Koto aye was the first horror movie I ever watched. I can’t remember the details of the movie, but I remember how the movie made me feel. It made me look over my shoulders for several weeks. It made me hate seeing anyone in black outfit at night. It made me scared whenever I saw my mom with dusting powder on her face and neck. It made me hate Yoruba movies. It made me a perpetual bed-wetter till I was 13 years old. It made me afraid of witches.
My fear of witches became worse when I was in secondary school. Abike, one of my classmates, was the only survivor in a car crash that killed all members of her immediate family. She used to be the smartest girl in our class. The rumors around school was that she was a witch who had to use all her family members as sacrifice so she could remain brilliant. She stopped speaking to anyone after the accident and we were all too afraid to speak to her too. Abike always had injuries on her wrists and some said it was due to her dead family members’ constant attempt to take a pound of flesh from her.
Whenever anything went missing in the class, Abike became the first suspect. The rumors that told us she was a witch also told us she had powers that made her invisible and so she could move things from seats that were miles away from hers. If we had been on talking terms with her, maybe we could have gotten her to enter the staff room to move out copies of exam questions, especially for Mathematics exams.
When we heard the news about Abike’s death three weeks into our resumption in SS3, we were relieved. We no longer had a witch in our midst, we thought. Our items were safe, we thought. When the disappearance of items didn’t stop after her death, the rumors said it was her ghost that stole those pens, jotters, compass from math set, food flasks filled with Jollof rice. Abike was that powerful even in her death.
My parents didn’t make it easy for me to drown my fear of witches; my parents and our family prophet who claimed he had Heaven’s direct number. Everyone called him Assistant Holy Spirit. I remember when my father lost his job, and we went to see Assistant Holy Spirit. He told my father that it was a fair woman in his office who was behind his misfortune. My father confirmed that it was true since his line manager was indeed a fair woman. My father said she had issued him multiple queries on past occasions because he organized monthly prayer sessions in the office. Assistant Holy Spirit confirmed that she was a witch and all those prayers were disturbing her kingdom. He told my mother to thank her stars because my father was a strong child of God and that was why the fair woman couldn’t bewitch him. It would be years down the line when we would finally get to know that my father lost his job because he harassed several women at work by sending pictures of his penis to them on Facebook. All those years when he spent several hours locked up in the toilet and we assumed he was praying finally made sense.
When my mother left my father after I wrote my second Post-UTME exam, I thought we would stop attending Assistant Holy Spirit’s church. We didn’t. My mother believed all his prophecies and visions. Whenever I tried to point out the similarities between most of his visions and the visions of the prophets (and sometimes herbalists) in Africa Magic Yoruba movies, she scolded me. She always mentioned that no one was an island of visions. One time, she said the scriptwriters for Yoruba movies were stealing ideas from Assistant Holy Spirit.
I disliked the Prophet because he blamed the witches for everything. I never liked hearing about witches because it triggered my Koto Aye PTSD. He blamed the witches for the epileptic power supply. He said the witches always froze the wire lines at night because they needed to hold their meetings in the air. During Vigils, he would make us point in the direction of the transformer on the church’s street and command all witches on the transformer to get electrocuted to their death.
Assistant Holy Spirit once said the road to our church was filled with potholes because the witches needed to drink water from those potholes after sharing meat at their meetings. During the rainy season, he would make us pray that rain wouldn’t fall so the pot-holes would remain dry. He also said my mother left my father because there were witches in her home that didn’t want her to enjoy her marriage.
When I wrote my fourth Post-UTME exams and missed it again by one mark, the prophet was the one my mother went to meet so she could find out who was behind my problems. Were we shocked to discover it was a witch?
He knew the mode of operation of this particular witch who he said always visited the examiner’s office to change one of my right answers so I would fall short of one mark. My mother didn’t think to tell him that the exams were CBT. Assistant Holy Spirit was very specific about the witch that was behind my failure. It was my mother’s elder sister who didn’t want me to succeed because my mother got married before she did. My mother’s reaction to the vision that day still lives rent-free in my head. Her hands were on her chest as she shook her head in disbelief. That day, my mother, who was the only surviving child of her long-dead parents, finally realized that Assistant Holy Spirit didn’t have Heaven’s direct phone number.
That was the last time I thought about witches or Koto Aye, till that evening during the first session of my Second Year in OAU. The initiation into my first Coven that day was nothing like I watched in Koto Aye.