Evil and Superstition in Sub-Saharan Africa: Religious Infanticide and Filicide

Chima Agazue, Helen Gavin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


A distinct category of women has been identified in different parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, those who commit extreme forms of violence and murder against their children in order to fulfil their religious obligations or to protect themselves from perceived magico-spiritual harms from their children. The whole of Africa is currently witnessing a heightened level of witch-hunting. Historically, some African witch-hunting incidents are triggered by witch-doctors who are keen to protect their clients from any perceived diabolical effects of witches while others are triggered by mere gossips or rumours from neighbours. However, dramatized preaching on witchcraft by revivalist Christian prophets and prophetesses whose major occupations are the ‘sale’ of exorcisms to the bewitched has become the latest trend in the region. These prophets and prophetesses are keen to teach their followers the importance of the ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ biblical passage in their lives as well as how ‘the Kingdom of God suffereth violence’. By means of case study analysis, this paper presents a new pattern of evil that is perpetrated in the form of abandonment, torture, mutilation and murders of children by their mothers, those women who should protect their children from such evils. It also presents the cases of another group of women (prophetesses) who preach and deliver prophecies purportedly from God about particular children who are the alleged witches. This latter category also decides the nature of evil to be committed against such children – all in the name of fulfilling their religious obligations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerceiving Evil
Subtitle of host publicationEvil, Women and the Feminine
EditorsDavid Farnell, Rute Noiva, Kristen Smith
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781848880054
ISBN (Print)9789004373839
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2015


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