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종교 탐방

VI. Witchcraft


The term witchcraft commonly has referred to the supposed use of supernatural means for harmful or evil ends. In traditional and popular English usage it is practically synonymous with sorcery. Many anthropologists, however, distinguish between witchcraft, as involving an inherent mysterious power of certain weird, aberrant individuals, and sorcery, as the work of ordinary persons using deliberate techniques and external means familiar to other adult members of the community. Practitioners of both types aim to do harm to others, but, while the witch appears to move through an obscure compulsion or spirit possession, the sorcerer seems to be moved by simple ill will. Although this distinction was originally discerned among the Azande people of Central Africa, it has been found applicable to many other tribal peoples in nonliterate cultures and also to some early modern European societies. On the other hand, students of such phenomena in Oceania use the term sorcery for all forms of destructive magic, whether for socially approved purposes (e.g., to protect property) or not. To add to the complexity of terms and meanings, in some societies (e.g., in medieval Europe) witches were believed occasionally to pursue beneficial aims, such as healing the sick--so-called white witchcraft.

In any case, belief in witchcraft, in its anthropological sense, has been widely distributed in human society. Records of such beliefs go back to the dawn of history and, if certain interpretations of rock paintings and other archaeological evidence are accepted, probably to the prehistoric period as well. Nevertheless, there are some peoples (e.g., the Kalahari San and Andaman Islanders) among whom a belief in witchcraft does not exist; others (e.g., the Javanese) believe in sorcery but not witchcraft in the technical sense above; and still others (e.g., in Arab-Muslim cultures) believe in the Evil Eye, but do not believe in witchcraft.



1) Witchcraft and magic.

The term magic, as treated above, refers to human actions that are believed to influence human or natural events through supernatural power. For anthropologists it is a neutral term, though the actions involved may be classified as productive, protective, or destructive. Sorcery belongs to the category of destructive magic but does not encompass all of it, since certain socially approved forms of destructive magic (e.g., to protect property or to prevent adultery) are not considered sorcery. Sorcery is destructive magic that is regarded as antisocial and illicit, the resort of misguided persons who should instead have used arbitration or litigation for settling the issues that have aroused their anger, envy, or malice. Thus, the practice of sorcery is destructive magic illicitly applied.

All magic, whether productive, protective, or destructive, licit or illicit, has four recurring elements: performance of rituals or prescribed formal symbolic gestures, use of material substances and objects that have symbolic significance, utterance of a closely prescribed spell or of a less formal address, and a prescribed condition of the performer (see above Magic ).

Magic and witchcraft need to be considered together. Sorcery, the illicit form of destructive magic, is closely akin to witchcraft in the special sense, since the same moral status is accorded those who are believed to practice or to be involved in it. Beliefs in both sorcery and witchcraft involve magical methods of identifying the supposed sorcerer or witch; and it is permissible to apply destructive countermagic against either sorcerers or witches. Moreover, both beliefs derive from the same worldview, or cosmology, one that has been described as the closed predicament (i.e., one in which any alternatives to traditional beliefs are unthinkable) as opposed to the open one that is considered to prevail in more enlightened modern societies. The third of these similarities has made the study of witchcraft and sorcery relevant to the philosophy of science (see below A coherent explanatory system ).

2) Structure and function.

Beliefs in witchcraft in the generic sense are conspicuous in most small-scale communities (e.g., in preliterate cultures), where interaction is based upon personal relationships that tend to be lifelong and difficult to break. In such societies belief in witches makes it possible for misfortunes to be explained in terms of disturbed social relationships; and the threat either of being accused of witchcraft or of being attacked by witches may well be a source of social control, making people more circumspect about their conduct toward others. Witches who are blamed for misfortunes, while often near kinsmen and neighbours, are conceived of as inhuman and beyond the pale of decent society. They are, thus, convenient scapegoats who are blamed for events otherwise inexplicable in terms of the limited empirical knowledge prevailing in a society with a poorly developed technology--e.g., events such as sudden death or persistent illness or even accidents.

