Evil Owls and Walking Backwards in the Night
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Just a quick entry today.. the bus leaves in 15 minutes.
So.. there is a lot of superstition here in Africa. The thatch huts have sharp glass sticking out o their top knots.. that is to keep the evil owl from lading there and bringing bad luck.
If you get home after midnight then you must enter the home backwards to keep the ghosts from entering.
If someone is living 'differently'.... whatever that means.. in the community and things start to go wrong then they will likely be accused of witchcraft and hacked to death.
In one of the communities we passed yesterday a family cleansing had taken place resulting in 14 members of the family being poisoned. Only two members of the family survived and they weren't there at the time.
It is considered unlucky to sleep on the floor. If you do not raise your bed up then the 'tokoloch' will be able to reach you. 'He' is a short little devil who brings all kinds of bad luck. In parts of this country just mentioning the word tokoloch will send people running.
There are many strange beliefs in this country. Not unlike other parts of the world local traditions are melded with introduced religions making each area unique.
One oddity, which has little to do with tradition, is the fixation over funerals. No matter where a person dies he/she must be transported back to their home village for burial. Now that doesn't sound difficult until you consider that the body must not be cremated... it is damn hot here most of the year... and the taxi companies have a mafia like hold on all transportation of bodies charging outrageous prices that these poor people must pay if their loved one is to rest in peace. They go to such an extent that, if you are transporting a body yourself you are likely to be ambushed at gunpoint and forced to hand over the body to one of these taxi drivers. It gets worse.... Funerals are big business. You are likely to be very rich if you own a funeral home so it is to your benefit to hire people to prowl the halls of the hospital looking for about to be or recently deceased. It is not uncommon for a family to be told of their loved ones death before the doctor gets a chance (sometimes the death has not even occured.. just imminent). By being the first to give the information the chances are you will get the contract to transport and bury the body. There are even people who grab a body at car accidents in order to get the contract. Sort of like stealing gold only a lot more messy!
These people want strength and control over their lives. Until they can control the gangs and get a grip on superstition they will continue to struggle.
Their chant during the anti apartheid rallies was: "Ammandu Awatu" or "The power is Ours"
I hope they can find their power and become a peaceful people again.... not just the blacks, coloureds and whites but all South Africans. Empowerment is a big thing in North America.... here it is just a continuation of the same old fight using different means.