“I grew up in a small village in the northern province,” relates Dauda from Sierra Leone. “Once, when I was a boy, there was a land dispute between my family and another family. Both claimed the same land. To settle the matter, a medicine man was called in. He gave another man a mirror, then covered him with a white cloth. Soon the man under the cloth began to tremble and sweat. As he looked into the mirror, he exclaimed: ‘I see an old man approaching! He is dressed in white garments. He is tall and old, with gray hair, and he walks with a slight stoop.’
“He was describing Grandfather! He then became hysterical and cried out: ‘If you don’t believe what I am saying, come look for yourselves!’ Of course, none of us had the courage to do that! The medicine man calmed him by sprinkling on him a magical mixture of leaves and water, which he held in a calabash.
“Speaking through the mirror-man, ‘Grandfather’ said the land belonged to our family. He told my grandmother she should work the land without worry. The other family accepted the judgment. The issue was settled.”
Such experiences are common in West Africa. Here, as in other parts of the world, countless millions believe that dead people pass on to the spirit world, where they are able to observe and influence the lives of people on earth. Is this belief true? Are the dead really alive? If not, who are those who claim to be spirits of the dead? Knowing the correct answers to these questions is vitally important. It is a life-and-death matter.