This explanatory function of witchcraft is widespread. So too are some of the details of the witch's supposed habits and techniques, such as operating at night; flying through the air on broomsticks (in Europe) or saucer-shaped winnowing baskets (in Central Africa); employing animal familiars (assistants or agents), such as cats, dogs, and weasels in Europe, dogs and foxes in Japan, or hyenas, owls, and baboons in Africa; stealing or destroying property; and injuring people in a variety of ways, eating them while they are still alive (an African explanation for tropical ulcers), or killing them first and exhuming their corpses for ghoulish feasts.

Beliefs in witchcraft provide the mystical medium in which deep-lying structural conflicts, especially those not susceptible to rational adjustment by social intervention and arbitration, may be expressed and in some measure discharged. The inherent disharmonies in the social system are thus cloaked under an insistence that there is harmony in the values of the society, and the surface disturbances that they cause are attributed to the wickedness of individuals. This is why the witch and sorcerer become the villains of the society's morality plays (as personified vices), the ones to whom the most inhuman crimes and characteristics are attributed. So numerous and so revolting are the practices ascribed to witches that to accuse anyone of witchcraft is a condensed way of charging him with a long list of the foulest crimes--and much the same may be said of sorcery, except that the alleged sorcerer might find some room for defense in the ambiguity as to when the use of destructive magic is legitimate and when it is to be regarded as sorcery.

Because accusations of witchcraft, if they are successful, are devastating attacks on reputation, they punctuate the micropolitical processes relating to many forms of competition for some scarce status, power, resource, or personal affiliation. For example, among the matrilineal Cewa of east central Africa the generally accepted succession rule states that a headman's office should pass to his younger brothers in turn, followed by the eldest son of their eldest sister. In practice, however, the Cewa take personal qualifications into account and would not permit the succession of the rightful heir if his competence as a headman were seriously challenged by a convincing accusation of sorcery. The supposed victim of witchcraft or sorcery may also sometimes be regarded as getting his just deserts if he has, by tactless folly, incurred the wrath of powerful persons in the community. (see also Index: social status)

Because in such belief systems the transgressors of a society's ideals are depicted with dramatic disapproval, witchcraft and sorcery are usually powerful brakes upon social change. In many preliterate societies in modern times it is often those who have progressed economically and educationally who are most obsessed by fears of attack by witches and sorcerers or of accusation of employing witchcraft or sorcery. This is because they find themselves either out of line in social orders that economically at least are equalitarian or with a new-found status that lacks a niche in the traditional hierarchy; and their fears of the consequences of their eccentricity are expressed in beliefs that witches and sorcerers in the community will take their revenge or that they themselves will be accused of advancing their interests through mystical means at the cost of their kinsmen and neighbours.

On the other hand, belief in witchcraft may, under certain circumstances, have the effect of accelerating social change; e.g., by facilitating the rupture of close relationships that have become redundant but are difficult to break off. In such a situation an accusation of witchcraft has the effect of making a public issue out of what started as a private quarrel.

i) Characteristics of the witch or sorcerer.

There is no single description of the witch or the sorcerer that may be taken as an authoritative picture fitting all societies. In most the witch is characteristically depicted as female, but in many either sex may be conceived of as witches. In a single society the sex ratio may vary according to whether the accusations consist of broad, general statements, leading to the impression that most witches are women, or specific explanations of misfortune, which may designate most witches as men, since men are often more socially involved in a small-scale community.

In regard to other characteristics, the stereotype of the witch varies from one society to another. In Europe witches are pictured as thin and gaunt, whereas in Central Africa they are described as fat from eating human flesh, while their eyes may be bloodshot from pursuing in sleeping hours evil practices of which their everyday waking selves may not be aware. Witches' familiars or imps may be conceived of as simply aiding them in their nefarious practices or as personifying their addiction by relentlessly driving them on in their evil ways. In most societies in which belief in them occurs, witches are assumed to be members of the same local community as their accusers and supposed victims. Among the peoples of the Himalayan foothills and the Navajo of the U.S. Southwest, however, witches are believed to attack people outside their own community. This is also commonly reported of sorcerers in Oceania, who, however, may be considered as legitimately employing destructive magic against an outside enemy rather than practicing sorcery in the antisocial sense of the term.

