August 8th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

Houngan Silva Joseph passed away last Wednesday in Bel Air, Haiti. He will be much missed both by the members of his peristyle and all of those familiar with his famous Vodou flags. Born in Leogane, Haiti in 1930, he became initiated in 1955. His Vodou flag making began in 1972, two years after he became a Houngan. Houngan Joseph was famous both for his work in the community as well as his flags, continuing a long tradition of flag making in the Bel Air community. His son Jean Wisler will carry the flag making tradition forward. Houngan Silva Joseph was 81.

Posted in Featured, Portfolio
August 8th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

World Cup Witchcraft


The use of muti, a Zulu word that refers to witchcraft and traditional medicine, is commonplace in South Africa. People here turn to it for health and good fortune. But also to serve up bad luck to enemies and foes.

Materials for muti’s potions and spells can be found in places like this, the Faraday Market in central Johannesburg. Look one way and you’ll see stacks of herbs and bottles of chalky liquids. Look another and there is an elephant trunk, a rhinosaurus leg and a pair ofcow hooves.

Traditional diviners and herbalists, called Sangomas and Nyonkas, carefully guard their recipes.

Some traditional healers say World Cup fans have been coming to them in recent weeks for a competitive edge. One Sangoma offers a powder that fans can blow at their beloved team to ensure a victory. Others have remedies that can help the athletes themselves.

Earlier this year, the medical committe at FIFA expressed concerns that some herbal remedies may contain performance enhancing stimulants, but the matter was left to local authorities. The South African Institute for Drug Free Sport says any stimulants used in muti can’t be detected in standard doping tests and that the ingreidents are hard to come by.

The South African national team, known here as Bfana Gobona, has denied any of the team has used muti. But professional trainers, like Tondo Makal, who have worked with top ranked players, say Muti is used at all levels of the sport in South Africa, from casual weekend games to top-flight teams.

“You look at all of the teams n the country. They do it.”

Fellow instructor, Akili Zakali, says that muti is prevelant even at the youth level. One time, he recalls, when he was a young athlete at an amateur club his team began losing and the coach ordered all of the players to turn in their cleets. When the shoes were returned, the muti was right there, he says, plain as day.

“They had all sorts of markings, inside and out. With something that’s white, sort of like chalk or something like that. Cooled off we went into our match and we won. Guess what. From now on this is the way to go.”

Posted in Spells, Vodou
August 7th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

In countries such as the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal, a vast majority of the population believes in witchcraft.  The actual incidence of belief may be even higher, as many people who believe in, or practice, witchcraft in any form are bound by vows of secrecy. For this reason any given population that believes in witchcraft is always going to be higher than the reported statistics.

Posted in Vodou
August 7th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

The Ishango Bone

This is a video from the Ishango Bone exhibit in Brussels, Belgium. The Ishango Bone is a 20,000 year old human relic believed to be the very first example of advanced mathematics in human beings. It was located in the Ishango region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the help of a local witchdoctor. The discovery of the Ishango Bone revolutionized the way historians and anthropologists view the development of mathematics, tool usage and the growth of human civilization.

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Posted in Vodou
August 7th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

African Magick in Football

This monkey hand that I got in the bush is especially for the goalkeeper. Because it has the power to grab and stop the ball.

In Johannesburg, South Africa, a Zulu sorcerer helps to perform rituals for success in an upcoming football game. Porcupine quills are used on the feet to ward away bad luck and rituals are performed to grab the attention of ancestors.

Posted in Spells, Vodou
August 7th, 2011 | No Comments »

African Magick in Football (YouTube)

A fascinating video by the Wall Street Journal describing the use of traditional healing and magic in Johannesburg, South Africa, known locally as muti. Muti is used for healing and good fortune, as well as revenge and bringing bad luck upon enemies. During the World Cup in South Africa, local markets containing magical elements, including animal parts and special powders, are crowded by fans. Muti is common even at the youth level in football and is used by players, coaches and fans alike.

Posted in Spells, Vodou