The political economy of occult belief in Africa can highlight hidden social and political conflict in times of transition which remain otherwise undetected. This has been demonstrated in taking the development of witchcraft accusations over time as indicator, and the Nupe of Northern Nigeria as an example. A tentative long-term study on the growth of the Nupe state since pre-colonial times points towards a close relationship between the content and form of witchcraft accusations and the mode of production under which the stakeholders used to life and work. Over time, witchcraft accusations among the Nupe apparently served different, even antagonistic ends, depending on the mode of production in which they were embedded. Much confusion in literature on the apparent contradiction between ‘emancipating’ and ‘oppressive’ functions of witchcraft beliefs could be avoided by considering this articulation between modes of production, witchcraft accusations, and the underlying vested interests of the ruling powers.