In many societies witches are believed to be slaves of aberration and addiction. Thus considered, they are weird, sometimes tragic, characters in the human drama. Sorcerers, on the other hand, are regarded as ordinary people driven by understandable, even if deplorable, urges, such as malice, envy, or revenge, which are a part of everyone's experience. The propensity to be a witch is usually attributed to heredity or at least is considered constitutional in the sense of having been implanted at an early age through one's mother's milk or, as among the Cewa of east central Africa, through a child's having been magically inoculated by an adult, such as his grandparent, against the skin rash believed to result from eating human flesh, an activity attributed to Cewa witches. Sorcery, on the other hand, usually demands no special personal attributes and is believed to be practiced by anyone who can acquire the necessary magical substances (especially in Africa) or the appropriate magical spells (especially in Oceania).

ii) Occasions of witchcraft.

The envisioned relationships between the alleged witch and his believed victim, as well as the observable ones between him and his accuser (who may be the victim himself or a close relative or friend), are conceived of as tense because of the problems of close living or because of competition between them for social honour and prestige. In most instances people are believed to resort to witchcraft when the tension they feel toward those with whom they have quarreled or competed is not subject to arbitration by the society's normal machinery of tension management, such as courts and similar assemblies.

Although the members of small-scale societies, both contemporary ones described by anthropologists and past ones reconstructed by historians, have tended to attribute a large proportion of their misfortunes to the evil actions of sorcerers and witches in their own communities, this does not necessarily mean that people in such societies are continuously involved in the rituals of sorcery or are frequently preoccupied with the possibility that they are exerting the mysterious, evil influences of witchcraft; nor does it mean that those who believe themselves to be the victims of sorcery or witchcraft are continuously obsessed by fears of them. People seem to learn to live with the threat of witchcraft and sorcery just as members of modern societies learn to live with the threat of automobile or airplane accidents.

iii) A coherent explanatory system.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of systems of belief involving witchcraft, sorcery, and divination is the consistency and harmony with which they bring together their constituent elements. This is the main message of the classic study Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande by Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard. The Azande are shown to attribute virtually all their misfortunes to witchcraft and sorcery, and their conceptions of these entirely or largely imagined activities--along with beliefs in the general efficacy of their divinatory techniques--provide them with an explanatory frame of reference. Such a frame of reference removes uncertainties and prescribes steps for the management of tensions, steps that, though to the modern Western mind unrelated to the causes of their misfortunes, are nevertheless of psychological value to the believer and tend to reinforce and harmonize the circular belief system. For example, someone falls ill or has an accident; the poison oracle points to the witch responsible and is confirmed by superior oracles; the alleged witch is induced to withdraw his witchcraft; the patient gets better--as most patients do anyway. If he should not, however, the predictive failure of the oracle is easily explained away by the secondary elaborations that tend to develop as supports to the basic belief in divination; for example, the oracle poison used was of the wrong kind, or stale, or the oracle was upset by someone's use of witchcraft.

Michael Polanyi, a contemporary Hungarian-British philosopher, has analyzed Zande beliefs relating to witchcraft and found them to be characterized by the circularity just illustrated, by what he calls "epicyclical elaboration" (i.e., secondary beliefs that explain away predictive failure), and by what he terms "suppressed nucleation" (i.e., objections to the theory that explains misfortunes in terms of witchcraft are met and explained away one by one, so that they can never cluster into a rival explanatory system that can displace the belief in witchcraft). These three features, circularity, epicyclical elaboration, and suppressed nucleation, Polanyi maintains, are also characteristic--at least in the short run--of modern scientific theories, assuring their maintenance against contradictory experience and data. Another contemporary thinker, Thomas S. Kuhn, contends that scientific paradigms (i.e., prevailing theoretical systems) tend to outlast the observed anomalies that, logically speaking, should destroy them; and that they are abandoned less often by a change of heart on the part of the scientific establishment than by the entry into the field of a new generation of scientists uncommitted to the prevailing paradigm.

