Spellbound: Inside West Africa's Witch Camps

Karen Palmer. Free Press, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4391-2050-7
In this empathetic account, Palmer looks at witchcraft, witch doctors, and superstition in present-day Ghana and examines why some believe in them completely, while others do not, positing that belief might have been extenuated through Africa's lack of wealth, education, healthcare, and women's rights. The less somebody understands economics, medicine, science, philosophy or politics, Palmer suggests, the more he or she could credit certain things to the supernatural. The author takes us inside remote encampments where women thought to be witches are isolated and punished. There, they must live on their own, away from the comforts of family, and sometimes beg for work. She recounts the experiences of women like Ayishetu Bugre, who had been accused of witchcraft by a jealous, drunken brother-in-law. Her sentencing depended on the death throes of a sacrificed chicken, which is believed to be a message from the tribal ancestors. Palmer also talks of Asara Azindu, whose success and independence bothered those around her. They blamed her for a meningitis outbreak, claiming she had poisoned the town's main water source. With these and other stories, Palmer effectively highlights the grave effects of ignorance and superstition, and the cruel, abusive situations in which scores of Ghanaian women currently find themselves. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2011
Release date: 10/01/2010
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Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4391-4312-4
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-4391-2051-4
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