Short review of Nadel’s ‘Witchcraft in Four African Societies’.

To start simply, I found this chapter to be engaging, easy to read and most importantly interesting!  Nadel sets out, it seems, to provide the reader with the detailed accounts of the role and beliefs surrounding witchcraft held by the people in four societies, the Nupe, Gwari, Korongo and Mesakin all of which fall in Nigeria and Sudan. Nadel progresses to compare and contrast the and beliefs- or lack of- held by those in each of the societies and identify the roles they play in each individual culture.

What I found to be the most interesting feature in the chapter was the information provided about the beliefs of the Nupe, one of the two social groups in Nigeria. Fascinatingly, Nadel identifies the important relationship between witchcraft and gender, stating that ‘Nupe witches are always women’. (It is important to note that according to the Nupe, witches and witchcraft are negative forces in society, thus, the association between women and witchcraft can only be negative). furthermore, the role that men play in witchcraft is much more ambiguous; within the Nupe society, men are not deemed themselves to be evil but rather the ones who are able to block the evil projected by the female witches. However, although they can be the saviors – so to speak- the female witches need masculine influences for their magic to work to the fullest affect. I found the implications of gender in the Nupe society particularly interesting as I had encountered similar themes about the polluting nature of women and their role in the roots of ‘evil’ in previous readings – although in a different context.  The fact that such ideas transcend time, societies, cultures and even countries is fascinating.




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