We might be in the 21st century but some old habits don’t die at all.
In the very old days(-circa- my great, great grandfathers days) you’d have to walk for miles into the forest before you could see a witchdoctor or babalawo in his shrine.
Nowadays they are two a kobo, jostling for space on the high street amongst the numerous mushroom churches and mosques , advertising their services on badly written placards:
‘All trouble solved!’
‘Witchcraft destroyer, life restore!’
‘ I remove evil eye!’
‘ Read you Future!’
‘Medicine for good Health and Wealth!’
Its big business and as soon as you walk through their door and they divine using Ifa or cowrie beads, they’ll find something wrong with you. And for a fee, they’ll remove it. Some unscrupulous ones might even put a spell on you to make sure they get your repeat business, while others practice black magic on the side for even more money!
So in my minds eye, a teenager walking into such a place would be like a fly walking in to spiders web.
Again it was as if he was reading my mind.
“….when I walked into that Babalawos house for the first time my heart was thumping so hard you would have thought it was like a drum being beaten.
I was absolutely terrified and nearly wet myself as I walked into the dimly lit room that was his shrine.
On the walls were pictures of all the gods and deities he worshipped, the floor was covered with goat skins and in a far corner stood a life-size bronze statue of Sango, the God of lightening, illuminated by a smoky palm oil lamp.
Against another wall, on the floor ,were gourds and bottles of all sizes filled with all kinds of portions that gave off a terrible smell.
He himself sat on a high chair decorated with ostrich feathers and had the skins – and heads – of bush monkeys draped over the arms.
He was scary enough sitting in the semi-darkness with the smoke from the burning incense curling around him and when he spoke I nearly turned around and ran out!
“What do you want ?”, he bellowed, his voice echoing around the room, like he was some kind of demi god.
“ I’ve come to read my future”, I replied sheepishly, wondering whether I had made the right decision and whether I should run for the door while I still had a chance. Everything was eerily scary!
“Sit down!”, he commanded and I quickly planted my buttocks down on the chair facing him.
“5,000 naira!”, again it was a command.
I fished the banknotes out of my rear pocket and put them on the table.
He took the money and crumpled them in his fist. He stood up and held his fist to my temples before sitting back down again, smiling.
To my surprise , he gave me my money back.
I was dumbfounded, what was going on?
“Take your money….I will help you, but I won’t take your money”.
“Why?”, I spluttered, confused
“As you came through the door I see that you are surrounded by five archangels….”
….Archangel Michael, Archangel Uriel ,Archangel Raphael, Archangel Gabriel and Archangel Zadkiel…..
“I don’t understand”, I really didn’t understand.
He smiled,”…you are very special…we all have guardian angels looking over us, but it is very rare for a person to be protected by an Archangel…let alone five!”.
Now, I was very confused.
So he told me why I was so special, what I was in the world to do and how I would achieve it.
I was a free spirit, he explained, I had no boundaries, no limitations. I could be anything I wanted to be in life, but my life would be plagued with obstacles. Obstacles placed in my life’s path by my detractors who were jealous of who I was going to be.
We talked for over an hour touching upon all aspects of my life and how he was going to help me. But before I left he had one last shocking revelation for me.
It seems my father wasn’t who I thought he was.
“Your father…”, he informed me,”….has used you to make medicine!”.
It was as if I had been hit with a sledge hammer and for a few seconds I sat there dazed, reeling from the shock.
My own father? It would explain why he never liked me. So not only were half my extended family doing medicine, black magic, against me, so also was my father!
I sat bolt-up in my chair,”…your own father?”.
“Yep…”, he replied casually , taking a sip from his glass,”…you know the black magic some fathers do where they use the soul of their first borns’ to make themselves powerful and wealthy?”.
It’s a bad and very evil practice.
Fathers would go to a Babalawo who would ‘capture’ the soul of a first born and sacrifice it to a malevolent spirit in the hope of getting fame, wealth and glory.
In the ritual the son who’s soul has been captured won’t die but will become a degenerate and loser in life. He won’t have any success, everything he does will end in dismal failure whereas the father will go on becoming rich and powerful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
And this particular father had done it to his own son.
“ So what did you do?”.
“ I went home that particular day pretending as if I knew nothing, did my chores around the house as I normally would do, chatting and playing with everyone.
As soon as night fell and my parents had gone to bed I stole some of my fathers money, packed a suitcase and fled.
After all I had heard that day, I didn’t go to any of my relatives or anybody they knew I knew. I went to go and stay at a school friends house where I knew they would never find me.
So I stayed with my friend doing odd jobs around town and as soon as I had saved enough money I got a passport and bought a on-way ticket to England.
So as a last resort I had to pack my bags and run away from Nigeria , returning to my birth country of England. Like a jackal, I had tucked my tail between my legs and ran.
Some fights you can’t win!
