Written By Oladoyin Alana

In the bible, the wages of sin is death. Similarly, in the Yoruba society, a cheating female partner is rewarded with shame, trauma and in extreme cases, death! The woman’s pleasure could turn into her worst nightmare in a minute and no thanks to Mágùn, which Uju*, a female friend who also believes in the authenticity of the charm, calls “libido-shaker”. Mágùn, also known as Thunderbolt, is a powerful and lethal sexual charm laced on the woman, to curb promiscuity in her home, most especially her marriage. This Yoruba term which loosely translates to “do not climb”, has 201 types with each acting differently, however the lacing remains similar. The most heard types are those which glue the partners together at their genitals and one which kills the cheating woman’s partner. The common forms of Mágùn are laced by placing a charmed broomstick, thread, in a discreet place or manner with the aim of a woman crossing over it. Sometimes, a man could also wear a charmed Mágùn ring or have a Mágùn incision, so when he touches the woman’s wrist or buttocks, she becomes enchanted with it. Overall, the aim is lacing it on an unsuspecting adulterous woman to shame her and her concubine, teach them lessons and oftentimes, kill them. It is said to be existing in other African societies too.

According to the tales told by my parents, in ancient times, Mágùn had great use in overcoming wars. In fact, it could be the reason and source for Mágùn. They explained that if a town were to wage a war against another, male warriors, in order to defeat their enemies, use women as baits. These women were unknowingly war indemnities for the sake of their community. The reason -“women are men’s sexual weaknesses”. They charmed their own women, when the other town took captives, these laced women are also captured unknowingly by the other warriors. The warriors from the enemy town pay the price with their lives after having sex with the women. While growing up, there were also stories of fathers and brothers who charmed their daughters and even sisters, to set a trap for their enemies, or even still, try to curb her from fornicating. It was believed to have promoted a healthy society.

This practice is deep-rooted in the traditional-patriarchal belief that a man owns his wife and can do to her as he pleases. He is allowed to be jealous and be a peace-maker in his home and society at large; while having the authority to take up actions to punish his deterring woman and sending repelling signals to her concubine(s). It is no surprise that the charm is hence used only by the man, since he is backed up by the polygamous nature of the society, where a man could have as many concubines and wives as he pleases, but not his wife.

In recent years, this practice has been discouraged due to new conventions, globalisation, cultural diffusion and foreign religions, but there are still cases and news of its usage in quite a number of homes, most especially in rural areas. The controversy with this charm in recent discourse has gone on for years, most especially among people who believe and do not believe in the authenticity of this charm. There have been several debates as to whether the charm is a myth or science that could be explained. Medical practitioners have tried to dispute the several manifestations of Mágùn as normal health hazards that come up during sexual acts. Tobi*, a medical student, denies the efficacy of the charm and believes that “the said Mágùn symptoms” are normal medical conditions that could occur during sex. He further states that the death of any of the parties could be caused by “underlying health conditions”. When asked if he could have sex with a woman that has been laced, he replied “Maybe not. Prevention is better than cure”. Balogun*, a medical doctor, also supports Tobi’s* claims and explains that conditions like “Vaginismus and Penis Captivus” could explain the two being stuck together at their genitals. In all, it is a never ending debate between culture and science.

Whether the charm could be traditionally or scientifically explained, it does not change the overall experience and aftermath of the practice. People talk about the consequences of Mágùn which oftentimes is the shame and death caused from it, and remarkably, only the death of the cheating woman’s partner. It is even sad that women are more affected than the men. The further effects of Mágùn is very much under-discussed, most especially in the way it affects women. When Mágùn is mentioned, the man who may or may not die resonates in people’s minds. There are even men who possess anti-Mágùn, which waives off consequences of the charm on them. It is therefore left for the woman who has a ticking lifespan, usually after 7 to 9 days, to find a solution before she dies. Unfortunately, no one speaks of the woman, in as much that there are Magun types that could cause her vagina to seal, cause infertility and even death.

A woman’s body is violated as soon as she is laced with the charm. When a woman is laced, she becomes possessed mystically by the Magun power and her personality vanishes, which signifies that her whole being has been revoked and now dedicated to the gods, until she is given an èèrò (antidote) where she becomes her husband’s again. There is an infringement of her basic human rights. If a man dies while they lay, it is forever etched in her that she has committed murder, even without willing. In a case where she is even guiltless of the accusation, she 

becomes distraught from being distrusted by her husband and this not only affects the stability of the marriage, but her being as a woman. The psychological effects lead to depression and trauma. 

