Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Friend The Witch Doctor

I know nothing about the life of my Maternal Grandmother before I was born. I remember her as a cheerful, kindly woman who had great affection for me because I was her first grandchild.

Recently, my mother shared a 'secret' about my Gran which surprised me.

According to my Mom, in the early seventies when I was caught-up in the whole sex, drugs and rock 'n roll thing, my Grandmother had consulted a Witch Doctor who had given her 'muti' which she sprinkled in my food one night.

The potion was supposed to protect me from my friends and other 'bad' influences.

Can you imagine that? This was at the height of Apartheid South Africa, where inter-racial contact was discouraged and regulated by Law ... she was so concerned about the path I was walking that she had flouted the convention of the day and sought the assistance of a shaman.

Growing up, religion was never an issue in my family. Apart from a few half-hearted attempts by my folks to get us kids to show our faces in church occasionally, the subject was never discussed - everyone just assumed that everyone else was 'Christian' and believed in Jesus.

So where then, was my Granny at? What were her beliefs? It goes to show how little we know about what goes on in the heads of those closest to us.

This may sound strange but, even before my Mom told me the story, I've often felt the 'presence' of my Gran, watching over me ...

Did the witch doctor's potion work? Hard to say but I don't have contact with 'friends' from that period, have few friends today and have generally managed to stay out of trouble throughout my life.

I can't help wondering though, exactly WHAT was in the witch doctor's concoction?

My friend the witch doctor
He taught me what to say
My friend the witch doctor
He taught me what to do
I know that you'll be mine
When I say this to you

Ooo eee,ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla, bing bang
Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla bing bang...

Image Credit: SA Tours and Travel



  1. What an amazing story. As you say especially in those days it was surprising the she should go to a witch doctor. She must have been very worried about you, I just wonder what you were up to!

    I worked for a vet in the 70's, who learnt to throw the bones from a witch doctor in Botswana, he was very serious about the result and reading them. It was at times quite spooky.

    By the way 2 cats this morning, phew, relief. Diane

  2. Hehe Diane ... you don't really want to hear a detailed account of what I was up to, do you?

    Yeah, this kind of stuff can be quite spooky ... sadly it also results in murders and other cruelties in the harvesting of body-parts for magic spells ...

    I'm so glad that both cats were there this morning ...

  3. I suspect that your grandma loved you so much that she made sure she had all the bases covered as it were. She probably prayed for you in church too.

  4. You may be onto something there lgsquirrel, though I don't recall her ever attending a church service or verbalizing any religious belief ...

  5. Your grandmother must have loved you so much. I wonder if the potions protected you from those angry elephants too. I'm sure there is a lot of power there.

  6. Amazing story. I can see your Gran didn't want to leave anything to chance due to her love and concern for you.

  7. Y'know, I've been wondering that myself Inger - I may not have many material possessions but when I think back to some of the lucky escapes I had as a miner, I seem to have lived a 'charmed' life ...

  8. Thanks Penny - yes, I believe I was her 'favorite' ... today I regret that I didn't speak to her more often and get to know her better - I have a bad tendency to take people for granted sometimes ...

  9. What an incredible thing for your Granny to have done - especially, as you say, in that day & age. I have no doubt you have been protected in some way by this over the years - I have witnessed too much African witchcraft over the years to NOT believe in it. In my experience, 'white' people only turn to African witchcraft when they are really desperate/as a last resort - your Granny must have loved you deeply. And I also believe that love that deep, transcends time as we know it, & continues on through other lifetimes/beyond the grave :)
    (Geesh, sorry - didn't mean to get all philosophical on you there, Crow ! P.S. Thanks for all your comments to my comments on your old posts - I have really enjoyed reading back through all your archives & the beautiful photo's you've taken of 'Nam')

  10. And thank you in return Lynda - I appreciate the fact that you waded through my old posts and commented on some of them ...

    ... as for getting 'philosophical' - I love it and enjoy reading your views on the subject ... I confess that I've not much experience of African magic or witchcraft but I know that it influences and affects many people here ...

    I think I shall make it my mission to learn more about local beliefs and superstitions ...

  11. Graham,
    Love your blog! Your photos have a narrative flow. Great photos, too.

  12. Thanks for your visit and kind comment Faye.

  13. That is one scary looking individual, I would not like to meet him on a dark night!
    All Granny's have the benefit of second sight, they have alrady reared their own families and have usually seen it all before and can see the dangers lurking before the parents who are busy with the day to day stuff.
    A few good friends are better than hundreds of aquaintances.

  14. ... you're so right Peggy ... I can count the number of friends I have on one hand ...

    ... your comment about Grannies having the benefit of second sight makes me wonder what skills Grandpas have ...

  15. your stories get better all the time. The elephant charges, now witch doctor potions (has me thinking of the love potion song)

    I have a nephew right now that could use a potion like that.

  16. Thanks lisleman ... ah! You mean Love Potion No 9?:

    I took my troubles down to Madame Rue
    You know that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth
    She's got a pad down on Thirty-Fourth and Vine
    Sellin' little bottles of Love Potion Number Nine

  17. Younger readers might find this helps...


    tehee gg

  18. Hehe ty gg ... a blast from my favourite past ... (I vowed never to use that 't%^&Nyb888er' word again ...)