Shrines, Witches, and Explanations on Trial: The witchcraft cases of the Nae We shrine in Accra, Ghana

Thumbnail Image
Martin, Flair
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Mount Saint Vincent University
"In 2012, the British Library commissioned an archiving project entitled “Witchcraft and Curse Trial records at the paramount shrines of Nai, Korle and Sakumo We, Accra, Ghana.” The goal of this project was to preserve the hand written records of trials held at the Nae We shrine between 1984 and 2013. The result was the digitization of over 12,000 documents, many of which are related to accusations of witchcraft. These are the only extant documented accounts of witchcraft trials in existence in Africa, and as such they provide a wealth of data to be analyzed for the first time. This thesis positions the data from these documents within the context of the historiography of both modern African witchcraft, and the literature on Early Modern European witch-hunts. It argues that there have been three models of academic thinking on modern African witchcraft: The work of E.E. Evans-Pritchard, the Manchester school, and more recent scholarship in which the work of Peter Geschiere has played a central role. This thesis will show that the first two of these approaches to modern African witchcraft have been somewhat useful in the past, but that they now represent an outmoded perspective. The third and most recent approach champions the need for contextualization and rejects the use of large theoretical frameworks to explain African witchcraft. It also positions witchcraft-related practices as a distinctly modern phenomenon, one that dynamically adapts to changing local circumstances. This thesis has been conceptualized largely within this school of thought, but with some qualifications.Peter Geschiere and Adam Ashforth have argued that economic imbalances, power relations, and kinship, play a central role in witchcraft-related accusations, but they have not had the benefit of any hard statistical data from which to confirm or deny their position. Using documents from the Nae We shrine in Accra, this thesis will challenge these assertions and show that witchcraft-related guilty verdicts can be better explained by the internal economy of the shrine, the costs associated with being found guilty, and the completion rate of trials, than by economic inequalities between participants, gender, or kinship relations." -- Excerpt from introduction.
Witchcraft Trials , Nae We shrine - Ghana