Evans Pritchard discusses witchcraft within Azande society. He explains how something that seems extraordinary and supernatural is actually very normal. Witchcraft is just an every day part of life for the Zande people. Our reasoning is seen to be more “normal” as Zande people use witchcraft to explain almost all misfortunes rather than just natural causes. However by assuming that our thought is more “normal” seems very naive as Pritchard sometimes comes across in the readings.

For example the idea of a first and second spear. Pritchard uses the example of how when they hunt one man hit the animal with a spear and a second secures the kill. Likewise they believe that if a man were to be killed by an elephant the elephant attacking would be a first spear but witchcraft would be the second spear which ultimately killed the man. When we put it into a Western context this seems silly as to us the elephant killed the man, but Pritchard carefully tries to extract information from the Zande so we can see why they believe witchcraft is involved rather than it just being coincidence. We have a very different understanding of events because we are from a different society. Zande thought does not fit comfortably with our thought so Pritchard allows the Azande people to explain why things happen so we can have a greater understanding of it. He says when researching you can’t ask too many questions of why they think this because of language and cultural barriers the understanding will get lost or misinterpreted.

Another example used was the man who hangs himself from the tree because he is angry at his brothers. Which seems abnormal to both us and Zande people. To us we’d just think there was something more wrong like the man being crazy, but the Zande people use witchcraft as an explanation for why he was led to do that. As the Zande man describes, it must be witchcraft because if every man angry at their brother hung themselves from a tree there would be no men left.

I think when you hear the Zande speak of witchcraft they themselves don’t even have a real explanation for it but they accept it as part of everyday life and as mystical and supernatural. I think from hearing their description of events we can have a greater understanding for why and how they believe witchcraft is the ultimate causation behind many events.


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