On 22 March 2014 a house was discovered in Soka forest on the outskirts of Ibadan, Oyo State, that had lots of dead human bodies, parts of bodies and 23 people held as stock to be killed. The house had been discovered when friends of a man who had gone missing tracked him to the location. The government of the state demolished the house. This strengthened the belief that the operation was either for the benefit or at the behest of people high up in society. Further, residents around the area claimed they had reported suspicious activity in the house to the police multiple times, but the police had not done anything about it.1
On 29 April 2021 in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, a young woman named Hiny Umoren was killed by a man who removed parts of her body. The place where the body was found had other graves with mutilated bodies. The killer was apprehended pursuant to a massive social media investigation including OSINT work by journalists which revealed that he had been in contact with a senior police officer after the social media investigation threw up his name and connection to the victim.2
A friend of mine told me about a time when he was a kid and was afraid of failing an exam. A malam told him to get the hair of a white man to be used in a charm that would enable him pass the exam. He went to a barber whose clientele included foreigners and paid maybe N1000 for some hair. When he brought the hair to the malam, the malam grilled him to be sure that the hair was from a Caucasian, not an Indian nor Lebanese nor Chinese or any other race whose hair could pass for a white person's. This was in the early 90s, when N1000 was probably equal to $50, not the $1 it is today. He was given a charm and instructed to squeeze it between his thighs when he comes across a question he didn't know. He squeezed and squeezed but did not see any answers. When he went back to the malam, the man said the hair supplied was probably not from a white man, otherwise the charm would have worked because white man's learning is a type of magic which can be countered by another type of white man magic. It would have been great if my friend had taken the trouble to get the right hair to see if the malam was not a fraud.
There is a belief that djinn sometimes take a fancy to a person and prevent the person from getting married or even staying married. So, a woman who is always getting divorced or falling out with prospective suitors might consult a malam who would divine that she has been married by a male djinn who is frustrating her human relationships. Likewise, a man who is past the age of marriage and shows no inclination to do so, nor interest in chicks might be said to have been married by a female djinn.3 In my teens, I was warned to always cover myself fully when not in my room to prevent a female djinn liking me and causing problems. Hoping to get a djinn babe, I deliberately started walking around the house with my skinny chest bared and wearing only shorts or maybe a towel. My reasoning was that if she likes me, she could be coming to visit me and since she can take a human shape, we could be having sex. In fact, I imagined she would be a shapeshifter like Mystique so that I could act out different fantasies. Also, since I had read the Arabian Nights where djinn sometimes gave people money and stuff, I reasoned that if one liked me, she would be happy giving me money and I would never be broke.
Staying with djinn, there is a belief that certain verses of the Quran could be used to summon them. I asked my malam how it was done and he gave me the verses. Me and my best friend tried it, hoping we could get them to be giving us money. We were in the university then and planned how we would spend the money, especially the girls we would court because we would dazzle them with our wealth. Unfortunately, we could not summon anyone because the verses were many and reading them was tedious.
I narrate the stories above to show how Nigerians believe in the supernatural ways of getting stuff. This belief is pervasive among Muslims, Christians and animists and among members of all tribes. Among Christians and southerners, the belief is that the strongest juju (which in this case means magic of the black kind but can also refer to a musical genre) requires human body parts to work. There is allegedly a section of Jankara market in Lagos where human body parts are sold.4 There are also newspaper stories of discoveries of mutilated corpses or people caught with body parts or lists of going rates for those same body parts. Among northern Muslims, the belief is more about using the power of religion for nefarious ends. In both the north and south, there is a belief in supernaturally induced love, failure or success. Although, the Islamic magic can be combined with bloody sacrifices. There is a story of a room discovered in a rich man's house with a corpse leaning against a wall holding an open Quran. The story goes that the man aroused suspicion because there were always animals being slaughtered in the house, ostensibly for food. However, someone knowledgeable guessed that there was another reason because some types of magic required the beneficiary to spill blood daily. And on that suspicion, a mob broke into the house. The room was allegedly full of money brought by djinn in exchange for the blood.
In eastern and southern Africa, albinos are vulnerable because it is believed their body parts are especially potent.5
In southern Africa, it is believed that sex with a virgin would cure HIV.6 I believe this is a man having sex with a virgin girl and not a woman getting down with a virgin boy.
This belief in supernatural causes is probably due to our religiosity. The prosperity gospel has led a lot of Christians to mentally separate wealth from work. Among Muslims, there is a belief that virtue in the form of devotion to parents, charity, and (this is particularly stupid) getting married if beset by poverty, will lead to prosperity. This is overlaid on a culture that is still quite close to primitive animism. People still believe there can be medicine to make one bullet proof or knife proof. I use the term medicine because it is a literal translation of the name for those things. There are charms people wear for protection against evil because there is a strong belief in witchcraft. It is rather ironic that traditional religion is seen as demonic and the instrument to do harm but it is also what can be used to secure protection from that same harm. In any case, if formulas derived from middle eastern cults can lead to wealth, then it is not impossible that formulas derived from African cultures would also work.
Notwithstanding my youthful endeavors, I now doubt that those things work. I doubt their efficacy because even though I know there is much that science does not know, what it does know is enough to give one a good sense of how things work and do not work. However, despite the discovery of the human mind's propensity for seeing patterns and connections where none exist, it would be rather horrible if these sorts of things actually worked. I wonder what it would take to prove or disprove them. If they do work, that would definitely mean a connection with other supernatural beliefs. And science would have a great deal of work integrating this new knowledge into the existing body of knowledge.
Libera te Tutemet ex Inferis: The 2023 Halloween Horrorquest
1. Ibadan forest of horror
2. Hiny Umoren's murder
3. Jankara Market
3. Djinn interfering with humans
4. Albino murders
5. Sex with virgins