By Aaron Aroriza:
Some things are hard to understand. Others are easily misunderstood. And then there are those, which having failed to comprehend, we call magic – if we are secular and miracles – if we are 'faithful'.
I still don't know where to place what I saw in this witchdoctor's sitting room. I still don't know whether the things she showed me in the water bowl had actually been extracted from my body and sucked out through the rosary or whether it was just a trick.
And she is a very good one. She doesn't say anything about how the substances end up in the bowl. But I guess people who go there believing they've been bewitched find it easy to assume that the substances in the water are the witch craft materials and have actually been sucked out from their bodies through the rosary. And so that's the story that makes the rounds. And so that's the story that Moses and his co-workers on site always tell. And according to the stories I heard at the shrine later, people do heal after the mysterious substances mysteriously end up in the bowl – even those that come carrying their deathbeds from hospitals.
The water in my bowl had been crystal clear when she had told me to check it at the beginning. Thirty minutes had passed and now when she removed the banana leaf I saw light brown dregs at the bottom and a few patches of floating slurry substances. “You see that slurry stuff at the top? Your girlfriend is bewitching you so you can be faithful to her,” she said, “and the dregs at the bottom are from your workmates who want to take over your job.” She figured me out wrong. Moses too didn't know me that well and didn't even understand my kind of work. So he must have been of not so much help to her. I had no girlfriend and I'm quite faithful. I had neither a job nor workmates. But I had some little money our dear witch must have been plotting for.
Whenever I would get ill as a kid, I never used to take injections just lying down (pun un-intended). I would always run for dear life whenever I heard 'injection' and my name in the same sentence. My mum, tired of this chasing game, devised a very wise plan. One day after such another chase I was pinned on the bed and told that this time it was my mum who was going to administer the injection. A few seconds later, I was let free. I had only felt but what seemed like a pinch on my small bums and then the soothing rub of a wet piece of cotton wool. “Wow”, I thought, “my mum is the best 'injector' in the world”. The next day I was feeling much better. And from then on, I would always run to my mum for injection whenever I had the slightest suspicion of malaria. And every time I got better after getting that painless injection.
It was only many years later in high school that I had another painful injection. This one was administered by the school nurse. It was too late for me to run or to not take it lying down. I hadn't anticipated the pain and therefore had neither prepared myself for the fight nor for the flight. It was all over too soon but I told the nurse I wanted to go home since her treatment was doing more harm to my bum than the malaria was doing to my health.
Back home I narrated my injection woes to mum. Oh how hard she laughed. When she was done with her hearty laughter she let me in on her little painless injection magic secret. She never used to inject me at all. She would always go through the whole injection procedure skipping the part where the needle got under my skin, replacing it with a pinch instead. The real magic of course was the fact that I would always get healed.
I was later to learn, much to my delightful enlightenment, that scientists in the medical field call it the placebo effect; healing that happens when faith and ignorance are brewed in the same head.
“You will have to spend the night here and have your body cleansed again tomorrow morning,” Moses' voice startled me out of my reverie. I just couldn't believe his words. The place had already begun to freak me out. Stories I had been over-hearing people narrate had already started to sow seeds of 'second thought' about the witchdoctor's powers. And here Moses was, telling me I would have to spend the night at the devil's workshop! “My home is just a few minutes from here and that's where I will spend the night. They have guest rooms here that are meant for the patients”, he said, waving his arm in the direction of a squalid mud and wattle house built in tenement form. It looked spooky on the outside and I didn't have to first go inside to know it would be spookier.
To be continued…
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