Friday, 21 August 2009

OLE (Witchcraft in the Heart)

'Ole' means indignation, envy or annoyance at sinful behaviour. Invocation of ghosts is done by a living person, typically an elder; but anyone whose father was dead might do so. He sat near his shrines in his compound and thought about the sinner's behaviour. His thoughts were known by the ghosts and they then sent sicknessto the offender. It was said "he thinks these words in his heart", he did not threaten or curse the offender. For a senior man to do this was part of his expected role. It was part of his 'work' to 'cleanse the lineage home'. Indeed, an elder who did not do so when justified would have been lacking in sense of duty towards his lineage. A man might invoke the dead to send sickness against any member of his family cluster and his minimal lineage, whether living in the family cluster's compounds or not. Within the family cluster were included lineage members, their wives and attached kin such as sister's sons. A man was thought not to invoke against sister's sons living elsewhere: to discipline them was the duty of their own elders where they lived... A living man was thought to invoke the dead because he felt the sentiment of indignation over sin...

There were various forms of witches. Some, the most common, walked at night, often in the guise of a rat or other night animal, or as a moving light; others walked about and defecated blood in their victim's compound. In the morning the victim would wake up aching and sick and might die unless the witch removed his witchcraft. Lugbara people understood that a witch's motive was 'ole' which meant that anyone could be a witch. It was said that a man felt envy at seeing others eat rich food when he had nothing, at seeing other men dancing and admired by women while he stood alone, or at seeing other men surrounded by kin and children when he had none of his own. But the sentiment of 'ole' was more than mere envy. It was resentment at failing to achieve selfish personal ambition. In Lugbara Culture, high status and prestige were traditionally acquired only or almost only through position in the lineage and by age, the two usually going together.

(Excerpt from "The Lugbara of Uganda" by John MIDDLETON)