The Xhosa people of Bantu descent in south-east South Africa must contend with the VAMPIRIC WITCHES of the region (see AFRICAN VAMPIRE WITCH). In doing so, they must also confront the ichanti, a snake that is often summoned and kept as a generational familiar; there is a saying that accompanies this idea—"Witch-craft goes through the breasts."
Ichanti snakes tend to be very beautiful, their skin patterned in many attractive colors, and they make for one of the best familiars a witch could ever want. They can shape-shift into any object that is desired and some even have telepathic abilities. Ichanti also have a powerful hypnotic stare that they use to paralyze their prey; even a brief glance into their eyes can cause this effect. Touching one can also be dangerous, as it may drive a person insane, if not killing him outright. Only the person who controls the snake knows the antidote to its poisonous touch and how to naturalize the effects of its glare.
The snake seldom leaves its river home, unless its witch sends it forth to do some harm. If a person is ever attacked by an ichanti, the only way to protect himself is an earnest prayer to God for assistance. If He blesses him, then any means that would normally kill a typical river snake will also kill an ichanti.
Source: Broster, Amagqirha, 60; Hammond-Tooke, Bhaca Society, 285­87; Hodgson, God of the Xhosa, 32; Oosthuizen, Afro-Christian Religion, 51; University of the Witwatersrand, African Studies, 22; Wilson, Reaction to Conquest, 286

Encyclopedia of vampire mythology . 2014.

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