Evangelist “Charmed” by Fetish Priestess

An interesting religious battle in Ghana, from Graphic Ghana:

There was drama at Okornya, a suburb of Somanya, last Thursday when a well-known evangelist of the Assemblies of God Church, was charmed by a fetish priestess popularly called Okornya Maku.

…On that fateful day, the priestess welcomed the evangelist to her home once again and they engaged in Bible discussions.

An argument ensued between the two over the interpretation of some parts of the Bible and Okornya Maku who used to be a Presbyterian also quoted several scriptures to buttress what she was saying.

She entered her shrine and came out reciting the Apostles’ Creed and speaking in a strange language.

She then ordered Evangelist Bless to go down on his knees and he meekly complied behaving like a child and shivering.

Okornya Maku has been in the news before (From the Ghanaian Chronicle in 2003; ref via The Pagan Prattle). The story concerned a 72-year old woman, Yobiyo Larko, who admitted to being a witch and dipping a two-year old child in a stream to “cure” him:

…her confession was made to another woman, a popular soothsayer and fetish priestess, in a nearby village. Okornya Maku, the fetish priestess, after speaking with Larko, declared that Larko had killed several people, including a young set of triplets who had died that same week.

The role of fetish priests, also known as soothsayers, in the identification and punishment of self-proclaimed witches is largely ignored in Ghana.

That may be so, but in 2004 the government’s National Reconciliation Commission produced a report which featured a chapter on religious bodies and human rights; the issue of fetish priests and witches is discussed there (pdf). The Ghanaian Chronicle also gives a description of Okornya Maku:

It’s an ordinary day at Okornya Maku’s shrine, house number C 303/3 at Somanya, in the Eastern Region, and the compound is filled to capacity with people, as well as strange portraits, sculptures, carvings and paintings. Stains of fresh blood lead the way from the entrance to the inner perimeter of the compound.

Maku stands confidently and elegantly. She is tall and dark, with a piercing pair of eyes and a powerful voice. She covers her body with hundreds of beads, chains, trinkets, bracelets, rings and other heavy ornaments…

(Beads are apparently Somanya’s main industry, and are connected with status)

…She wears her hair in natural dreadlocks, either dangling around her waist or wrapped in headgear. Instead of drinking water from pipes, she drinks rain or stream water, which she calls “holy water.”

“My powers were given to me from God. I don’t spill human blood. I only cleanse society of evil,” she stresses.

A licensed practitioner and government-accredited soothsayer, Maku says she has been practising for over 40 years. She also insists that she is a Christian. To prove it, she recites the Apostles’ Creed.

The religious life of Somanya was featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette back in 2002. Ervin Dyer reported that town had a population of 8,000, and 60 churches. Among these, African Independent Churches (AICs) are burgeoning:

In African Independent Churches, it is not uncommon to see carved wooden stools, traditional seats of sovereignty for African royalty, and animal-skin rugs, local symbols of power and authority, as part of the pulpit. Libation, a centuries-old practice of honoring ancestors, is as much a part of some independent worship as electric guitars, keyboards and hymns. Polygamy, animal sacrifices and African occult are practiced by some congregations.

…The major dividing line between mainline and independent churches seems to be faith healing, the practice of curing physical illnesses by exorcising demons. Popular and accepted by the independents — where congregations believe that malevolent spirits can cause sickness — most mainline churches shun healings as fetish, a practice too closely tied to witchcraft.

Dyer profiles Joyce Dauty, an independent and illiterate prophetess who regularly receives messages from God.

So what of the hapless “Evangelist Bless”? Graphic Ghana gives further details:

In an interview with the Rite FM station he said, he had been a seasoned evangelist but what happened to him was a mystery.

He said even though that was the fourth time he went to Okornya Maku’s house with the intention of converting her to Christianity, he had never had such an opposing force which made him to succumb.

A bit different from the usual narrative, in which intrepid evangelists confound the adherents of traditional religion (e.g. here). But one wonders how well Okornya Maku might fare against an opponent who doesn’t share her supernaturalist assumptions. Over the border, in Nigeria, there’s a man named Leo Igwe, who heads both the Nigerian Humanist Movement and the Nigerian Skeptics Society. Commenting on shrines in Nigeria in 2004, Igwe

…stressed the need for the federal Government to support science-based education instead of superstition-based instruction and religious indoctrination.

“We enjoin all Nigerians to abandon Pseudo-science and embrace science, to leave occultic non-sense and cultivate rational inquiry, critical thinking and technological intelligence so that Nigeria can grow”, Mr. Igwe said.

Ghana, meanwhile, apparently has “government-accredited” soothsayers…

(Tipped from Bulldada Newsblog)

One Response

  1. a low dosage of a drug, perhaps?

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