3) Theories of witchcraft.

Various theories have been put forward to account for the existence of witch beliefs. Among those advanced to account for their occurrence in early modern Europe is that of Margaret Murray, a British Egyptologist, who considered the witches of western Europe to be the lingering adherents of a once general pagan religion displaced by Christianity. Most contemporary scholars in witchcraft reject this theory as unfounded historically. A more recent theory relating to the so-called European witch mania lasting from the mid-15th to the mid-18th century is that of the British historian Hugh R. Trevor-Roper. He views witchcraft as an outgrowth of the systematic "demonology" that the medieval church constructed out of the scattered folklore of peasant superstitions and that acquired a momentum of its own in the centuries of political and religious strife that transformed Europe from the so-called Dark Ages to the modern period.

Theories of more general applicability include the diffusionist, psychological, and sociological theories of various anthropologists and historians. Diffusionist theories are concerned with accounting for the distribution, either at present or in historical times, of beliefs and practices relating to witchcraft; e.g., viewing Pueblo witch beliefs as an amalgam of Spanish and Indian influences. Psychological theories stem ultimately from Freud's doctrine of the displacement of affect (that emotions repressed in one situation find an outlet in another), as exemplified in the theory of Malinowski, who regarded magic (including sorcery) as institutionalized "substitute activity" resorted to when urges for survival or for revenge are blocked by the inadequacies of technology or (following Clyde K.M. Kluckhohn's development of the theory) are limited by the closeness of social relationships that can be ended only with great difficulty.

Sociological theories of witchcraft stem from Evans-Pritchard's work among the Azande and illuminate two fields, the sociology of knowledge (the social conditions of knowledge and explanation) and the study of the micropolitical processes, already noted above. Although Evans-Pritchard's book was a study in the sociology of knowledge in a particular society, it contained several acute insights into the links between social structure and belief that led other investigators to consider applying them in their studies of other societies. As a result there has emerged a body of theory that takes the relative frequency of accusations or supposed instances of witchcraft or sorcery to be social strain gauges that reveal which roles and relationships in a social system are especially subject to tensions--tensions for which articulation and periodic discharge must be provided if the structure is to survive.



1) Ancient Middle East and Europe.

Belief in magical practices was apparently widespread in the cultures of the ancient Middle East. Magical power to heal sickness and other acts of white witchcraft or sorcery are ascribed to gods, heroes, and men in the extant literature of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Canaan. There was also a fear of malevolent magic or sorcery, especially in Mesopotamia, and a search for counteraction. According to the biblical record, the ancient Hebrews, as well as their pagan neighbours, were conversant with these practices, fears, and avoidances. It is disputable whether any of the Hebrew terms rendered "witch" or "sorcerer" in various translations refer to witchcraft in the special modern sense. Very often they have to do with mediums and necromancers applying certain techniques of divination. The so-called witch of Endor used by King Saul, according to the story in the First Book of Samuel, is a good example of this; actually the King James Version calls her "a woman that hath a familiar spirit," and the Revised Standard Version, "a medium." On the other hand, a passage in the Book of Ezekiel referring to certain women who, through the use of "magic bands" and veils, control the souls of other persons seems clearly to refer to sorcery. Such women are castigated as vainly going against God and his power. Sorcerers and magicians in general are denounced frequently in the Old Testament as antisocial as well as anti-God, and their offenses are punishable by death. The vehemence and frequency of the denunciations indicate that some such practices were prevalent; the New Testament writers also denounced them as immoral and idolatrous. (see also Index: Mesopotamian religion, Bible)

