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I went to my grandfather’s graveyard, accidentally stepped on it and all the soil fell in. I was scared, so I didn’t tell anyone about it. Later, my late grandmother found a hole in my late grandfather’s grave, and she screamed, “We’ve been bewitched!” Where I come from, people believe in witchcraft and accuse others of practicing it. Also, being part of Legio Maria, an African traditional religion, made things even more complicated. My grandmother quickly took out her phone and called Jeremiah, who was a Legio Maria prophet. In our local area, we called them Janabi. According to my grandmother, Jeremiah was one of the most powerful Janabi she knew. His prayers were loudest, and his prophecies, or what I would call accusations, were taken seriously. He often accused close family members of various wrongdoings.

I remembered one time when he accused my step-grandmother of bewitching my cousins, which he claimed caused them to drop out of school. On another occasion, he claimed to have found a spell hidden in our house’s wall, made with human hair and animal blood, which he said a witch had put there (without actually digging it in). Another time, he accused my stepsister Mary of conspiring with the local witches to harm my grandmother. This happened after Mary found a three-legged stray cat on the road and brought it home. The cat scratched my grandmother, and the scratch turned into a wound. Since my grandmother was in her late 70s and partially blind from cataracts, she was vulnerable to such prophecies, and Jeremiah told her what she wanted to hear.

The next morning, Jeremiah arrived on his bicycle, announcing his presence with a loud “oyauuuuuureeeee” greeting that everyone in the neighbourhood recognized. My cousins and I nicknamed him “Oyaure.” He always responded to my grandmother’s calls carefully, knowing there was usually something in it for him, whether it was money or some other offering, like chickens or maize. His prayers came at a price. We all went to the graveyard, and I stood silently next to the hole I had accidentally created. I couldn’t confess the truth because I was afraid of being accused, so I kept quiet. Jeremiah sprayed holy water into the hole, jumped around a bit, and chanted in a strange language. Then there was a long silence. Legio Maria prophets often did this when they prayed. They closed their eyes and went into a trance-like state, talking to imaginary saints and angels.

Finally, Jeremiah received his revelation, and his prophecy was revealed. He claimed that my step-grandmother had dug the hole, removed my late grandfather’s remains, and did all of this to harm my grandmother. I knew the truth, but I couldn’t admit it. I let the false prophet continue with his baseless accusations, while my grandmother wondered why her co-wife would do such a thing.


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