n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Management of witchcraft (bolôyi) in an urban and a rural community in the Northern Province of South Africa

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Witchcraft beliefs among Northern Sotho-speaking people in South Africa can be summarised as follows from a recent community study: (Peltzer submitted):

Witches can be divided into 'night bolôyi' (witchcraft) and 'day bolôyi' (sorcery). The former inherit their powers ("it runs in the family, e.g. from mother to daughter") whereas the latter acquire the skill.
Witches use a familiar object for witchcraft which can be small animals like a cat, hyena, wolf, baboon, monkey, snake and certain birds like an owl or a thokoloshe [an ugly small animal symbolizing sexual lust (Niehaus 1995)]. The latter is believed to cause car accidents, being or becoming unemployed, or may even come to your house and take away food.
Witches can also transform human beings into a setlotlwane (zombie).

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