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Spellbound: Inside West Africa's Witch Camps Hardcover – October 26, 2010

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this empathetic account, Palmer looks at witchcraft, witch doctors, and superstition in present-day Ghana and examines why some believe in them completely, while others do not, positing that belief might have been extenuated through Africa's lack of wealth, education, healthcare, and women's rights. The less somebody understands economics, medicine, science, philosophy or politics, Palmer suggests, the more he or she could credit certain things to the supernatural. The author takes us inside remote encampments where women thought to be witches are isolated and punished. There, they must live on their own, away from the comforts of family, and sometimes beg for work. She recounts the experiences of women like Ayishetu Bugre, who had been accused of witchcraft by a jealous, drunken brother-in-law. Her sentencing depended on the death throes of a sacrificed chicken, which is believed to be a message from the tribal ancestors. Palmer also talks of Asara Azindu, whose success and independence bothered those around her. They blamed her for a meningitis outbreak, claiming she had poisoned the town's main water source. With these and other stories, Palmer effectively highlights the grave effects of ignorance and superstition, and the cruel, abusive situations in which scores of Ghanaian women currently find themselves. (Oct.)


"Fascinating and disturbing..." Canwest News Service

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439120501
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439120507
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,143,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Just Frank on December 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recently returned from my second visit to one of the smaller Ghana's witch camps Ms. Palmer refrences in this book. The village chief began our discussion with this statement: "Witchcraft was here at the beginning of time and it will still be here at the end of time". This book does an excellent job of recounting village life, the way that witchcraft lingers at the backs of people's minds, and the complexities of the issues. Thank you, Ms. Palmer, for answering so many questions that I did not have time to ask.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Legend of a Cowgirl on March 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written investigative book about a cultural belief that is ruining the lives of many women, a few men, and disrupting families. Ms. Palmer lets us know that the belief in witches is a traditional belief that is hard for many Africans to discredit as they embrace Western culture. For a woman (and a few men) to be accused of a bewitching someone could be fatal for the accused and the witch camps are a safe haven for these people.

Ms. Palmers writes a brief history of how British colonialism created tension in the country and how the British tried to handle the situation. She explains that witchcraft is not outlawed in Ghana and there are "licensed" practitioners who usually are men. She explained how these men may be contributing to the women being accused of witchcraft. The author doesn't belittle the Ghanaians who believe in the practice, and even explains that witchcraft hasn't been absent from European history or her own current beliefs. Actually, Ms. Palmer seems to go out of her way to try to find people to validate the practice. She shares the frustration of trying to obtain substantive proof by interviewing the women, their families, herbalist (the male witches), doctors, government agencies, and aid groups which assist the women. Often times she shares with us the cultural differences of understanding, especially when trying to obtain an answer to her question.
The author doesn't discredit witchcraft, nor does she give definite proof of it. She provides the reader with information to form his or her own opinion.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. Newhart on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
When author Karen Palmer first learns of the witch camps of Ghana, in which accused witches are sent to live a poverty stricken existence away from their villages, she feels compelled to investigate and inform the western world of these women's plights.

What first appears to be simply an issue of African superstitions quickly shows itself to be more complicated and a way to dispose of women who have outlived their usefulness or who are proving too adept at business. It's also a solution to the jealousy that is common in the polygamous societies of Northern Ghana. While these causes are visible to outsiders, Karen still wants to learn if there is any truth behind these claims...can witchcraft really exist or is it just so deeply engrained in the population that they see the evidence they wish to see?

This was an interesting account of Ghana and this issue. Karen Palmer is careful to examine all sides of the issue and never comes to a hasty conclusion, either regarding witchcraft itself or a solution to the problems. A well written account; recommended for any interested in human rights issues or Africa itself. I only wish that the author would have included some of the photographs that she wrote about taking.
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