'Penis-Snatching' Case Startles Visitor in Africa

Anthropologist 'intrigued' by alleged witchcraft

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 15, 2013 4:34 PM CDT

(Newser) – An American anthropologist was surprised to encounter reports of penis-snatching in an African village—but only because the "crime" is normally confined to more populated areas, the Daily Mail reports. Writing at AlterNet, Louisa Lombard recounts her visit to the village of Tiringoulou in the Central African Republic, where two villagers said their genitals had been stolen. One, a tea vendor, was attacked by a stranger who only had to grab his hand. "The tea seller felt an electric tingling course through his body and immediately sensed that his penis had shrunk to a size smaller than that of a baby’s," writes Lombard, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley.

The second victim said he lost his genitals "in the fray" as yells erupted from the crowd. According to Lombard, rebels who govern the tiny hamlet said they later gunned down the alleged penis thief after he escaped from a holding cell. Lombard explains that the belief in "penis-snatching"—a form of witchcraft—is a manifestation of anxieties caused as villages grow into cities. So it's more commonly seen in larger population centers such as Nigeria, Lagos, or Cameroon. "If penis stealing seems beyond-the-pale weird," writes Lombard, "consider what people in Tiringoulou might think upon hearing of Americans who starve themselves near to death because their reflection in the mirror convinces them they are fat." Click for her full article.

A woman carries water in Africa.
A woman carries water in Africa.   (AP Photo/UNAMID, Albert Gonzalez Farran)
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