Animism is spirit worship. It involves necrolatry – the worship of the souls of the dead. The witchdoctors or shamans are regarded as expert mediators who know the proper incantations and sacrifices to placate the spirits. Animism is a religion that sees a spiritual force behind every event and many objects in the physical world have some spiritual significance. Animism seems obsessed with invoking good luck and avoiding bad luck. Each community is seen as having its own sets of gods and spirits. These are territorial.
Fear plays a major role in the life of Animists. They see the world as full of spirits, omens, spells and forces. Through magic, divination and sacred rituals, they seek protection to appease the gods, the spirits and the ancestors. They observe numerous taboos and prohibitions and observe sacred places. For example, in Haiti there is a sacred tree where a pact with the devil was signed over two centuries ago by witchdoctors. Animists see a whole host of objects as sacred things with sacred power. They recognize sacred persons and observe sacred actions. One of these is the circumcision rituals on young men in the Xhosa tribe. Many hundreds of men have died from these dangerous circumcision rituals.
The Sangoma and the Snake
During the World Cup 2010, much publicity was given to a Burmese rock python, owned by a sangoma (witch doctor), in Nyanga . It was alleged that this python was able to communicate to the sangoma which team would win each match. Gamblers paid the sangoma for predictions. The SPCA found the snake to be underweight, suffering from dehydration, mouth rot and pneumonia and confiscated the python to give it medical care. The sangoma , 25 year old Siyabonga Mthethwa, said that the SPCA did not understand sangomas: “Everything I said does not make sense to them.”
The High Court in Pietermaritzburg found 28 year old Smangaliso Ngubane guilty of murder for having slaughtered his 17 month old baby daughter in a ritual killing. Amini Xaba was stabbed by her father six times in what state witnesses described as “an offering to his ancestors”. Ngubane testified that he had heard voices that had told him to do this.
Two teenage girls in Johannesburg were doused with petrol and set alight in a satanic ritual. The provincial police spokesman reported that the girls were tied up by their friends and burned in what appeared to be a satanic ritual. The Star quoted from Izabella Little, of the Teenage Advice Forum, Life Talk, that: “Satanism is not spoken about very often”. She mentioned an incident in Cape Town where a mother reported her teenage daughter kidnapped and taken to some satanic church where another teenager was murdered. She managed to escape but was very traumatized. Police investigated the incident, but it was never mentioned in the media. “We always hear rumours about Satanism, but it is not something people are talking about. We would like them to come forward so that this can come into the open.”
In Uganda the government is setting up posters in playgrounds and on roadsides warning of the danger of abduction by witchdoctors for child sacrifice. Police have investigated hundreds of cases of child sacrifice in Uganda. The mutilated bodies of children have been discovered at roadsides. The Anti-Human Sacrifice Task Force reports that there is a growing belief that when you sacrifice a child, you get wealth. There are people willing to buy these children to be sacrificed for the prosperity of their business.
The UK based charity, Jubilee Campaign, reports that they know of over 900 cases of human sacrifice in the country. Churches are singing a song: “Heal our land, end child sacrifice.” A BBC undercover reporter filmed a local witch doctor who explained how the sacrifice of a child is “the most powerful spell”. The witch doctor was recorded saying: “there are two ways of doing this, we can bury the child alive on your construction site, or we can cut him in different places and put the blood in the bottle of spiritual medicine.”
Sindephi Spogter-KaMcina of the National Executive Committee of the Traditional Healers Association claimed that the roads of South Africa are haunted because whites have not fetched the spirits of their dead from roadside accident scenes. He explained that the growing Christian tradition of putting up roadside memorial crosses and placing flowers at the scene of an accidental death, stops the soul of the deceased from departing. He claimed that roadside memorials cause accidents because the white people did not appease their loved ones’ spirit. He explained that in African traditions the spirit of the dead is brought back home from the scene of the death. Some use a branch from a young tree to seep up the spirit and take it to the body, which must be buried in the ancestral area.
Communicating with the Dead
The Scriptures are clear that we are not able to communicate with the spirits of departed ancestors. It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the Judgment (Hebrews 9:27). There is a great gulf set between the living and the dead and communication between them is impossible (Luke 16:26). However, many people who think that they are communicating with ancestral spirits are actually communicating with deceptive demons, unclean spirits (Matthew 10:1), evil spirits (Acts 19:12), fallen angels who rebelled and are now in darkness bound for Judgment (Jude 6). Their power is limited (2 Peter 2:4). They serve the devil, the prince of darkness, the prince of this world (Matthew 12:24; John 12:31).
Occult practices honour satan rather than God. Occultism makes the enemies of God the guiding forces and the source of knowledge. Those who are “giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” actually “depart from the faith…” 1 Timothy 4:1. We are commanded “Do not learn the ways of the heathen…” Jeremiah 10:2
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7