In ancient Greece and Rome only magical practices intended to do harm were condemned and punished; beneficent sorcery was approved and even official. It was believed that certain persons could do harm to others in their economic, political, athletic, and amorous endeavours and even cause their death. Such activities were often ascribed to the gods themselves, who, unlike the Judeo-Christian God, were not purely good and were, moreover, subject to the same impulses as human beings (and also to human sorcery). Certain goddesses--e.g., Diana, Selene, or Hecate--were associated with the performance of malevolent magic that took place at night and according to a fixed ritual, with various paraphernalia and spells. A story recounted by Apuleius in The Golden Ass(2nd century), probably reflecting popular belief, centres on the alleged tendency of the witches of Thessaly (a region notorious for its witches) to gnaw off bits of a dead man's face and their power to assume various animal forms to carry out their ghoulish purpose. (see also Index: Greek religion, Roman religion)

Among the Germanic peoples, who spread throughout Europe during the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, fear of witches was widespread. Here, too, the gods were sponsors and practitioners of sorcery, as well as subject to its power, while kings practiced and suffered from malevolent magic. Types of witchcraft were assigned to whole social classes or families. As in the Greco-Roman world, such powers were especially attributed to women, and the old-woman witch type that was to become central in later European witch scares was a frequent figure in literature. Similar themes appear in the literature of the ancient Slavic peoples. (see also Index: Germanic religion and mythology)

2) Western Christendom.

Laws, both civil and ecclesiastical, against witchcraft practices and beliefs were enacted quite early in ancient Spain and Gaul in the early Christian Era. Charlemagne and other Frankish rulers condemned such practices and beliefs as evil and superstitious and passed severe laws against them, involving the death penalty. Church councils and leaders sometimes inveighed against belief in witchcraft as mere superstition and illusion, a contemptible relic of paganism; at other times they declared its practice was an actual evil that must be suppressed. (see also Index: Middle Ages)

On the whole, though, with a few notable exceptions, such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the ancient and medieval church attempted to wean its adherents from folk beliefs in witchcraft and magic. This skepticism, maintained by such influential figures as St. Boniface and St. Agobard, was officially embodied in canon law, which was comparatively moderate and lenient in its measures against witches and witchcraft.

Between the 12th and 15th centuries a decisive transformation occurred in the church's attitude. Contact with Arabic culture in the 12th century introduced studies such as alchemy and astrology that evoked a new interest in what has been called "natural magic," which, quite apart from the weapon it provided against heresy, could no longer be dismissed as peasant superstition. It was, however, agitation against heretics that finally caused a change in official church policy. In 1484 two Dominican friars, Heinrich Kraemer and Johann Sprenger, induced Pope Innocent VIII to issue a bull authorizing them to extirpate witchcraft in Germany; and two years later these two men published the Malleus maleficarum(The Witches' Hammer), a work that became the authoritative encyclopaedia of demonology throughout Christendom. It was a synthesis of folk beliefs that had hitherto been manifested in local outbursts of witchfinding. Its authority lasted for nearly three centuries, during the time of the European witch mania.

The demonology that the Malleus enshrined became an established and systematized theory attributing witches' powers to their special links with the devil, especially their sexual relationships with him as incubus (embodiment in masculine form) if they were women or as succubus (embodiment in feminine form) if they were men. Though witches in other societies personify evil in general, in European history they became specifically identified as the earthly representatives of the Prince of Evil.

