Sorcery Sorcery Types Examples of Sorcery Protection and Punishment Witchcraft Trial Ritual Murder

© 2018 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Sorcery - Boloi


"Christianity has failed signally to stamp out magic and sorcery. The practice of magic still persists strongly, even among members of the churches. Many a man who has long abandoned ancestor-worship in favour of the Gospels, or perhaps never known the old tribal cult, yet feels it necessary to have himself and his family, his huts, his cattle and his fields, regularly "doctored" to ensure good health and prosperity. The belief in sorcery is also vigorous The belief in their (sorcerers) existence is a disturbing factor in social life and the cause of much ill-feeling and malicious gossip, and magical methods of counteracting or avenging them have increased considerably of late…”

Schapera  wrote this about the Bakgatla during his fieldwork in 1929-34, however these comments were still very much applicable to the present (1977~83). During my fieldwork I heard of constant reference to Sorcerers and their activities.

Throughout the section on present-day (1970-80s) traditional healers, many references were made to sorcery. This was  divined as a common cause of many illnesses and problems faced by individuals and families. Much of a traditional doctor's efforts are aimed at protecting against, and/or healing, the results of sorcery. This was also a major concern of the Zion Churches. There was even a big Witchcraft Trial in 1978.

It should also be noted that by the Native Courts Proclamation of 1943, the Protectorate Administration gave Witchcraft official recognition. This Proclamation, although it repeated that Kgotla Courts had no jurisdiction over statutory offences, provided that they may have special endorsements on their warrants to deal with cases of Witchcraft. The Bangwaketse are one of the -three areas (together with Bangwato and Bakgatla) that were given these special endorsements.(See Schapera “Sorcery and Witchcraft”)  -

Seeley listed the number of cases tried by the Bangwaketse Tribal Court 1960-70. In 1960 there were no cases, 1961 - 1,1962 - 5,1963 - 1, 1964 - 1, 1965 - 1, 1966 - 1, 1967 - 0, 1968 - 1, 1969 - 4, 1970 - 4.

[t should be noted that not all cases are brought to Court, probably because of fear. For example Seeley also noted that the Head of the C.I.D. In  Gaborone informed her that between 1950-70 there were about 6 ritual murders per annum, but very few prosecutions because of the difficulty of obtaining evidence, which he stated was because of the fear of  the witnesses and the loyalty shown to headmen and chiefs who may be involved.

Bangwaketse, and all Batswana, use the word Sorcerer - Moloi (pl. Baloi) to describe a person that seeks to use their special powers to harm others. The activities they use to bring about this harm is called Sorcery -BoloL Schapera states that: "The Tswana do not believe that there is any hereditary condition by virtue of which people unwittingly become witches. They maintain that all who practise boloi are fully aware of what they are doing, i.e. their motive is invariably one of envy, vengeance, or greed, and any person, male or female, may become one of them. In other words Tswana do not believe in 'witches', but in 'sorcerers'.

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