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An 1873 Victorian illustration of a "Ju-ju house" on the Bight of Benin showing fetishised skulls and bones

Juju or Ju-Ju is a word of either West African or French origin[1] used previously by Europeans to describe traditional West African religions.[2] Today it refers specifically to objects, such as amulets, and spells used superstitiously as part of witchcraft in West Africa.[3]


Juju is sometimes used to enforce a contract or ensure compliance. In a typical scenario, a juju spell will be placed on a Nigerian woman before she is trafficked into Europe for a life in prostitution, to ensure that she will pay back her traffickers and won't escape.[4][5] The witch doctor casting the spell requires a payment for this service.[5] Juju is also commonly used in an attempt to affect the outcome of football games.[6]

The term juju, and the practices associated with it, travelled to the Americas from West Africa with the influx of slaves and still survives in some areas, particularly among the various groups of Maroons, who have tended to preserve their African traditions.

Contrary to common belief, voodoo (known as Vodun in West Africa) is not related to juju, despite the linguistic and spiritual similarities. Juju has acquired some karmic attributes in more recent times. Good juju can stem from almost any good deed: saving a kitten, or returning a lost book. Bad juju can be spread just as easily. These ideas revolve around the luck and fortune portions of juju. The use of juju to describe an object usually involves small items worn or carried; these generally contain medicines produced by witch doctors.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Juju | Define Juju at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  2. ^ Augustus Ferryman Mockler-Ferryman, Imperial Africa: the rise, progress and future of the British possessions in Africa, Volume 1, 1898
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. (1971). Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ "Sex trafficker used African witchcraft to smuggle children for prostitution". The Telegraph. 29 October 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "People & Power - The Nigerian Connection". Al Jazeera. 11 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Stefan Lovgren (June 30, 2006). "World Cup Witchcraft: Africa Teams Turn to Magic for Aid". National Geographic News.