Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lucy Mair's views on Sorcery and Witchcraft




British anthropologist Lucy Mair defined sorcery as a sort of legitimate evil,a harmful spiritual activity which might be objectionable but was at least understandable in so far it was related to social values.She writes,'All these ideas belong to the field of legitimate action against misbehavior .In some circumstances  one might include in this field the use of magic-charms and spells  and objects believed to have mystical power.In the language of anthropologists  harmful magic is generally called sorcery and most sorcery is thought to be illegitimate.But it is possible in Africa to buy from a sorcerer protective magic which will keep thieves of your property and in parts of New Guinea different families are believed to own different kinds of harmful magic with which they protect their own food crops.It is also possible in Africa after something has been stolen to get a sorcerer to make magic which will injure the unknown thief if he does not make restitution.The Nyoro of Western Uganda have medicine to smear on the ruins of a house that has been burnt down so as to punish the person responsible.The chiefs of the Trobriand Islands in New Guinea were generally supposed to employ sorcerers against anyone who threatened their authority'. 


Witchcraft is defined by Lucy Mair as real evil,incomprehensible,gratuitous malice.'It may well be motivated;it is often ascribed to the ill feeling generated in some quarrel which is remembered when one the parties falls sick or meets with some other misfortune.But it is always held to be unjustified;the witch may have good cause for anger but if he had not an evil disposition he would not have expressed his anger in this way.It follows that the anger of a witch is by definition not righteous anger'.

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