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Observations placeholder

Mary Kingsley - Charms from a Bantu medicine man



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Mary Kingsley
Travels in West Africa

The method of making these charms is much the same among Bantu and Negroes. I have elsewhere described the Gold Coast method, so here confine myself to the Bantu. This similarity of procedure naturally arises from the same underlying idea existing in the two races.

You call in the medicine man, the "oganga," as he is commonly called in Congo Français tribes. After a variety of ceremonies and processes, the spirit is induced to localize itself in some object subject to the will of the possessor. The things most frequently used are antelopes' horns, the large snail-shells, and large nutshells, according to Doctor Nassau. Among the Fan I found the most frequent charm-case was in the shape of a little sausage, made very neatly of pineapple fiber, the contents being the residence of the spirit or power, and the outside coloured red to flatter and please him-for spirits always like red because it is like blood.

The substance put inside charms is all manner of nastiness, usually on the sea coast having a high percentage of fowl dung.

The nature of the substance depends on the spirit it is intended to be attractive to - attractive enough to induce it to leave its present abode and come and reside in the charm.

The source of the experience

African tribal

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Enacting ritual and ceremony



Kingsley, M., (2002) Travels in West Africa Washington:National Geographic Adventure Classics