The Notion of Witchcraft explains unfortunate events

In Azande life unfortunate events that happen to men can be explained by Witchcraft, the Zande expect to come across witchcraft at ‘any time of the day or night’. It is that witchcraft brings a man into contact with certain events not that it is the sole cause and therefore cannot be blamed for all one’s problems.

Witchcraft is the missing link in Western society that explains coincidence. Why should I have been hit by that bus? The bus was driving its normal route on a normal day and I walked out and therefore got hit. From a western perspective this is misfortune that made this happen (or my own stupidity) but through the eyes of the Zande it would be the force of witchcraft that brought these too events together at that particular time causing me to get hit by a bus.

‘Witchcraft explains WHY events are harmful to men and not how they happen’. The Zande see what has happened as we see it. They would not have seen a witch driving the bus that hit me it is not a visual presence. They can both believe in death from natural causes which they have witnessed and believe in death by witchcraft, they can co-exist. Witchcraft provides for the Zande a moral value to their social events, it gives them meaning.

Witchcraft is not used an excuse to avoid punishment, within Zande culture there is the idea of the first and second spear. For example two men work together to kill and a wildebeest. The man to first throw his spear is the first cause of the wildebeest’s death and the man to throw second is the second cause. This can be applied in everyday situations where punishment is due. A man cheats on his wife and therefore is the first spear to create the situation, witchcraft is the second. Therefore he must pay penance for his crime. ‘Witchcraft does not put adultery into a man’.

It is fair to say that Witchcraft is a large part of Zande culture and very normal part of everyday life. They can clearly distinguish a difference between ‘the workings of nature and the workings of magic’.


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