Since time immemorial, human beings the world over have sought answers to the vexing questions of their origins, sickness, death and after death; the meaning of natural phenomena such as earthquakes, eclipses of the sun and moon, birth of twins etc. and how to protect themselves from such mysterious events. They invented God and gods and the occult sciences (witch craft, divination and soothsaying) in order to seek the protection of supernatural powers while individuals used them to gain power to dominate others and to accumulate wealth. Human sacrifice was one way in which they sought to expiate the gods for what they believed were punishments for their transgressions. One example, the Ghana Asante Kingdom’s very origins are associated with human sacrifice. On the eve of war against Denkyira, individuals volunteered themselves to be sacrificed in order to guarantee victory. Later, human sacrifice in Asante was mainly politically motivated as kings and religious leaders offered human sacrifice in remembrance of their ancestral spirits and to seek their protection against their enemies.
The Asante Kingdom is one of several examples included in this study of human sacrifice and ritual killing on the African continent. Case studies include practices in Sierra Leone, Tanzania (Mainland), Zanzibar, Uganda and Swaziland. Advertisements relating to the occult was a common feature of Drum magazine, the popular South African magazine in Southern, Eastern and Central Africa in late years of colonial and early years of postcolonial periods, indicating a wide belief in these practices among the people in these countries?
Each case examined is introduced by an expose of folklore that puts in perspective beliefs in the supernatural and how folklore continues to perpetuate them. Through careful study of these select cases, this book highlights general features of human sacrifice which recur with striking uniformity in all parts of sub Saharan Africa, and why they persist until today. He draws upon extensive written sources to expose these practices in other cultures including those in Western societies.