So I settled in England and after awhile and a lot of hard work, I was doing very well.
I had a good job, I married and started sending money home to an uncle I trusted to build me a house. I didn’t contact my parents but I was corresponding regularly with my brother who was discretely keeping me informed about things back home.
Now this was in the nineties when things were really bad in Nigeria and Abacha was still President.
People were being persecuted, jailed and killed without proper trials. Nothing was working , it was just doom and gloom.
It was at this time that my brother started begging me to get him out of the country. He had dropped out of university and wasn’t doing anything with his life.
Against my better judgement I got my brother out of Nigeria and brought him to England.
It would prove to be the biggest mistake of my life.
So my brother came to London and quickly settled down getting himself a job and a place of his own.
My father was angry for me ‘stealing’ away his favourite son from under his nose and even though I didn’t know it at the time he swore vengeance.
Now after my brother had been in the country for about six months, things started to go wrong in my personal life.
First, I started fighting with my wife of three years and after a few months our problems escalated and we broke up and she left me.
Then for no reason I got sacked from my job as an office manager and my health, both physical and mental, started to go downhill. Out of the blue I suffered kidney failure and it had to be removed. I was later told that I was poisoned.
Before I knew it and in under a year I had lost my wife, my job, my flat and I was nearly destitute living with a friend.
Despite all my problems I didn’t think for one minute that someone was responsible for my predicament. After all, this is England and nobody does ‘medicine’ here, or do they ?
A quick telephone call to my Babalawo mentor back in Nigeria confirmed my worse fears and again what he told me was even worse than what I thought…..”
“So what else did he tell you ?”, I asked, staring at him in disbelief.
“ It was my brother…”, he replied
, staring into thin air lost in thought,”…the one person I thought I could trust was actually Judas or Brutus who had delivered the last fatal brutal blow.
Of all the evil I had encountered and defeated in my life of all the people, it had to be my brother.
Somehow, the evil spirits my grandmother had set over me to torment my life were now working through my brother against me. Couple that up with what my father was doing to me and the rest of the family and I didn’t stand a chance in hell…they tried everything in the book to destroy me..they sent an incubus to sleep with me…they tried to poison me in my sleep…they tried to make me go insane…they tried to get me in trouble with the police and even turn my friends against me , but nothing could harm me!”.
Unfortunately , in modern day Nigeria, sibling rivalry is rife and people are known to turn to black magic, even murder, because they’re jealous of one sibling or another. But normally alert parents put an end to it before it gets out of hand, unless they’re in cahoots with the individual.
In my line of profession you hear all sorts of stories, the ones you take with a pinch of salt and the ones too incredible to believe.
This one was on the borderline!
“So how did you manage to stay sane and alive all these years?”.
Victims of black magic attacks don’t normally recover fully from their ordeal, let alone live normal lives and this man from all he’s told me seems to be alright, unless his whole tale is…..
He smiled , taking a sip of his beer,”….remember that Babalawo who cured me all those years ago?”.
“ Well he didn’t just cure me , he also taught me his trade….now I’m an Ifa priest and Babalawo myself!”.
I stared at him incredulously,”…you mean you’re a Babalawo yourself?”.
“To a certain extent…he didn’t teach me everything , but what I know is enough for me to live a normal life and help others.
Jokingly, he started to chant Oriki Oludumare…
Oluwa awon oluwa
Oba awon oba
Olorun emi mimo
He had said enough and he changed the topic, no more talking about himself. He asked about my life and what I did for a living.
He was interested to find out that I was a Man of Letters and advised me to look into starting an online blog which would be more lucrative and there would be no restrictions on what I wrote.
Being in Lagos for only a few more days, he wanted to know about places to go and see, having been out of the country for more than twenty years. And I being a connoisseur of fine food, fine alcoholic beverages and women was able to tell him where best to go.
Again and again , our renewed conversation would drift towards politics and President Goodlucks attempts to keep the country on an even keel.
We talked about religion and tribal indifferences tearing our country apart, the big chasm between the rich and the poor and rampant corruption still prevalent in government circles.
When you talk about Nigeria there’s always a lot to talk about and before we knew it the sun was setting and evening was crawling in.
Our marathon drinking session was also taking its toil on my bladder and for the umpteenth time I needed to go.
I was bursting!
I made my excuses, stood up and went to the toilet .
I hadn’t been in their long, but by the time I got back he had gone, vanished like he had never existed.
But he had left me a message – a poem – scribbled hastily on the back of a beer mat.
It simply read :
Has no script
There’s no book to tell
Us how to live.
There will be battles to fight,
Hills to climb
And adventures to
Is not for the faint hearted
Who’ll fall at the first hurdle.
May fortune favour the brave
Let the Men stand out from the Boys
Uneasy lies on the head
Of he who will wear
The truth will prevail.
I had my story!