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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 West 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.


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][6] 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.[7]

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 juju 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."


  1. ^ "Juju | Define Juju at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "juju". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  3. ^ Augustus Ferryman Mockler-Ferryman, Imperial Africa: the rise, progress and future of the British possessions in Africa, Volume 1, 1898.
  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. ^ Politi, James; Fick, Maggie (3 December 2015). "FT Seasonal Appeal: The long and dangerous road to slavery". Financial Times. Retrieved 4 December 2015. 
  7. ^ Stefan Lovgren (June 30, 2006). "World Cup Witchcraft: Africa Teams Turn to Magic for Aid". National Geographic News.