The Psychology of Superstition

By Gustav Jahoda | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The Prevalence of Superstition

In Africa, the Women's Guilds and mothers' meetings of the churches are the embatfied advance guard in a desperate fight against the forces of witchcraft and superstition enslaving a continent and its people.

From an article in a church magazine, January 1966

There is a robust nineteenth-century complacency in the above outburst -- they are superstitious and we are enlightened. How far is either true? Let us admit, first of all, that 'they'are indeed superstitious. This has already been indicated with reference to traditional beliefs, and there is no doubt that notions of witchcraft, sorcery and magic remain well entrenched in Africa today. Such notions are by no means confined to traditional spheres of life, but have become adapted to modern Western ones. Magical medicines are widely available for passing examinations or gaining promotion in one's job. In Ghana in 1955 it was found necessary to amend the electoral law so that anyone who, among other things,

...administers, invokes or makes any other use of any fetish, or makes any other invocation, or purports to cast any spell, and relates any such act to or connects any such act with the voting or refraining from voting by any person at any election shall be guilty of an offence.

Since then there have been many reports about magic becoming mixed up with politics from other parts of Africa. But why single out Africa? In India the astrologers have an important voice in the land. Readings are usually taken before marriages are contracted, and the advice of the stars is often sought for other important decisions. When the astrologers prophesied the end of the world

-17-

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