Witchcraft from a Philosophical Point of View. Vol. 3, No. 21


There is this interesting ancient poem of 15, 693 lives written in dactylic hexameter called the Illiad of Homer. The story began when Chryses, Priest of Apollo, went to the camp of the Greeks to ask for the release of his daughter whom the Greeks captured and gave to Agamemnon, one of the Greek warriors, as concubine. At the refusal of Agamemnon to let go of the damsel, Chryses asked Apollo to avenge him. The operations of Apollo towards the inflicting a plague upon Greece were confirmed by Kalchas, the soothsayer. In spite of the primordial position of the Greeks in the origin of philosophy, they could not rationalize over their mysterious predicament.

Plato may not have thought of witchcraft when he posited that there are two worlds; the world of matter (i.e. the physical world, which is only a shadow of the ideal world) and the world of forms. (Omoregbe J., A simplified History of Western philosophy. Ancient and Medieval philosophy pg.4). When Plato said that the world of matter is an imperfect reflection of the world of forms, he also meant that the ideal world has a tremendous effect in determining the events of the physical world? That is to say that the physical world is controlled by the spirit world.
This Platonic analysis has become very relevant because, the activities of the witches are not within the realm of empirical verifications. They are spiritual and intangible. There is a belief that witches are experts in telepathy (i.e. communicating from mind to mind), that they make use of the mind to achieve their purpose, especially when they invade their enemy’s “subconscious” for evil purposes. But then, there is no unanimous agreement among philosophers on mind-body relationship. Great thinkers like Plato, Augustine, Aquinas and Descartes are of the view that the mind exists independent of the body.
There is also another metaphysical event attributed to witchcraft which is similar to astral projection, soul projection or astro-travel. A witch has confessed travelling from Edo to America, (whereas the physical body is lying on the bed), in order to manipulate the whitemen in favour of her daughter.
One thing interestingly significant here is that the claims and confessions of witchcraft are certainly illogical and unverifiable, but then, it is also illogical to prove the authernticity of spiritual experience with empirical formula, scientific investigation or sense datum.
On the other side of the spectrum, to what extent can one affirm the fact that all witches are fully conscious of their evil practices to the detriment of the society and even families. More often than not, we have heard stories of an old woman who is said to have killed her children as a result of witchcrafting. Could it be that as soon one becomes a witch; the human heart is exchanged with a heart of Satan? Well, whatever be the case, the fact that many witches and wizards end up confessing their wicked acts testify that they have full knowledge of their actions. The most tragic aspect of this knowledge” is that some practicing wizards consider it as a privileged knowledge or a “Superior Knowledge” which places the possessor in an advantageous position over novice. No wonder Joseph Ojo Mume maintained that to ask a witch to abandon witchcraft for Christianity is “akin to asking someone who has acquired education to turn illiterate. Once upon acquiring any knowledge- education or witchcraft-it is impossible to throw it away.
Lending credence to this fact, he debunked the claims of repentance and conversion by some witches, because for him it is difficult to get witchcraft out of a person’s system. (Ironsi, L. S. & al., “Evils that Witches Do.” Newswatch, April 18, vol.7, No.16, 1988, p.36-37).
Another aspect that could be very devastating to a purported victim of witchcraft is the poor mentality that accepts defeat even in the absence of harm. Omoyajowo perfectly captured this when he clearly analyzed the psychology of being bewitched: “… it is very likely that when a sick man or woman is told that a witch is after his or her blood, he will believe that his death is inevitable. He gives up all hope of recovery. And so the will to live, which plays such an important part in recovery from illness, is missing.” (Omoyajowo., What is witchcraft in Traditional religion in West Africa, 1983). He further noted the inconsistencies of affirming the possibilities of wichcrafting through dreams in these words: “if you fight with somebody in your dream, you immediately become suspicious of him or her, believing that he or she possesses the power of witchcraft. You then begin to take precautionary measures against him or her. This has the quality of bringing him or her more and more into your dreams and so confirms the suspicion you have already developed about him or her.” It is in this unrealistic scenario that we allow the fear of witchcraft to control our thought pattern and imaginations; that is why lazy people do not consider their weaknesses and inaction as the cause of their failure, but rather put blame on witchcraft attack, instead of accepting their responsibilities. Hence, the ideas of spiritual manipulations abound. We shall discuss this in next series.


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