Wednesday, January 18, 2012

'Witchcraft,Oracles and Magic among the Azande' -Evans Pritchard

The book written by Evans Pritchard in 1937 ,'Witchcraft,Oracles and Magic among the Azande' is about a Central African People.It is an attempt to make intelligible a number of beliefs by showing how they form  a comprehensible system of thought and how this system of thought is related to social activities,social strcture and the life of the individual.

Among the Azande any misfortune can be and generally is attributed to witchcraft which the Azande consider to be an internal organic condition though its action is believed to  be psychic.The witch despatches what they call the soul,or spirit of his witchcraft to cause damage to others.The sufferer consults oracles of which the Azande have a number of different kinds or a diviner to discover who is injuring him.This may be quite a complicated and lengthy procedure.When the culprit is revealed  he is requested to withdraw his malign influence.

If in a case of sickness he does not do so and the invalid dies the kinsmen of the dead man could in the past take the affair to their prince's jurisdiction and exact vengeance or compensation or they could make as they invariably do in the circumstances  today lethal magic to destroy the witch.

Azande have a vast body of magical knowledge and techniques some requiring membership of special magical associations which are largely used to protect their persons and activities from witchcraft.

Witchcraft,oracles and magic thus form a complex system of beliefs and rites  which makes sense only when they are seen as interdependent  parts of the whole.Thus system has a logical structure.Granted certain postulates,inferences and action based on them are sound.Witchcraft causes death therefore death is evidence of witchcraft and the oracles confirm that witchcraft caused it.Magic is made t avenge the death.A neighbour dies soon afterwards and the oracles  determine that he died a victim to the magic of vengeance.Each bit of belief fits in with every other bit is a general mosaic of mystical thought.

If in such a closed system of thought a belief is contradicted by a particular experience this merely shows that the experience was mistaken or inadequate or the contradiction is accounted for by secondary elaborations of belief which provide  satisfactory explanations of the apparent inconsistency.Even scepticism supports the belief about which it is exercised .

Criticism of a particular diviner for example  or distrust of a particular oracle or form of magic merely enhances faith in others  and the system as a whole.

An analysis of great number of situations in which discussions about witchcraft arose and of comments on the notion by Azande on many occasions showed further that it provides them with a philosophy of events which  is intellectually satisfying.The notion of witchcraft gives the Azande  not only a natural philosophy but also a moral philosophy in which is also contained  theory of psychology.Even if a man is a witch, his witchcraft does not harm people unless there is an act of will.There has to be a motive and this is always to be found in the evil  passions of men, in hatred, greed,envy,jealousy and resentment.Misfortunes spring from witchcraft and witchcraft is directed by evil intentions.Azande do not blame a man for being a witch.It is the evil in him which makes him harm others that they denounce.

The Oracles have an order  of importance.Some are less certain  in their revelations than others  and action cannot be taken on their statements till these are confirmed by the highest authority, the poison oracle.The poison oracle  in its turn is regarded  as having more or less  significance according to the social status of its owner.A case may therefore go from one poison oracle to another till a final verdict  is given by a king's oracle beyond  which there is no appeal.

The machinery which operates in cases of witchcraft is thus ultimately in the hands of a king and his representatives  which makes the social action the belief entails one of the main supports of royal authority.The operation of witchcraft beliefs in the social life are also closely connected with the kinship system particularly through the custom of vengeance.

No comments:


