Dr. Maillu\’s Perspective on Science and Witchcraft


Of Potions and Experiments

I recently came across an article discussing a public lecture by Dr. David Maillu, the Makueni\’s renowned author and spiritualist with over 80 books under his name.

Dr. Maillu\’s suggestion that science should embrace witchcraft caught my attention. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend, Peter Mwangangi, regarding the same topic. Given our shared background from Ukambani in Eastern Kenya, discussing the subject was easy for us.

Peter told me that in order for us to liberate Africa, we have to go back to our roots. With that he meant that we should go back to practice our ancestral ways including witchcraft.

Our conversation unraveled through the things we know were possible through witchcraft; one of them was that in Africa, men could make rain. Rainmakers could go to shrines, communicate with ancestors, and prompt rain to manifest almost immediately, or at the very least, during their journey home. Not only making rain, they could they could also direct it to fall precisely at designated locations.

In the present day, we observe that China is actively researching methods to induce artificial rain by employing machines and chemical substances.

We are both Christians. He\’s catholic and I\’m a protestant (although I\’m still unsure about what exactly we\’re protesting) and we also reflected how witchcraft is used to catch thieves – Dr. Willy Mutunga, the former Chief Justice also once suggested that people should explore alternative dispute resolution measures to reduce backlog of cases in courts and I for a moment thought he recommended witchcraft but I know there are several professional ADR measures- and cheating partners. You have probably have heard of people eating grass after they stole and others whose genitals locked while having illicit sex.

But we also talked of the perils that witchcraft has unleashed upon our community. Fear, misfortunes and death. There are many young people who have vowed never to go back to their villages even after they became successful, for the fear of being looked with bad eyes.

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I told Peter about the story of MajiMaji rebellion where Kinjekitile and his soldiers believed \’treated\’ water would act as a bullet proof against German soldiers in Tanganyika and asked him if those were the roots he wanted us to go back to so that I could let him go alone. We laughed hysterically for a long moment. 

This is to say that as much as some spiritualists, scholars and Pan-Africanist activists refer to witchcraft as an indigenous practice that should be preserved, many of them don\’t practice witchcraft. They are modern men who went to mission schools, went to some of the best universities around the world and they occasionally come back to their villages to say people should embrace witchcraft.

One of the biggest dangers of witchcraft is that it cannot be regulated. It is not practiced on principle. Those who poses it can use it when they feel jealous, angry or sometimes they just want to \’test\’ it if it\’s working. Stories are told that especially when people buy or after they inherit witchcraft, they test it on random people to see if a calamity will happen. Some end up even losing their own family members.

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Witchcraft constitutes an intricate and binding commitment. It vastly differs from the convenience of taking paracetamol thrice daily, where deviations from the prescription might be tolerated without severe consequences. Engaging with witchcraft entails a structured set of rituals, a strict adherence to the guidance of a witchdoctor, and a willingness to follow their instructions without deviation. Deviating from these instructions could result in grave repercussions, leading to perplexing and even dire outcomes. You may be told not to be speaking to anyone in the morning, to drink someone\’s urine or be made to encounter your ancestors in dreams. Severely, not listening to the witchdoctor would lead to untreatable madness.

Where I come from, families that practice witchcraft \’professionally\’ are profusely poor. Other villagers hate them and they celebrate when they die. The hate towards witchcraft by Africans was not brought by the colonialists as some people may allege. It has been here, Africans never liked people who could harm or kill them.

The intricacies of the human body underscore the limitations of witchcraft. Consider, for instance, a broken arm. Witchcraft holds no remedy for such a situation. It\’s crucial to distinguish between the roles of herbalists and witchcraft practitioners. The mending of bones is far from magical – it\’s a process grounded in science. While a witchdoctor might provide charms aimed at safeguarding against future accidents or cleansing rituals to prevent recurring misfortunes, the practical mending of a broken bone necessitates a healing process that adheres to the principles of medical science. Bones need time to naturally mend and return to their original shape, a process that transcends the mystical and falls within the realm of empirical understanding.

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In conclusion, I stand as a firm advocate and dedicated champion for the preservation of African culture. However, I unequivocally reject practices that veer into the realm of barbarism. The world has evolved, and our approach must evolve with it. For instance, subjecting a child to circumcision with a rusty knife used on everyon, a practice prevalent in the past, is neither ethical nor safe in today\’s context. At the same time, I embrace the beneficial aspects of our heritage. I often use aloe vera to treat myself when I\’m unwell.

I wholeheartedly acknowledge that Africans possess a distinct and profound spiritual connection that unites us, transcending both life and death. However, this should not serve as a justification for clinging to primitive practices.

In essence, my perspective is to harness the power of science to address the intricate challenges that confront us today. Simultaneously, we should approach our traditions with a rational and logical mindset. By combining the advances of science with the wisdom of our cultural heritage, we can pave a path that leads to innovative solutions while preserving the essence of who we are. This balanced approach ensures that we progress without forsaking the invaluable richness of our traditions.

By Boniface Muema Harrison

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0 Responses

  1. This is fulfilling my brother to read. I must acknowledge that this is a conversation we have calibrated. It’s always a sigh of refreshment to host a conversation with you. Aluta continua.

  2. I love our culture and am afraid at the current rate (where we the kamba community are the only tribe that is abandoning our culture faster than any other, including the mzungus)we are likely to loose it all.

    However, I have been reading
    articles by various authors and I have never seen anyone with clear position on what used to happen or what should happen. We haven’t seen some conversation with a particular witch doctor to actually say what happens.

    Most I find the articles to be just but stories that I have listened to since I was young.
    I am very objective on this so kindly take me as such

    Eng. Martin Kitavi

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