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The Dagombas of Northern Ghana
May 19, 2018
As a family head and elder of his village in northern Ghana, Abdulai is a well-respected member of his community. However, he still lives in fear of those who may want to harm his family through witchcraft. One form of protection he uses is nangbantotim, which can be translated as “bad news medicine.”
This practice was inherited from African traditional religion but is widely practiced in the almost entirely Muslim community of Dagbon, the kingdom of the Dagombas.
Before anyone sees a newborn child for the first time, burnt ground herbs obtained from a powerful magic man are mixed with shea butter in broken pottery, then a cross is painted above the room’s door and on the infant’s foot. A little of the medicine is put in the child’s mouth or inside an amulet for them to wear. This serves as an antidote against any curses put on the child, with the symbol of the cross representing protection in all four directions.
Abdulai has also painted this symbol of a cross on each of the four walls of his room, to protect from damage during the strong storms common in the rainy season. Indeed, this symbol of protection can be painted anywhere. In these predominantly farming communities, nangbantotim can be seen on stones in the middle of people’s farms.
Abdulai is proud to have the nangbantotim herbs and plans for his children to inherit them one day. He believes that just being known to possess them is deterrence for those who may wish him harm.
Pray for them
- For God’s blessing on Dagomba families, for good harvests and improved opportunities for quality healthcare and education in the many rural communities.
- For many of the approximately 1.2 million Dagomba Muslims to discover the power of the cross of Jesus.
- For the few Dagomba believers to be a light in their communities as they put their faith in the cross of Christ alone for their protection.
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