The campaign against the devil's earthly representatives was waged long and unrelentingly. The biblical injunction "You shall not permit a sorceress to live" was observed repeatedly. The fomenting of the witch mania cannot be attributed exclusively to either Roman Catholic or Protestant leaders. Although launched by Roman Catholic evangelists, it was revived and extended by their Protestant counterparts and further cultivated during the Counter-Reformation. Although throughout the centuries of its sway there were skeptics who opposed its fundamental tenets, the mania did not decline until the whole medieval cosmology was displaced by that of the less theocratic and more secular frame of reference of the modern world. A.D.J. Macfarlane, a modern British historian of witchcraft during the Tudor and Stuart eras in England, has used the insights of modern Africanist anthropology to demonstrate the link between the witch mania and the broader social changes in which it was set. This he has done by reviewing more than 1,200 cases gleaned from court records and contemporary pamphlets relating to the English county of Essex in the 120 years following 1560. The most frequent kind of accusation of witchcraft was the one in which someone who had repudiated a neighbour, usually an old woman seeking a favour, subsequently attributed some misfortune befalling him to her anger at being refused and thus to her witchcraft. Macfarlane links this typical instance with the wider changes taking place from a neighbourly, highly integrated, mutually dependent village society to a more individualistic one of the kind now prevalent. In this general setting, the belief in witchcraft provided a means, though not necessarily one consciously employed, of sundering a close but redundant relationship.

The famous Salem witch trials of 1692 may be regarded as one of the last fitful flares of the witch mania. They have been studied anew by Chadwick Hansen, an American historian, who concluded that witchcraft was practiced in Salem, that it did harm to persons claimed to be victims, and that it posed a real threat to the community. The indiscriminate accusations that resulted in the execution of innocent people were the result of a general public panic in response to the psychosocial situation, not to the exhortations of clerical bigots. This fear sprang from a system of beliefs held by most Westerners at the time and also accounted for the harm done to the "afflicted" persons. Witchcraft worked in Salem because the persons involved believed in it.

3) The modern, secular world.

During the following centuries cultural, social, economic, and technological developments resulted in the modern secular worldview in which belief in witchcraft has no place but instead appears as sheer superstition. Yet modern societies, too, have been beset by mass obsessions that in many respects resemble the witch manias of earlier times; the equivalent of satanic power and evil is sometimes ascribed to political and social deviants who are publicly accused, condemned, and suppressed. Moreover, reports of witchcraft practices and beliefs in the traditional sense still occur today in Western societies.

The term witchcraft is currently applied to two types of phenomena in modern societies, correctly to one but erroneously to the other. The authentic use of the term refers to cases in which persons believed to have harmed others by witchcraft are physically attacked or perhaps even lynched. Such cases usually occur in peasant communities in which old traditions are preserved and in which social mobility is slight; hence they resemble instances of witchcraft in nonliterate societies. In such communities people are living in close association with kinsmen and neighbours and cannot easily escape from the social networks that hold them; consequently, interpersonal tensions build up until the flash point of an accusation is reached.

The incorrect use of the term refers to persons claiming to be witches and reported to belong to covens, who assemble on appropriate calendrical occasions for sabbaths at which they perform rituals according to a tradition that the coven leaders claim descends from earlier witches. This kind of "witchcraft," judging by the way in which its participants freely acknowledge their adherence, seems highly respectable compared with the activities of the despised and hated miscreants of earlier periods in our own society or of contemporary nonliterate or peasant communities. These so-called witches claim to be adherents of an ancient religion, the one to which Christianity is regarded as a counter-religion, and in this way they seek to secure public recognition of their eccentric activities by appealing to the cherished modern value of religious toleration.

These practitioners usually turn out to be entirely sincere but misguided people who have been directly or indirectly influenced by Margaret Murray's article "Witchcraft," published in the 14th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica (1929), which put forth in its most popular form her theory that the witches of western Europe were the lingering adherents of a once general pagan religion that has been displaced, though not completely, by Christianity. This highly imaginative but now discredited theory gave a new respectability to witchcraft and, along with the more practical influence of such modern practitioners as Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner, contributed to the emergence of self-styled witches that are sometimes featured in the sensationalist press.


Knowledge of the nature and functions of witchcraft has probably been advanced most by anthropological studies of nonliterate societies, as in the classic study by Evans-Pritchard of the Azande, already noted.

