Above: A dancer possessed by animist spirits in West Africa.
BELOW: a nkisi n'kondi fetish doll, found in West Africa and the central Congo region. The wooden doll, 20-36 inches [50-90 cm] tall, is believed to have supernatural powers, in particular power over others.
In anthropology, fetishism is defined as the emic (from within the social group) attribution of inherent value or powers to an object. In this case, the doll is placed in or directly outside the home and with every wish for protection or for harm to another, a nail is driven into the doll's body. Chicken blood and other liquids are poured over it, creating an incrustation. These dolls are known for their pungent, smoky odor and many people sense a malevolent ambience.
Totemic substances know as bilongo were stored inside the doll's head or more often in a cavity in its midsection. This was covered by a piece of glass or mirror so that the spirits of the dead can peer through and observe.
Up until the 20th century these dolls were frequently encountered but many were seized by missionaries as evidence of sorcery. They are the origin of the dolls used in voodoo rituals. [By Paris A. Walker]
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Listen to drum music from an African voodoo ceremony:
The secret societies of Nigeria
The life of the Ibibio and Anang tribes revolves around three societies using a number of masks during their annual ceremonies. The most important of these societies is the Ekpo. responsible for the ancestor cult which guarantees the well-being of the tribe.
Talismans and amulets
Bwiti religion in Gabon
Divination and oracles
ABOVE: A beautiful old excavated copper coiled bracelet from Nigeria, of unknown age. Copper has been mined in Nigeria for over 2,000 years. Measurements: 3 1/4 in (8.5 cm) in diameter and 3.75 in (9.5 cm) in length.
ABOVE: A solid bronze bracelet excavated in the Ténéré desert of Niger. Measures 6" x 5" (15.25 x 12.7 cm). Weight: 5 lbs (2.67 kilograms). Estimated age: 600 years. (Photo: www.nigerbend.com)