witches’ light A light emitted or carried by witches that enables them to be detected by others, especially at night. According to the folklore of the Azande of Africa, a witch releases a spirit to murder others while they sleep, much as medieval witches were believed to dispatch Demons in the shape of animal familiars. This spirit, or essence of witchcraft, may be seen at night, glowing like sparks kicked off from a fire. In daytime, the light is visible only to those who are witches or wItCh doCtors. Effutu witches of southern Ghana use a spiritual “web” or “wire” by which they travel in search of victims. As they move across this web at night, they are visible as bright flashes of light (see AFrICAn Witchcraft). The Pueblo of New Mexico, and the Bantu and Gusii of Africa, maintain that witches travel by night, carrying lights that alternately flare up and down. The Gusii say the changes in brightness are due to the witches removing and replacing the lids of the fire-pots which they carry with them. Among the Dobu Islanders of the western Pacific, the kainana—the fire emitted by the pubes of flying witches—may be seen at night. To ward off danger, the villages gather together around fires which are kept burning all night. No one returns home until dawn. These beliefs are comparable to the European lore that witches fly by night on brooms lit by CAndles in the besoms.
- Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande. Abridged. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983.