Dear Yaw

How Do I Convince My Husband My Mom Is Not A Witch?

Dear Yaw

My mom was 14 years old when her father married her off to a 42- year- old man. My parents had 5 girls and due to pressure from his family to take a second wife who can give him a male child, he finally married a young woman. After many years together, his young wife failed to produce any children for him and he died at the age of 85.

My stepmother and uncles accused my mother of bewitching her, my stepmom and killing my dad. She was thrown out of her house with nowhere else to go so I asked my husband if I could bring her to live with us but he said he can’t because of the allegations; he doesn’t want us to be the next target. I wanted my husband to stand for us. I’m hurt and I don’t want to choose between my mother and husband. What should I do?

-Aisha H

Hi Aisha

Well, it is clear that your husband is scared. From your description, it sounds like he is scared of one or more of three things. He believes in, and is scared of, witchcraft; he is scared that your mother is a witch and/or he is scared that he will be condemned/punished as someone who supports witchcraft if he supports your mother by giving her accommodation.

Let us look at these three fears individually. For the purpose of my answer, I will assume that witchcraft means ‘someone who uses magical powers to cast a spell to cause pain, ruin lives and even cause death’.

But before doing this, I would like to gently encourage you to feel your own feelings about being hurt and feeling forced to make a choice between your mother and husband. See ‘Putting Feelings First’. If you feel these feelings first, you will be in a position to respond more powerfully.

So let us go back to your husband’s three fears (because it sounds like he has all three).

I am not aware of anyone in the world who has produced evidence that a person can ‘use magical powers to cast a spell’. Consequently, individuals who believe that people have this power to cast spells are scared. If they were not scared, they would investigate the claim that some people have this power to cast spells and they would discover, like me, that there is no evidence to support it.

People who believe things for which there is no evidence and that are not true have usually been scared into believing these things when they were very young. And, without a great deal of listening to their fear by someone who is patient and skilled at listening – see ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’ – a person like this is likely to remain scared all of their life. For that reason, there is no point telling someone like your husband things like ‘There is no such thing as witches and witchcraft’ because it is their fear, not facts, that is making them believe it. So we need to listen to them while they feel and express their fear so that they are relieved of it.

Because your husband is scared of witchcraft, but he has never had a safe time and space to feel his fear, he is projecting his fear of witchcraft onto your mother. He is doing this because his unconscious mind needs an outlet for his fear so that he has a chance to feel and express it (which he did not get as a child).

So he is (consciously) blaming your mother for being a witch so that he can (unconsciously) feel and act on his fear by controlling where your mother lives.

But your husband is also scared of what other people will think and do if he is seen to support witchcraft by giving someone who is labeled a ‘witch’ (your mother) somewhere to live.

So, the solution to this problem which, unfortunately, will not be easy, is for you or someone your husband trusts to listen deeply (what I call ‘nistel’) while your husband talks about, and feels, his fear although, and I wish to emphasize this point, your husband might not recognize that he is scared. Or, even if he does recognize it, he might not admit it. Most men like to pretend that they are courageous and powerful (even when they are frightened).

If it is not possible to get your husband to talk about his ‘concern’ (one way to talk about fear without calling it ‘fear’) about witches and witchcraft, then it will be difficult to gently expose his fear and to sit with him while he feels it. Fear is often not a pleasant feeling and one most people avoid as best they can.

If you or someone else cannot persuade your husband to feel his ‘concern’ (fear) in relation to witchcraft, this fear will remain with him for the rest of his life, even if it might be suppressed in some contexts.

And if that is the case, you might have to find another way forward in relation to your mother and husband. This could involve standing up to your husband about where your mother lives. It could involve finding other safe accommodation for your mother and supporting her even while you are living with your husband. It could involve, if safe alternative accommodation is not available, making a decision about how you can support your mother in other ways with or, if absolutely necessary, without your husband’s knowledge.

In short, there is not necessarily a good or easy outcome here and you may be compelled, in effect, to choose, at least in the short term, where your allegiance lies. Only your own conscience can guide you on this issue. So I encourage you to feel, deeply, what you want to do in this context so that you have the power to behave in the way that feels right for you.

Hopefully, soon enough, there will be a widespread community campaign to raise awareness that witches and witchcraft (as defined above) do not exist. And those who peddle such fear-mongering in the community will be discredited and their ignorance or unsavoury motives will be exposed.


Robert J Burrowes

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes (Yaw) has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is and his website is here.

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