After taking in nature at its best, I was back in Dar es Salaam for a few days. I was about to head to Zanzibar next, but then I thought, how about some of the supernatural? I had heard a lot about it and read a bit. That lazy afternoon, I was in a conversation with George who was a tour guide I met and hung around a bit. I asked about voodoo in Africa and I was not sure what I would hear. “I hear there is a lot of voodoo in Africa and do they practice voodoo here? Do you know something about it?”. I was not certain what reaction I would get. “Yes sir, they do” George responded animatedly, “In fact, my own child was killed by someone who did voodoo. It is very common here and is specially used by people who want to eliminate their rivals and adversaries or in order to take revenge on someone.” I was interested and remarked trying to be nonchalant as well “I would love to see how they practice it here. Do they have a witch doctor? Do you know someone who practices voodoo?” I asked excitedly “Yes, you can meet one witch doctor but it will be a fee of 50 dollars.” Sure, love may be free but voodoo sure as hell is not now is it!
George and I decided to seize the day or what was left of it and ventured out to meet a witch doctor whose name I later learnt and rather appropriately was ‘The Messenger’. I was ushered into a small room and on the floor were bottles and tin cans half filled with what they said was ‘medicine’ but looked like brown powder.
I was asked to rub the ‘medicine’ on my hands and wash them. A sanitization perhaps? Then the witch doctor did his sermon and mumbled some word after shaking a jhun jhuna which is a musical instrument made of wood.
In the middle of the bottles was kept a wooden vase. All of a sudden, a voice started talking in the local language Swahili. I had to use it to ask the questions and George would translate it from Swahili. The spirit in the wooden vase would speak again and the witch doctor would explain to me what the spirit had said. I asked about my father and mother, how they were doing in the other world. The spirit said they are well but my father is unwell and wants me to take revenge on the people who murdered him. I asked how that can be done. “A sacrifice will have to be made of a camel and that will cost $2000 including the mirror ceremony.” he replied. Ok, so my dear departed dad did not want the economy option at Africa was my guess.
“What is the mirror ceremony.?” I asked. “Well, at night, we will take you near the sea and show you a mirror in which all your enemies faces will appear. We can then send the spirit to finish these people even if they are in jail.” I found all this very amusing besides being rather incredibly complicated. I picked up the instrument to see if a radio chip or a transistor was fixed inside it. But to my amazement, I could not find one. There was no explanation for the voice that was coming out of the wooden vase beside your plain jane garden variety ventriloquism. I was amazed and tried to check again but by this time, the witch doctor was a tad agitated. “you see, you have to believe. Only then, this will work.” and do I not know that? I asked a few more questions but in my view, there were not any specific answers. “You have to do the sacrifice of a camel for 2000 dollars. Only then will it happen. Only then will the spirit hit its mark” But that was a tad too rich for me!
I walked out thanking the witch doctor and George dropped me back to my hotel. “I must say the voice coming out of the vase was for real but I can’t think how he was managing the illusion.” I asked him and all he mentioned was that it was Voodoo! I looked out of the window to soak in the experience as it was now time to head towards Lusaka, my next destination, as I wondered about all that I saw!