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Five Sources of Power in African Magick
There are five main sources of power – where each sorcerer or sorcerer derives their authority from – in the West African magical tradition. These are the power of the magician in hand, the power of nature, the power of ancestors, the power of spirits and the power of God. They are used and invoked in almost every African ritual.
1. The Magician’s Power
First of all, in West African magic – from Palo Mayombe to the Vodou of Benin – the power of any spell, spell or ritual depends on the power of the person who performs it. Not just anyone can sit down and cast a spell. This is in direct contrast to the notions of Western eclecticism where any person is able to study, write, cast and perform a spell.
In West African traditions, magic is practiced only by those who have undergone many years of rigorous training. In many cases it may also be necessary for the person to be of a priestly heritage or family background. In some Vodou traditions in Benin, for example, it is the spirits who determine whether a man or woman will become a priest or priestess. Those who have spiritually inclined families are much more likely to be chosen than those who do not.
All of this makes for African witches that have a reputation as some of the most powerful and feared in the world. Few people will tell you that they fear a curse placed by a Wiccan, but if it is from someone who was born and raised in Africa, who has studied and learned the native traditions and raised a status of reverence and power in its respective tradition then the situation changes. The mage’s power is a force to be reckoned with.
2. Power of Nature
Africa is still largely rural. Despite extensive urbanization and industrialization, Africa has remained largely rural. This is reflected in the powers and traditions of African magic. Many spells in West African cultures invoke the power of nature. We see this both in the invocation of nature spirits and in the preparation of natural medicines to be consumed.
Many will point out that much of Western medicine was originally learned from African traditions – traditional herbal medicines in Africa were found to have great medicinal benefits. But it goes much further than that. Even inert substances, such as prairie grass or rafa, can take on spiritual and magical qualities when used in a ceremony. Blessed natural objects, plants and leaves that would otherwise have no effect on a person have been shown to have the power to curse and heal and to drive mad or cure insanity.
One of the most common examples is of course the binding stew – a blessed food item served by a woman to keep her lover or husband faithful. The natural power to ensure fidelity and stop cheating is found in many African spells.
3. The power of the first
All African magic requires communication with the ancestors. This is why the magicians in Africa who cast the most powerful spells are also those whose fathers and grandfathers – or mothers and grandmothers – had cast the most powerful spells. They stay in direct communication and connect with their ancestral spirits.
These ancestral spirits will guide the magician in any work or ritual. They will give instructions and secrets that cannot be taught in any book or by any human. Basically, direct spiritual potions that are only learned and passed down after one’s death. This is why communication with the ancestors is essential. They are part of the recipe to perform any spell or ceremony.
The power of the ancestors is also important in that they help during the actual casting of the spell. They also give their spiritual power and ability. In Africa, you never have just a single man or woman working a spell. In addition to the living participants, you will also have the ancestors of that man or woman casting spells along with them. Thus, the more spiritually powerful the ancestors were, the more spiritual power will enter the ritual. This is why many families in Africa – like the case of Remis or Dagbononon – gain a strong reputation for having a long line of healers and sorcerers.
4. Power of Spirits
Invocations to the spirits are central to any African ritual. The spirits in West Africa are countless, and not every person works with – or even knows about – every spirit that exists in Africa. They are a multitude and cover every aspect of life and death. They also range from small, mischievous spirits to large, powerful entities.
Each given soul will have many souls below it that are available to it. It is these spirits who are asked and asked to lend their power and will to a spell. It is also these spirits to whom offerings are made. This can be in the form of an animal sacrifice – but not all spirits use animal sacrifices. Many spirits accept offerings of grain, alcohol, cigarettes, and even small coins of monetary value such as coins and beads. It all depends on the spirits that are invoked.
There are spirits that rule over every area of life. The spirits used in a ceremony to cast a love spell will be a different set, for the most part, than the spirits used in a ceremony to cast a curse on a person. There are still great pantheons of spirits that are invoked in almost all spells, but the true keys and secrets of African spells are the spirits they control. The hierarchy of souls and the souls below them that go forth and do the work. These are the spirits that only the initiated African priest or sorcerer will learn how to work with.
5. God’s power
All African traditions teach of a single deity – even the spirits are below him. This is why many Africans have no problem combining Christianity with traditional spiritual practices. And, in reality, there is no conflict with Christian practice and most African spiritual traditions. Both believe in a single, benevolent deity who rules the world. Both believe in his messengers – Spirits or Angels – and both believe in divine reward and punishment.
God, or Bondye, is always prayed to and invoked in every African ceremony. God is seen as the origin of all things and also as the ultimate giver of spiritual authority. It is also the first source of life and energy in the world. This means that all power—for good or evil—must emanate from this source. This is why prayers to God are offered in every type of spell. Even when insulting an enemy. It is believed that in every action God should be honored and consulted.
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