Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkins and Witch Doctors

For many, Halloween conjures up childhood memories of dressing up in costumes and traversing around the neighborhood to get as much candy as possible. My childhood memories of Halloween are more along the lines of hiding in our basement with all the lights off. Halloween was the big no-no holiday. Our church didn’t even have any kind of Harvest Festival. It was the devil’s holiday and we steered clear. It wasn’t until college that I attended some Halloween costume parties and dressed up. I never carved a pumpkin until my first year in Uganda.

We expats on our compound celebrated Halloween and bought pumpkins to carve. Pumpkins in Uganda are green and much (much) harder to carve than American ones. I didn’t realize how much harder they were until I carved an American one this year. Adding to the difficulty in carving was that our electricity was on and off the entire night. We kept our headlamps on during carving and turned them on when needed.

It added to the adventure of it all, don’t you think?

I burned some pumpkin scented candles that my friends had sent me and we all tried to pretend that we were in the States for a night. Once we finished carving, we lit them and set them out on our porch.

We left them on the porch for a few days but with the Ugandan heat, it didn’t take them long to rot. My roommate tossed them near the wall of our compound to get them out of the way.

A couple days later, our day guard Biajo approached my roommate in concern: “Your neighbors have put a curse on you! They have taken these pumpkins, drawn horrible faces on them and thrown them over your wall. You have been cursed!”

We laughed and explained that silly American tradition to him which, I’m sure, still made absolutely no sense. Why would we carve such faces into pumpkins? And, actually, why do we? I should probably look that up.

It reminds me of the stronghold that witchcraft and spiritism have in Uganda. When I first studied Animism in my graduate program, all that I researched told me that as people moved to urban areas, their belief in the traditional religion decreased. Living in the capital city of Kampala for two years taught me that this wasn't true. Witch doctors are active. The beliefs of traditional religion seep into the church. Child sacrifice is growing in Uganda. I heard about it often while being there but news has been spreading thanks to the BBC highlighting the business of child sacrifice in Uganda, which has now spread abroad. The BBC went undercover in Uganda to show what a money maker killing children has become (read and watch here) but also that this has spread to England as children are abducted, smuggled into the country and sacrificed there (read and watch here). 
Crazy, right? It's so far out of what we think is possible in America. It's too horrific to even imagine. Not only is it happening but it's increasing and spreading. The spiritual battle is raging in Uganda. It confirms to me that where God is leading me is the right direction. More than rice, clean water or shoes, Uganda needs Christ. 

No comments: