s a solution. You can buy Tokoloshe salts from the pharmacy here which you can sprinkle around your house and off your roof to protect your premises. They come in lots of pretty colours too. Sam bought me some as a present.


In order to activate the protective powers of the Tokoloshe salts you have to mix the crystals in water.


And then you walk around the house (or tent in our case) sprinkling the magical purple water.


We have quite a few mice in our house who are probably tokoloshes in mice form and this will definitely sort that problem out.


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