TRIAL BY WITCHCRAFT

A Town

The only inhabitants of Kukuo in Ghana are alleged witches.

Every time a village suffers a calamity - be it a sick child or a drought-stricken harvest - the tragedy is blamed on a woman who is then accompanied to Koukou, where she must be judged and then purified. The woman and her accuser stand facing each other, while a spiritual chief throws two freshly killed chickens in the air. The way they fall determines her guilt - face up and she will be labelled innocent and taken back home. Face down and she will be left behind at the camp for cleansing, which is just a euphemism for a lifetime of torture.

But the irony is that the chickens don't really mean anything. The woman's guilt is really decided on the day the first accusation is made. If the innocent women return home, they will have to face fresh allegations and threats. So they usually stay behind as well, drinking the same purifying concoction of blood and mud that is made for the women who lost the chicken trials.

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