Happy New Year! Only a few days have gone by in this new year and it already feels like weeks. Just as we were trying to get over the end of year stress, we heard the news of an alleged Native Doctor in Ikere-Ekiti who passed away after an entanglement with someone’s wife. Word on the street is that the death was caused by Magun. Oh dear. I am not going to go into the rights or wrongs of the activities that led to the demise of the Native Doctor. Whatever happened was a choice between consenting adults, even though it met with tragic consequences. I am interested in our everlasting fascination with a belief system that we keep recycling from generation to generation. In medieval Europe it was alleged that some Knights going to the Crusades for an extended period of time would lock up their wives to prevent misadventure in their absence. While it seems that the practice was not that widely spread due to a lack of surviving evidence of the contraptions, variations of the chastity belt have evolved over the years. Apparently, there is a thriving business in chastity belts for both men and women today. Please don’t ask me what for.
‘Magun’ (‘Don’t climb’ in Yoruba) is supposed to be a spiritual version of the chastity belt. A man who spends a lot of time away from home or who suspects his wife of infidelity would ‘lace’ her with the Magun charm. This is supposedly done by getting her to cross over a piece of broomstick or thread that has the charm on it without her knowledge. If she sleeps with an intruder, one of four things would happen. He could collapse, summersault, engage in strange behaviour like crowing or barking or get stuck. If the victim is lucky, he can be saved by a ‘remedy’ that can only be provided by the lawful husband of the woman concerned.
I have always found the Magun narrative rather problematic. Let us assume that Magun does indeed exist. There are sanctions for the errant woman and the trespasser, but who sanctions the user of the Magun? What right does he have to place a charm on someone without their knowledge? What happens to the Magun user when he himself trespasses on the property of another? Part of the received Magun wisdom is that even if the woman who is laced with Magun is innocent, and she does not commit adultery, after a while, the charm will kill her if it is not neutralized. How fair is that?
There is nothing wrong in having belief systems that are put in place to ensure communal order, peace and stability. However, a time comes when we need to evaluate these beliefs and align them with the times we live in. These beliefs can actually be quite dangerous and are a threat to lives and people’s rights and well-being. It is okay if there are those who believe the Native Doctor did indeed die of Magun, they have a right to their beliefs. I also have a right to my belief that Magun was created as a tool for social order because we have always had cases of middle-aged men with heart problems who stubbornly pound away to their deaths. We have always had cases of women with Vaginismus, a condition that creates spasms that constrict the vagina and can trap a penis for a period of time, and there have always been cases of Priapism – well this one is easier to explain since it is about something going up and refusing to come down. Our ancestors lived with all these medical conditions and their consequences and even while they might not have understood them, they did create myths and narratives to minimise sexual misconduct and trespassing.
This is a brand-new year, 2023, not 1823. Let us give science and progress some thought, and stop going backward. If you have an unmonitored heart condition, you can have a heart attack during stressful activity. Sex is one of those activities. Men of a certain age who are not content with their domestic arrangements and still want to compete with twenty something year old guys on ‘the field’ should beware. Go for medical checks and know your health status and take any prescribed medication. Failure to do this will lead to you climbing to an untimely and undignified demise. Many husbands have actually passed on in the course of performing their legitimate duties, leaving their wives to deal with the fear, shame and stigma attached to a possible ‘Magun’ or similar encounter. Last year, a young widow in Aguleri, Anambra State was beaten severely and paraded naked because her husband died during sexual intercourse and she was accused of committing adultery leading to his death.
Many like the Ikere-Ekiti fellow have expired on top of paramours, perhaps the excitement and thrill of the forbidden hastens the journey to the other side. Older men are also taking sex enhancers without medical supervision. You cannot have health problems and take Viagra or its local herbal substitutes (with no regulated dosage) and expect that your show will not be unkindly interrupted. Women who are embarking on adventures of this kind (I am not judging; I leave that to Parents and Pastors) should be concerned about the health status of their sexual partners. That pot belly is not just an indication of wealth or status. You might want to take lessons in First Aid just in case you happen to be unlucky and your trip to Jerusalem becomes a ride to the local prison. You also need to understand your body, if your Vagina has a history of trapping guests, you might want to have that checked out by a Doctor before you find yourself stuck and on display with your sexual partner at the local police station.
We should not be having conversations about Magun with our children in this day and age. We should be talking about respect for the sanctity of marriage, healthy lifestyles and consequences of selfish actions and decisions. There should also be more awareness of these issues in our communities so that lives can be saved and innocent people do not get caught up in unwarranted scandals. I wish our female ancestors had not been so nice and polite. While the men were going around ‘lacing’ women with Magun and capturing male trespassers, both real and imagined, our mothers should have come up with a lotion to rub on the whatever of their husbands to render them inactive unless the rightful owner is at the receiving end. That would have set them all straight. Perhaps an idea for an enterprising female entrepreneur? I bet there will be many willing investors! May we all climb to greatness and success in 2023.
Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com