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Double, double toil and trouble:

Double, double toil and trouble: An investigation on occult forces expenditures in the heartland of voodoo Vincent Somville (Michelsen Institute, Bergen) Joël Noret (Université Libre de Bruxelles) Philippe LeMay-Boucher (Heriot-Watt University). 1. Preliminary considerations.

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Double, double toil and trouble:

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  1. Double, double toil and trouble: An investigation on occult forces expenditures in the heartland of voodoo Vincent Somville (Michelsen Institute, Bergen) Joël Noret (Université Libre de Bruxelles) Philippe LeMay-Boucher (Heriot-Watt University) 1

  2. Preliminary considerations • Preconception that in Beninese (West-African) context occult forces were anecdotal • A mere tourist trap advertised at Beninese consulates. • But among locals : recurrent topic, something affecting daily lives, deeply rooted & pervasive 2

  3. Preliminary considerations • ‘High representatives of established Christian churches, such as the bishops of Lagos and Kinshasa, believe in witchcraft.’ • According to the latter, this belief is shared by about 80% of all Africans. • ‘Even African scholars and decision makers, educated in renowned Western universities, strongly share witchcraft beliefs according to occasion, more or less openly.’ (Kohnert, 1983; Kadya Tall, 1995)

  4. Preliminary considerations • Jenkins and Curtis (2005) (SSM): What drives decision to install a pit latrine in rural Benin (40 hh)? →Protect from supernatural dangers (is one of the 3 main drive) • A Latrine can prevent / attenuate: 1) Fear of supernatural illnesses caused by smelling or seeing others’ faeces 2) Fear of encountering a snake: a sign of impending death in family / Fear of voodoo sorcery, magic, and dead spirits in the night 3) Fear of enemies stealing your faeces for sorcery against you

  5. Research Aim • Based on field evidence collected in Cotonou Benin (2006): • What hh & ind. characteristics influence expenditures in occult forces? • Anthropologist preoccupied by question for a long time • Will our empirical evidence corroborate their findings? 5

  6. Some of our key findings • Spending in Occult Forces is not anecdotal • 48% of all hh in our dataset spend positive amount in ‘Protection & Cure’ • Expenditure on ‘Protection & Cure’ : • 2.7% of all monthly expenditure • 5.6% if we take subsample with non zero exp. • Our findings corroborate anthropologist assertions

  7. What are occult forces? • Example: the granary & the death (Evans-Pritchard 1937) • How? = termites • Why? = occult forces give answer • Offers explanation to misfortune • Complex institutional system

  8. What are occult forces? • Catch-all term: different practices from region to region • Mystical & super-natural power: good, evil, causation; coherent ideology for daily living → gives interpretations of misfortune Not ‘belief’ about the world but self-evident & real force Plurality of meanings, not all of them associated with harmful activities 8

  9. Example of a client • young father from a poor rural background: recently graduated from university • Series of misfortunes in the last 6 months: child becoming ill + wife discovers she can no longer become pregnant. • Interpretation: comes from an attack by occult forces →retaliation from his siblings who never attended high school and remained in the village. • To cure his household: buys services from local diviner.

  10. Principal Mechanism Tensions jealousy, familial dispute over heritage, unsettled legal dispute (land ownership), professional progression Occult forces? • Symptoms: • Uncured illness, biomedical failed, sterility/death • Accumulation of misfortunes (unempl, children failing school) Visit / diagnosis • Priest of the Fa • for a diagnosis (100-500F) • 2. Celestial Church of Christ • one candle, 25-100F • 3. Pastor of Evangelical Church • 4. Catholic Priest Step towards protection/ cure 10

  11. 1. Witchcraft / Sorcery • Harm/good done by witch/sorcerers who possess supernatural powers (no divinity) • Witch: natural talent • Sorcerer: uses ‘ingredients’ & incantations • Evil magic consciously practiced against others • Both low profile (fear of accusations) • Services not for sale

  12. 2. System of Magical belief: Voodoo • Complex pantheon of divinities • Voodoos = divinities with super powers, fear & devotion surrounding them • Perennial relationships: humans honoring them • Rituals & sacrifices required to activate specific powers • Breach of rules (or insufficient sacrifices) provoke their anger (→ illness, death) 12

  13. Voodoo, cont. • Voodoo powers for sale • Tariffs flexible, depending on means of client • Suffice to ask a voodoo’s priest for an ‘attack’: ‘ingredients’, incantations & breach of rule

  14. Whose decision to spend? • Household financial structure: husband & wife have separate financial spheres (Dagnelie et al. 2012) • Each latitude to make consumption decision on basis of own income 14

  15. Provision of household goods:Social norms • Husband (breadwinner): house repair, rental fees, electricity, schooling fees, medical bills, extra money for housekeeping (complement wife’s contribution) • Occult forces : if hh is headed by a couple vast majority of cases males take in charge • Wife: cooking, care of family, water • Documented by: Falen (2003) + our numerous informal interviews + our descriptive stats

  16. The dataset • Questionnaire in 2 parts: a) Households characteristics, b) Personal expenditures • Separated women/men interviews • 178 households, only head of household • Data on expenditures on Occult Forces: PROTECTION or CURE → Nothing on ‘attack’

  17. See Table 1: Categories of magico-religious expenditure.

  18. Hypotheses from literature (1) Use/belief in occult forces is not gender-specific (2) Use/belief is common at different levels of education (3) Use/belief is common among various religious affiliation. Exception: Celestial, pentecostal, rosarian Evangelical churches provide protection against occult forces

  19. Hypotheses, cont. (4) Do Magico-religious beliefs play an important role in the enforcement of redistributive norms? • Income itself: no (can be concealed) • Item highly visible: auto/motorcycle (5) Higher transfer to hh & relatives reduces jealousy & need for protection/cure • Current transfers (endogenous): transfers (t-1) in 2004 (6) Death or funerals are great source of tensions. • dummy if funeral inside family within last year

  20. Descriptive Stats: Table 2 • Estimation results: Table 4

  21. Conclusions • Spending in Occult Forces is not anecdotal • Expenditure on ‘Protection & Cure’ : around 2% of all monthly expenditure • Dataset seems to give evidence in favour of anthropologist assertions • Larger prop. of HH spend on Occult forces than on bio-medical treatments

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