'Dominant Caste' (1) Aboriginal (1) Acheulian tool (1) Age-Groups (1) Alliance (1) Animatism (1) Animism (1) Anthropology of Art (1) applied anthropology (1) Ashrama system (1) Associations (1) Attributes of Culture (1) autochthony (1) avoidance (1) Azande (1) Basics (1) bio ethics (1) biological adaptation (1) Birsa Movement (1) Bongaism (1) Bride Wealth (1) Cargo Cults (1) Castes among Muslims (1) Catholics (1) Ceremonial Exchange (1) civilization (1) Clifford Geertz (2) Cognitive Anthropology (1) Compadrazgo (1) Cope's law (1) Criticism of Radcliffe-Brown (1) Cross Cousin (1) Cultural Borrowings (1) cultural citizenship (1) Cultural Ecology (1) Cultural imperialism (1) Cultural Materialism (1) cultural rights (1) culture (2) Culture and Motive (1) Culture Change (1) Darwinism (1) Demographic Transition (1) Derek Freeman (1) descent (2) Deviance (1) Diffusionism (1) DNA (1) DNA Technology (1) dollo's law (1) Dormitories (1) Dowry (1) Durkheim (1) E.R Leach (1) Early Human Ancestors (1) Eco System Concept (1) Ecological Anthropology (1) Edward Sapir (1) edward tylor (1) emic/etic (1) Endogamy (1) Environment (1) Eskimo System of Kinship (1) Ethnicity (1) Ethnocentric (1) ethnoecology (1) Ethnographic Monographs (1) ethnography (1) Evans Pritchard (3) Evolutionism (1) Exogamy (1) Extended family (1) family (2) Feminism (1) field studies (1) Flake Culture (1) folklore (1) fossil (1) Functional Theories on Primitive Religion (1) Gause's law (1) Gender and Anthropology (1) gender bias (1) Gender expectations (1) Generalized Exchange (1) Genetic Adaptation (1) Genetic Change (1) Genetic Screening (1) Genetics (1) Genetics and its Relevance to Physical Anthropology (1) George Peter Murdock (1) Gregor Mendel (1) Hardy-Weinberg Law of Equilibrium (1) Hawaiian System of Kinship (1) Hominids (1) Homo Erectus (1) Homo Habilis (1) Homo Hierarchies (1) honor killing (1) Human Evolution (1) human rights (1) Incest prohibition (1) Independent Invention (1) indian anthropology (1) Indigenous People (1) Indus Valley Civilization (1) Intellectual Property Rights (1) Iroquois System of Kinship (1) J.C Frazer (1) jajmani system (1) Jean Baudrillard (1) Jean Dreze (1) Joint Family (1) Joking Relationship (1) Julian Steward (1) Kathleen Gough (1) kin (1) Kin Behaviour (1) kindred (1) law (1) Leslie White (1) Levirate (1) Lucy Mair (1) M N Srinivas (1) magic science (1) Mandelbaum (1) Marcel Mauss (1) Marett (1) Margaret Mead (1) Marshall Sahlins (1) Marxism and Anthropology (1) Mendelian Principle (1) Michel Foucault (1) Microliths (1) Middle Palaeolithic Culture (1) Migration and tribal communities (1) modernization (1) multiculturalism (1) Mysore (1) myth (1) Nadel (1) Nature-Man-Spirit Complex (1) Neanderthal Man (1) Non Unilineal or Cognatic Systems (1) Nuclear Family (1) Nuer (1) Organic evolution (2) origin of state (1) origins (1) Oscar Lewis (1) Paleo River (1) Parallel Cousin (1) parochialization (1) Participatory Rapid Assessment (1) Patterns of Culture (1) Pedigree Analysis (1) Polyandry (1) Polygyny (1) Population Genetics (1) Pre-history (1) PreHarrapan settlements (1) primitive (1) profane (1) Proto- history (1) Purushartha (1) Race (2) racism (1) Radcliffe-Brown (2) Recombinant DNA Technology (1) Reflexivity (1) Reinventing Anthropology (1) Religion (2) Religion and science (1) religious beliefs (1) research (1) Restricted Exchange (1) Rhina (1) rig vedic society (1) Rites of passage (1) Robert Redfield (1) Rules of Residence (1) Ruth Benedict (3) sacred (1) Sacred Complex (1) Sacrifice (1) San hunter-gatherers (1) sanction (1) Scheduled Areas (1) scope of anthropology (1) Secret Societies (1) sex-gender (1) Sir James George Frazer (1) Social Institutions (1) Social Network (1) Social-Psychological Perspectives (1) society (1) sorcery (1) Sororate (1) state (1) Status (1) Status of women in tribal society (1) Stebbins (1) stone age communities (1) stone tools (1) Style of Life (1) symbolic culture (1) Symbolism (1) Syncretism (1) Synthetic Perspectives (1) Taboo (1) Teknonymy (1) terraces (1) Textual Approach and Contextual Approach (1) The Golden Bough (1) Thomas Malthus (1) tobacco (1) Totem (1) Totemism (1) Trade and Barter (1) Tradition (1) Transactionalism (1) Tribal Religion (1) Tribal Sub plan (1) tribe (1) Tribe-Caste Continuum (1) universalization (1) Upper Palaeolithic (1) Upper Palaeolithic Period (1) urban revolution (1) Urbanization (1) witchcraft (1) world's population 2012 (1)

Popular Posts

Blog Archive

Subscribe Now: bloglines

Subscribe in Bloglines