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An 1873 Victorian illustration of a "Ju-ju house" on the Bight of Benin showing fetishised skulls and bone
Juju charm protecting dugout canoe on Suriname River bank, Suriname, 1955

Juju or ju-ju (French: joujou, lit. 'plaything')[1][2] is a spiritual belief system incorporating objects, such as amulets, and spells used in religious practice, as part of witchcraft in West Africa. The term has been applied to traditional African religions.[3]

The term "juju" and the practices associated with it, travelled to the Americas from West Africa with the influx of slaves via the Atlantic slave trade and still survives in some areas, particularly among the various groups of Maroons, who have preserved their African traditions; among whom it is also a term used to mean "energy" ie. good juju "energy" and bad juju (bad energy)


Juju is sometimes used to enforce a contract or ensure compliance. In a typical scenario, The witch doctor casting the spell requires a payment for this service.[4]

Contrary to common belief, Vodun 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; 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.

The term "juju" also is used to refer to the Calabar Bean native to West Africa. The poisonous bean grows on wild tree-dwelling vines.[citation needed]

The term "juju" is commonly used to refer to the feeling of something. For example, if a person feels offset by an object or place, they would say that the object or place has "bad juju.[citation needed]"

The term "juju" also appears in connection with the Priest-Kings of towns in West Africa, upon whom the prosperity of towns was believed to depend. This is recorded by Sir James George Frazer in Folk-Lore (Vol. XXVI.) He prints, under the title A Priest-King in Nigeria, a communication received from Mr P. A. Talbot, District Commissioner in S. Nigeria. The writer states that the dominant Ju-Ju of Elele, a town in the N.W. of the Degema district, is a Priest-King, elected for a term of seven years. "The whole prosperity of the town, especially the fruitfulness of farm, byre, and marriage-bed, was linked with his life. Should he fall sick it entailed famine and grave disaster upon the inhabitants." [5]


  1. ^ "Juju | Define Juju at". Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "juju". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. ^ Mockler-Ferryman, Augustus (1898). Imperial Africa: The Rise, Progress and Future of the British Possessions in Africa. Imperial Press, limited. p. 392.
  4. ^ "People & Power - The Nigerian Connection". Al Jazeera. 11 June 2012.
  5. ^ From Ritual To Romance, Jessie L. Weston