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Lightning Myths Affect Lives

Common Myths Cited in Newspaper Articles

  • Many Africans believe that there are two kinds of lightning: 'natural lightning' and that called down by witches to avenge a grudge or other social conflict.
    From article: 'Witchcraft is often blamed for adverse natural phenomena throughout western and central Africa. It is relatively frequent for football teams to hire witchdoctors to place hexes on their opponents.'

  • From article: 'Chief Svosve said traditional healers were ready to perform traditional rites to cleanse the school, and were just awaiting a government nod.'

  • Quote from article: 'It is suspected that the lighting was triggered by the cellphone which was in Mbendle's bra.'
    Statistically, lightning is more likely to hit tall, isolated or pointy objects, but science shows us that NOTHING 'attracts' lightning. After lightning has burned its way a mile or two through the air (a very good insulator), it cannot differentiate whether a person is wearing a particular color or is carrying a small piece of metal like a cell phone, barrettes in her hair, wire in her bra or any other substance to make it (lightning) change its course to 'choose' her.

  • This article recounts two women killed by lightning as well as two chickens missing with the owner threatening to hire a witch doctor to shoot lightning at anyone associated with the missing chickens.

  • Many believe that eating animals killed by lightning will either call lightning down on themselves, their families or their community or that it is dangerous to eat the meat for other reasons. While natural decay may make meat unsafe when the time of the animal's death is not known, there is no 'lightning' reason to avoid the meat.

  • The elderly, particularly those who have no one to defend them, are often targeted as 'witches' in some communities who believe that lgihtning can be called down by witches hired to avenge a wrong for someone.

Countering Myths with Knowledge and Public Education

     1.  The first pilot program of lectures on lightning was held at Shone School in the Hoima district, Uganda, on 27 November, 2017.  A full report of those who attended, the content and the answers to their questions is posted HERE

    2.   'So You Think You Know LIGHTNING, a Collection of Electrifying Fast Facts',  Ronald L Holle and Daile Zhang, used with permission of Vaisala.

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