As I said earlier, we were staying in the grounds of the Catholic Mission by kind permission of Father Josef. In the evening there was a church service, which was well attended by local people. Many of the women from the nearby witches’ village have been converted to Christianity and now attend church regularly. Father Josef helps out financially wherever he can and also assist the villagers with food and other items.
The service was lively and loud with audience participation encouraged. I have never before been to a Catholic service, and was amazed at all the rigmarole and commotion that takes place. It was a very interesting experience.
Religion is obviously at the forefront of these people’s lives, and the next morning we were woken at 04:50 by a loud broadcasted service – presumably from the radio of one of the workers who was staying in the rooms around the courtyard where we were sleeping. There was a further service in the church later that morning.
As with all villages we visited, one of the best memories from Gnani was the interaction with the people – especially the children. You don’t need to know the language, or at least not many words. We learn how to say hello in the local language, and this small gesture went a long way. I have no idea how it is spelt, but it sounded something like “Naa” with an emphasis on the second a and the sound going up at the end. The people would greet us back, we got a beaming smile and often the children would walk with us all through the village.
We talked to a couple of the witches (through the interpreter). This lady has been in the village for four years. One of the other ladies in her native village was taken ill, and the husband accused her of being the perpetrator and causing the illness by witchcraft. She denies any involvement, and was found ‘not guilty’ at the trial, but was brought her by her family and decided to stay anyway, for her own safety.
Unlike the first witch we spoke to, this lady admits to having carried out witchcraft and confesses to having killed several people using her supernatural powers. She was doing it purely to protect her family, but was banished to Gnani when she was found out. Since coming to the witches’ camp at Gnani, her paranormal powers have been extinguished through the ritual carried out by the chief and she assures us she is no longer a danger to society. This is the first time I have actually been in close proximity to a self-confessed killer!