Seeking Samiel and The Book Seller’s Secret were inspired by events which have actually taken place in South Africa. My inspiration was found one day in church when a South African priest visited.
Instead of the usual call for donations, the priest talked about witchcraft. Witchcraft, he said, was the fastest growing religion in South Africa. He said that priests were desperately needed in the hospitals—yes, the hospitals—for exorcisms. He told stories about possessions and demonology, and I was floored.
Doubtful, I did some research of my own. I read about Sangomas and muti and witch doctors and ritual killings.
I found an online article, titled, The Witchcraft Murders, about the mutilated remains of a child pulled from the river. The murder, according to the article, was part of an African ritual killing. The investigating officer consulted a special police force in South Africa, the only one in the world dedicated to investigating ritual murders.
Although I was horrified, I was intrigued; it sounded like a good horror story. I was hooked; I felt compelled to write about witchcraft and why it had become a political factor, a motive for murder, a trusted business, and a fact of life in South Africa. In January 2016, portions of South Africa’s Witchcraft Suppression Act (the bill was structured to address the criminal aspects of witchcraft—intimidation, terror, distress, and muti killings) were ruled unconstitutional.
In January 2014, it was reported that South African President Jacob Zuma admitted to using witchcraft against white people.
In 2013, a hospital in Swaziland which bordered South Africa was accused of harvesting body parts for muti.
Muti (muti is a Zulu word for medicine) killings are performed to harvest body parts and mix with herbs or plants in medicinal spells. The more brutal the murder, the more powerful the spell; ancestral spirits will hear the screams of pain during a live mutilation and confer stronger power into the muti. Limpopo province of South Africa recorded 250 muti murders in just one year. An estimated 80% of South Africans use traditional herbs and medicine, but not all of them hire out for a ritual killing to use a body part in their concoction.
Sangomas are traditional healers and messengers of deceased ancestors. They are legally recognized under the Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007 alongside herbalists, traditional birth attendants, and traditional surgeons.
I even read that some hospitals teach magical and alternative remedies.
The question I wanted to answer was, why?
Perhaps the poverty, corruption and inequality has lead to insecurities within a traditionally spiritual group of people. A South African proverb says, “The devil was cast from heaven and landed on the African Continent.” Those unable to progress are often seen as victims. They, too, are asking why.
–Dailymaverick.co/za IVO VEGTER 26 MAY 2014 10:56 (SOUTH AFRICA)
–Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in South Africa by Adam Ashforth
–Muti Murder in Democratic South Africa, by Louise Vincent
–Witnessing a South African Healer at Work, article by Pumza Fihlani BBC News, Johannesburg 7 May 2013
—DAN NEWLING FOR MAILONLINE PUBLISHED: 08:41 EST, 9 January 2014
–Wildhunt.org Terence P Ward PUBLISHED: January 27, 2016
–Image taken from http://altereddimensions.net/2013/african-muti-medicine-murders