Mystical weapons: some evidence from the Liberian war

TitleMystical weapons: some evidence from the Liberian war
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsS.D.K. Ellis
Secondary TitleJournal of religion in Africa
Pagination222 - 236
Date Published2001///
Publication Languageeng
Keywordscivil wars, Islam, Liberia, magic, witchcraft

During the civil war in Liberia (1989-1997), many participants, as well as local journalists, used terms such as 'sorcery', 'witchcraft', 'voodoo', 'juju' and 'African science' to describe certain techniques used by fighters. Essentially, these words were applied to techniques of offence or defence which were rooted in local religious traditions rather than in either Islam or Christianity. In this paper, a brief historical sketch suggests how the meaning of words and concepts changes over time and how a word such as 'witchcraft' is also evocative of certain actions, rituals or practices which have also changed over time. Some of the religious practices which were later to be subsumed under the heading of 'witchcraft' were established repertoires of action, of considerable religious and political importance, which came to escape institutional control in Liberia during the 20th century and thus helped to make Liberia's war the ghastly, protracted affair which it became. This aspect of the story comes much closer to addressing the question of why Liberia's war happened. Notes, ref., sum

Citation Key1808