Modern “Witch Doctors”: 25 Photos Inside The Widely Misunderstood Trade

Witch Doctors
Witch Doctors Drum
Blade Teeth
Animal Mask Hands Raised
Modern “Witch Doctors”: 25 Photos Inside The Widely Misunderstood Trade
View Gallery

"Witch doctors" are the victims of some truly unfortunate irony: While considered noble healers and guardians who would protect others from witches and general malady, many popularly understand these herbalists as witches themselves -- and witches whose medicinal knowledge simply cannot aid others in the slightest.

By virtue of the role's inherent traditionalism, most cultures' witch doctors are still doing the same things they were doing back when they were considered the "good" guys. But with the development of modern medical science -- and the colonialism-created allegorical figure widely viewed as a physical, spell-casting fact -- the shifting scales of history have dumped witch doctors on the "wrong" side of the fence.

Today, we -- especially those of us in the West -- implicitly believe witch doctors to be benighted at best and malevolent at worst. Same goes for shamans, healers, and all the other various practitioners of divination and traditional medicine still found in dozens of cultures around the world.

Some of these traditional practitioners still make an honest living, but most are trotted out at festivals (willingly, plenty of the time) only as human curios, living museum pieces emblematic of a comfortingly distant past.

This is how we end up with jarring intersections of the traditional and the modern on the world stage, as was the case just this summer when shamans of several South American tribes were asked to take part in the Olympic torch relay ceremonies.

But whether their roles are ceremonial or not, what part do shamans, witch doctors, and the like play in the world of today? The answers lie with the eye-popping photos above.

Next, read more about the African albinos that are killed so that their body parts can be sold to witch doctors. Then, for more from the world of weird medicine, take a look at some of the most bizarre historical cures for mental illness, and discover what exactly the most horrifying Nazi research actually contributed to medical science.

John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the Assistant Editor of All That Is Interesting.
Close Pop-in
Like All That Is Interesting

Get The Most Fascinating Content On The Web In Your Facebook & Twitter Feeds