The existence of witchcraft in Malawi is still debatable.
The Association of Secular Humanism executive director George Thindwa has always insisted that witchcraft is a figment of peoples’ imagination.
Thindwa has challenged witches to bewitch him, but none has stepped up to the challenge.
But, despite Thindwa’s efforts to rubbish the practice, incidents linked to witchcraft have not spared the lives of many Malawians.
On September 13 2013, Zomba resident Akidu White (15) saw his life spiral after he mysteriously found himself in Dedza.
According to the story published in The Nation of October 26 2013, White went missing while walking towards Njoka in Zomba around 7pm only to realise that he was in Dedza two hours later.
Many Malawians believe witchcraft exists.
Stories have been told about people forcing witchcraft suspects to drink pepper solution to get rid of it.
The Nation of June 16 2013 reported that Wiston Sikamba and his family of Donald Village, Traditional Authority Kyungu in Karonga were banished from the village on suspicion that they killed two people through witchcraft.
While the debate on whether witchcraft exists still hangs in suspense, reflection on how our ancestors lived indicates that witchcraft has existed for years and they had means of protecting themselves from being bewitched.
While the pepper solution is a new formula, the ancestors used mpoloni, which is popularly known as ndodo ya afiti among many tribes in Malawi.
It is popularly used by the Lhomwe people in Mulanje, Thyolo, Phalombe and Zomba districts.
It is a readily available plant and it is mostly grows at graveyards and natural forests. In some parts of Malawi, children use it to make a simple toy gun.
Its bark is thick and hard and is separated from the stem by a hard coating which makes it easy to remove the stem.
According to the beliefs, the plant has the powers to scare witches.
T/A Nkhulambe of Phalombe says ndodo ya afiti is a powerful herb which is still used in many people communities.
She says people put a small stem at the door of the house and this guarantees total security from witches.
She however, said the practice of putting a stem at the main door of a house is on the decline because visitors or witches could see it and it is believed that this washes away its power.
“Mpoloni is still used among many Lhomwe people, but there is a slight change in the use. What we are doing now is to pound the plant and when it is in pulp form we add some water. We take the solution and put in the hands and smear it on the body of every family member the way we do with body lotion. Any witch cannot tamper with the body,” she said.
The chief said this is not permanent solution as it has to be repeated after some years because they believe that the power of the herb declines with time.
She said they know that the herb has lost its power when they notice practices associated with witchcraft in the family.
Blessings Chiromo, who is one of the initiation ceremony councillors in T/A Mpuka in Chimaliro, Thyolo said some families are still using the procedure.
He said the use is beyond just fighting witchcraft as it also keeps away evil spirits from the family.
“A witch cannot go into a house where there is Mpoloni. It malfunctions the herbs they use and the witch might fall or be caught. Even a snake cannot get into the house. It is a very powerful herb,” claimed Chiromo.
In Ntcheu, T/A Mphambala says the Ngoni people know the herb, but although it is not common, they are currently using it to scare away harmful snakes.