In Tunde Kelani’s movie, ‘Thunderbolt’, the protagonist, Ngozi, who has been laced with Mágùn by her husband, has her life at stake as she had not yet had sexual intercourse with her rumoured “side-partner”. In the movie, Mágùn is said to have the power to kill her if she doesn’t get the antidote to neutralise its effects within a stipulated period of time, all the while guiltless of the conviction by her husband. According to Gabriel Ojetayo, even if a woman is innocent but contacts Magun, perhaps by unfounded suspicion the woman eventually dies, even in innocence. The woman dies of chronic stomach-ache or headache

Rashida, a mother of six, who dragged her husband to court in Ibadan, told the judge to dissolve her 28-year-old marriage. She accused her husband of ruining her life by lacing her with Mágùn. She claimed that she had been experiencing blood discharges from her vagina due to the effects of the charm. Rashida further revealed “he exposed me to all sorts of humiliation in the neighbourhood in spite of my plea for forgiveness over alleged adultery. He told everyone in the neighbourhood that I am unfaithful and a prostitute. Mustafa categorically told me to leave his home or be ready to die in shame”. Her husband, Mustapha, agreed with most of the allegations and told the court how adulterous she was. The case was only adjourned and no one knows if she got a solution to her condition.

At the other end, the wife and children of the deceased man are also victims of this situation. People point fingers and look at them weirdly. It is even hard for the wife of the deceased to remarry in a society that shame single motherhood, and it even gets worse as everyone knows her as the woman whose husband died as a result of Mágùn.

Speaking to Tosin*, a victim of this practice whose father died as a consequence of Mágùn, he shares how distraught he has been since his father’s death 4 months ago. When asked if he was sure Mágùn claimed his father’s life, he responded: “When the news came to us, my mother was the one that openly told us he had died as a result of Mágùn, due to his promiscuity. My mother said she was aware of my father’s extra-marital affairs, but she stopped cautioning him and focused on taking care of us.” When asked how he is coping with the whole process, he answered: “everyone in our area knows he died from Mágùn. It’s nothing new. My mother said it the day he died to everyone seated and the news spread. We had a quiet burial for him. It is still quite painful.” He further added “my mom had to step in to become the sole provider and my sisters and I have also decided to work to support her.”

Eysenck (2009) argued that men are likely to commit adultery because of their natural preference for promiscuity and avoidance of emotional investments in their marital lives. Even when men have been known to have the higher rate of infidelity in marriages, few institutions check them which shows how unequal the usage of the charm is. Since the charm is the type meant to ridicule the adulterers, it is sad that little to no reprimand is given to the man involved. It only fortifies the belief that women are only meant to be humiliated for being sexually active outside of their relationships. Stories heard while growing up were: eyes on the cheating woman, hisses and slurs hurled at her and even when a woman is caught, many times, she is sent off from her matrimonial home. Speaking to Gbenga*, a 59-year-old man, on why men only lace it on women, he answered: “the institution is patriarchal, the babalawos (traditional practitioners) are men. Why would any man give a woman a charm to destroy another man – her husband?” This further proves how men orchestrate the charm and never use something deadly on themselves.

Several women have, thus raised these questions: who punishes the man capable of manslaughter? Is there a court that punishes men for lacing women? Who punishes the cheating man? Are the gods against cheating vaginas only? Do men get stigmatised after finding that they have been trapped by Mágùn? Who sympathises with the guiltless women? Who sympathises with women?

While exploring the effects of this practice, it is important to note that Mágùn can also be used to some extent as a self-defence mechanism to ward off preying men, but only at the woman’s accord. Niniola, a sensational female Afrobeats singer, and a Yoruba woman, sings about bodying Mágùn. There she professes being strong and powerful and states “o lewu fun anybody toba fe gun mi, mofi magun sara to protect the body”. It translates to “it is dangerous for anyone who wants to climb. I laced myself with Magun to protect my body”. She not only feels powerful about the use of the charm, but also affirms that it is done to her by her. She is to be feared!


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