Evil and the art of revenge in the Mandara Mountains

TitleEvil and the art of revenge in the Mandara Mountains
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsW. E. A.van Beek
EditorW.C. Olsen, and W. E. A.van Beek
Secondary TitleEvil in Africa : encounters with the everyday
Pagination140 - 156
Date Published2015///
PublisherIndiana University Press
Place PublishedBloomington [etc.]
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsCameroon, cosmology, curses, death, Kapsiki, magic, Nigeria, rituals, witchcraft

Departing from events at a funeral (the funeral ended abruptly after a participant had shouted "such is the taste of death" and the deceased was quickly put in a shallow grave), this chapter deals with the practice of magical revenge among the Kapsiki and Higi of North Cameroon and Nigeria. It focusses on the principal Kapsiki definition of evil, 'beshèngu', black magic - a branch of sorcery -, as well as the ways people are entitled to ritual revenge, and the escalation of evil that the occult arena entails. The ritual of 'wuta' is a ritual through which occult revenge is taken on the unknown culprit of a "bad death", basically a death which is premature. The wuta ritual entails that this unknown culprit will die. This brings about that, after the ritual, people wait for the first death of anyone who might be construed as the culprit killer. In the described case, this person is denied a decent funeral. The author takes a stand against this kind of social retribution. The Kapsiki case described in the article is still relatively benign since hurt was afflicted mostly after the person's death, but the suffering caused by occult revenge and - in other parts of Africa - witchcraft accusations is all too real. It is standard practice that anthropologists refrain from any truth questions, and for very good reasons. However, the many victims of social retributions against imagined wrongs deserve the support of a statement against such practices. [ASC Leiden abstract]

Citation Key7499