Growing dreadlocks may be inspired by fashion trends or religion if one is a Rastafarian. But, in an oil-rich region of the West African nation of Ghana, some mothers in Cape Three Point deliberately have their babies grow dreadlocks to scare witches that are after their lives or to prevent the children from being enchanted.
It’s a religious observation where rites are performed for the newborns and cut with marks to sever any spiritual connection that will claim the life of the child. This may be cruel, but, these mothers explain that it is the only antidote to end deaths resulting from supernatural causes.
In Cape Three Point, many children hardly survive beyond five years. The Western region, where this community is located, is the 9th region with the highest infant mortality rate of 37 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the Ghana Health Service.
Though the infant mortality rate in the region may not be alarming, residents argue that newborn babies dying regularly at Cape Three Point is a common feature. The mothers attribute the death to being bewitched by either relatives or persons envious of the good fortunes they have been blessed with.
Agnes Pobi, a resident, who spoke to face2faceafrica.com in a telephone interview said she had an experience where she lost her three children. She has vowed to grow dreadlocks on her children to disfigure them to dissuade evil eyes from bewitching her children.
These concerns may be genuine, but, there is no gainsaying that these calamities are self-inflicted. The only community clinic in the community does not have beds to deliver expectant mothers when they are due for delivery. What this means is that they have to travel hours to neighboring communities to seek healthcare.
While these actions of the mothers at Cape Three Point may be considered crude, researcher Kwasi Atta Agyapong, who authored a book on ‘Witchcraft in Ghana’, said these concerns must be understood in a certain context. He said in Ghana deaths are hardly considered natural as well as sicknesses or business failures.
According to him, there is a link between what happens in the physical world and what happens at the supernatural level which is influenced by witches.
Agyapong indicated that the belief of Ghanaians with regards to witchcraft tends to affect the way they live and act and this has a direct bearing on Ghanaian society which is being witnessed at Cape Three Point.
He said in some communities witchcraft takes the blame for all misfortunes that happen to people and any attempt to rationalize it will not make sense because people are steeped in their beliefs. He explained that that’s why many people often seek higher powers or spiritual persons who will protect them from the witches who are regarded as life-threatening forces.
Mothers are under the traditional belief that the dreadlocks marking the children as directed by the traditional healers will resolve the calamity.