The Politics of Words


Words are important, very important. They can control and limit our perceived realities or distort our understanding of it. It is why it is essential that we make efforts to be much more aware of the terms and labels we use as well as to never hesitate to let others know the impact of the ones they choose to use, particularly concerning matters of African Spirituality, seeing as it remains an area of ignorance in the mainstream discourses surrounding faith practices.


It still surprises me also how many terms have perplexing connotations and how many are also sadly, grotesque distortions from the original.


Take the word Voodoo for instance, a Hollywood term wholly based on misrepresentation but is a take from Vodou, which in the Fon and Ewe languages of West Africa represents the essence of the Supreme Being in those traditions. The Hollywood version is utterly blood and gore and overwhelmingly negative with consistent associations with the idea of ‘devil-worshipping’, rather interesting as the very notion of ‘devil’ is absent in African cosmologies in the same archetypal form as found in mainstream religions.


Black and White Magic is another interesting term of reference. That matters of the immaterial can be colour-coded raises concerns of the influence of socio-racial ideologies. Even though it is also hotly contested that it is meant to just imply the use for a ‘good’ purpose or ‘bad’ purpose, why can’t these other words not be used instead, is my contention, because they mean the same without the colour coding. Surely it makes sense that in the racially charged culture of the West, really the World, can the concerted effort to use one less term that can possibly taint a community of people be too much to ask?


Witch-doctor is a term that lays bare an oxymoron in terms of functions. Here, a witch, a concept that implies the practice of wrongdoing, is juxtaposed right next to a doctor, an inference to one who provides much needed services for others. How can two such conflicting ideas exist in the same individual and yet it’s hardly questioned when bandied about in discussions concerning African Spirituality.


An idol is definitely a bemusing one. I was in a conversation recently with a friend who was telling me that at university she was told that traditional practitioners use idols, specifically figurines that we apparently ‘worshipped’ and are agents of the ‘devil’ from mother Earth. I had to ask her where she thought the wooden cross on her neck came from. She seemed to not get the connection, so my next question was about why she was wearing a cross made from wood, also from Mother Earth whom she had just mentioned as being evil, then wearing her wares must make her cross evil? She didn’t have a retort, but its such arrogant attitudes based on ignorance that can stigmatise traditional systems further


There is a huge list of such terms in use and this will be the first article of many on this subject, else we may else up with an excessively long read.


As is clear misrepresentations, misnomers and oxymorons abound that only further prevents others from getting a clear picture of what African traditional practices are really about.

  • Dalian Adofo


  • Lincoln Jenkins

    Peace Hipnotica, I must say you have thorough understanding of the point of the article, as is evidenced by your response. And I must also say that the article sheds some much needed light on a subject whose time has come for revelation. Bringing this light to the world will go a long way toward the dismantling white supremacy and racial bigotry!

    • https://www.ancestralvoices.co.uk Ancestral Voices

      Yes indeed Lincoln, the time has been long overdue too! It has demonstrated its value to African survival for centuries and continues to do so, so we in turn must ensure it never gets swept under the carpet!

  • http://www.world-dancespirit-danse.com Turenne / Tilarenn

    The politics of words. Loaded words. The task at end is humongous to clear the path from all those wordblocks for ourselves, our communities and the raising generations. Your work is astoundingly important and very well done. We ought to share widely and get conversations going strong about this quest for the truth we all know within, the truth that will guide and nurture balance and harmony for ourselves and the whole humanity.

    Thank you Dalian for your wonderful work!

    • https://www.ancestralvoices.co.uk Ancestral Voices

      Many thanks for the contribution and participation Turenne. Yes the work is massive and needs more than just the individual efforts…kindly assist in letting go further by also sharing onto your networks far and wide!

      • http://www.world-dancespirit-danse.com Turenne / Tilarenn

        Indeed! It is important to share such good and relevant work far and wide. I do and I will keep on…


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