Control by Fear
from the book, "Our Fascinating Earth"

Book: 
Our Fascinating Earth

Control by Fear

In many primitive cultures of the world the witch doctor still holds sway over people, preying on their superstitious minds with occasional deadly results.

Many Australian aborigines believe an enemy can be killed if a witch doctor points a human bone at him while singing a death chant. When the shaman does this, it is thought, an invisible splinter of bone implants itself in the body of the victim and will eventually kill him. Quite often the victim, aware of the shaman's actions and powerless against them, dies of sheer terror. There is, however, a cure. The victim's only hope is that the shaman will go through the motions of removing the deadly, invisible bone. This is done quite frequently — for a price.

Some primitive African tribes believe that witch doctors can kill their enemies by directing lightning bolts to strike them. Strangely, during the late 1920s in Bechuanaland, a charge of murder by lightning was leveled against a tribal witch doctor.

As a result of an argument with one of his fellow tribesmen, the shaman angrily called on heavenly lightning to destroy his adversary. To the amazement of all present the accursed man was suddenly struck and killed by a lightning bolt. Quite probably the one most amazed by the event was the witch doctor himself. Surprisingly, but at the same time lending credibility to his supernatural powers, he pleaded guilty at his trial. The chief punished him severely; the man was whipped and branded.

Remarkable coincidences often give the witch doctor the appearance of supernatural powers and vision. In 1949, a witch doctor in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), was arrested and sentenced to prison for illegally practicing witchcraft. As he was led away to prison, he screamed a curse that lions would return to the city streets.

Salisbury, a modern city, had not seen lions anywhere near its borders for over fifty years. But just three weeks after the man screamed his curse a pride of lions strolled nonchalantly through the quickly emptied streets! The lions remained in the area for two weeks, raising havoc with domestic cattle before moving on. No humans were molested, possibly because many people were afraid the lions were not of this world and kept a respectable distance between themselves and the visiting marauders.

It is not known if the punishment for the witch doctor was increased after he continued his illegal practice so effectively.