Witchcraft and superstition continued.
Whatever explanation of disease or disaster is given, it is certainly never a simple matter of cause and effect. Human nature is apparently such that we cannot bear to think we are so unimportant, that nature can take its course and catch us up in events without knowing or caring that we, as personalities, are involved. To most people their own little world is the centre of the universe, and everything revolves around it. The concept that nature works on us in as completely detached a way as gravity works on a falling stone, is offensive to us and our amour propre. All good health workers are aware of this very different concept of the causation of disease. It was well expressed by an old health inspector in Nigeria who remarked to the writer “You know, Doctor, with us it is not a question of what caused me to get sick, but who caused it.”
1Scot Reginald: The Discovery of Witchcraft, London, 1584. New edition. London, 1930. Quoted in Witchcraft by G.Parrinder, Penguin Books, 1958
The magic origin of disease
Most primitive people are careful not to offend any other person in case he or she is a witch and will utter a cure so that the offender is stricken with some sort of sickness, or if not a witch, will try to invoke the assistance of a sorcerer to do the same thing. For this reason they are exceedingly wary in their inter-personal relationships. Even bumping into somebody or accidentally upsetting a tray in the market place may be, in retrospect, regarded as the source of a sickness. This accounts for the “anxious to please” attitude sometimes commented on by Europeans, and, by the same token, such people are far more alarmed by a show of anger than one may realise. Self-assurance, dignity and leadership come only when there is sufficient “power” or popular support to counterbalance this ever-present fear. Similarly most people will be careful not to commit a socially unacceptable act, since it may anger the ancestors or gods who will retaliate in this way.
Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. She is widely travelled and writes regularly for magazines and blog sites. Her sketches are on her web site http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk . Her books are available from Amazon and on Kindle, or can be ordered from several leading book stores.