Juju comes from the French word joujou, meaning “plaything.” Juju belongs to the realm of magic. Magic operates on the premise of the existence of a spiritual force that can be tapped into by women or men who have received the knowledge and the training to do so. Magic, and ipso facto juju, is neither good nor bad, but may be resorted to for constructive purposes as well as for performing nefarious deeds. Juju stems from the spiritual belief system emanating from West African countries such as Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Ghana, although its assumptions are shared by most African people.
To be quite specific, Juju refers to the magical power deliberately infused into a particular object. Thus, juju indicates that a given thing has been endowed with magical properties. However, the jujued object also becomes known as juju. A monkey's head is probably the most common juju object one may encounter in West Africa.
Juju operates on the principle of spiritual contagious contact based on physical contact. The underlying belief is that two entities that have been in close contact have similar properties even after being separated. It then becomes possible to manipulate one in order to reach the other. Thus, in that context, a person's hair, fingernails, a piece of clothing, a shoe, a sock, or a piece of jewel worn by them are all perfect candidates for juju because they retain the spiritual aura of their owner.
Likewise, it is possible to create spiritual similarity by deliberately placing two things in physical contact. The underlying belief is that spiritual assimilation and fusion will take place, with one entity absorbing the qualities of the other. Amulets, charms, and mascots are all common forms of juju. Usually worn for protective purposes, those objects have been infused with a particular type of energy, and wearing them is expected to create paths and possibilities for the wearer, as well as guard them against ill fortunes and evil spirits.
It usually takes a specialist, a woman or a man, with extensive know-how and experience to extract the spiritual aura of a given object. Such a specialist may be a healer because juju is used to cure physical and spiritual ailments—from healing insect and animal bites to counteracting and neutralizing curses. However, the specialist may also be a witch or a sorcerer involved in the reprehensible business of harming someone—through the casting of spells or curses, as well as placing juju objects in their close contact so they may become spiritually contaminated and polluted.
For instance, one may be offered spiritually poisoned food or drinks, which will inevitably bring about disruption, trauma, or even death if not dealt with promptly and efficiently. A live animal may also be used as a juju. It may be infused with a negative energy and then sent near someone. Once physical contact has been made, the person will most likely become ill. Again, although juju is neither good nor bad, it may be used to either uplift and heal or destroy and kill. Thus, Juju—at its best—is a powerful and positive set of practices when it uses a spiritual intent to heal the mind and body, thus giving protection and blessing to the soul of a person.
On a lighter note, Juju has been linked to a style of passionately performed West African music (primarily from Nigeria) that incorporates intense traditional polyrhythmic drumming with funky electric guitars, shimmering keyboard, hot horn playing, rhythmic dancing, and call-and-response singing that can produce semitrance states of mind among live audiences. Juju music developed to an apex in the 1960s to 1990s by Nigerian highly creative musical artists (e.g., Peter King, Segun Buchnor, Sonny Okosuns, King Sunny Ade, Lagbaja, Tony Allen, Fela Kuti, etc.). Fela Anikulalpo Kuti's was a Juju African-Beat international musical superstar who sang and uttered gutsy political lyrics as his 20-piece bands rocked and Juju'ed the audience and five female dancers shook the stage with their dancing hips, feet, and background singing. In similar respects, Fela Kuti was to Nigerian Juju-African-Beat and music world what Bob Marley was to Jamaica Rastafarian-Roots-Reggae and music world.
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