In 1831-32 A.C.P. Gamitto, a young Portuguese army officer, on an expedition to the interior of the African continent, made some remarkably full and objective notes on the witch beliefs of the Maravi and Cewa peoples on the plateau between the Zambezi River and its tributary, the Luangwa. His notes describe the measures taken against persons who were suspected of witchcraft, such as the poison ordeal--according to which innocence was believed to result in the vomiting of the poison and guilt was believed to result in its retention with consequent purging or death--and the execution of a witch by burning.

In their monumental works, published at the turn of this century, on the peoples of central Australia, Sir Baldwin Spencer and F.J. Gillen made frequent references to the Aborigines' belief in the power of sorcerers, who, by pointing with a charmed bone or stick, were believed to kill their enemies at a distance. According to the later studies (1937) of W. Lloyd Warner, the Murngin people of northern Australia believe that sorcerers by performing operations on their victims cause them to die later without knowing what has befallen them.

Reo Fortune's study (published in 1932) of Tewara, an island in the western Pacific near Dobu, revealed a small community riven by tension, hostility, and anxiety, one in which misfortunes and failures were constantly attributed to the sorcery of men and the witchcraft of women. To elucidate the tangled social relationships ultimately blamed for their frustrations and disappointments, the Dobuans resort to elaborate forms of divining, including water gazing, crystal gazing, and bending the supposed victim's middle finger and noting whether the tip of it flushes.

Clyde Kluckhohn's study of the Navajo, published in 1946, included a systematic examination of the occasions on which Navajo believe witchcraft to be employed, the various forms it is believed to take, and the measures taken to detect and combat it. Kluckhohn interprets Navajo witchcraft as providing a psychological safety valve for the tensions that develop from living in small groups at close quarters with kinsmen with whom one must cooperate in order to survive. He sees witch beliefs as important means of social control in that they check wide divergences from economic and social norms. J.D. and E.J. Krige, working among the Lovedu of South Africa, adopted a psychological approach similar to that of Kluckhohn. Among their conclusions are (1) that "witchcraft and sorcery provide avenues of vicarious achievement to those who, because of their aggressive temperaments or disharmonious conditioning, find it impossible or extremely irksome to conform [to the Lovedu society's ideal] pattern of co-operativeness and reciprocity" and (2) that "witchcraft is a reflection, not of tensions as such, whether open or repressed, but of tensions within the framework of cultural mechanisms for avoiding their being projected as witchcraft."

The study of witchcraft and sorcery as a means of elucidating micropolitical processes is a field to which several anthropologists working in Africa have contributed. Monica Wilson and S.F. Nadel have each made comparative studies of witch beliefs, showing how they are related to the social structures of the societies in which they occur. Clyde Mitchell among the Yao and Victor Turner among the Ndembu, in 1956 and 1957, respectively, have shown how accusations of witchcraft punctuate the periodic crises in the development of the social relationships enmeshing a village community. Max Marwick has shown how accusations of sorcery among the Cewa precipitate the periodic divisions of local village communities as they grow in size beyond the limits of administrative convenience and of local resources. Other writers have noted the changes in beliefs accompanying urbanization and similar modern developments. For instance, Clyde Mitchell and Marc Swartz have observed a decline among urban Africans in the tendency to explain misfortunes in terms of witchcraft. They attribute this to the fact that, because in modern towns there is a preponderance of strangers not linked intimately or emotionally, it is often possible for tensions resulting from the normal frustrations of living to be expressed openly rather than supernaturally and that, when tension between intimate associates develops, it is easier for them to break off their relationship than it would be were they living in a small-scale rural community. These developments observed in African cities since the mid-20th century may well parallel those that finally emancipated the Western world from a universal belief in witchcraft.

Among the numerous accounts that have been published on modern movements in Africa, concerned with the extirpation of witchcraft, Roy Willis' study (1968) of the Kamcape movement among the Fipa of southwestern Tanzania broke new theoretical ground, for it showed that the movement had quasi-revolutionary overtones. The witch beliefs and the community's epidemic reaction to them facilitated a redistribution of power between generations, a kind of change the analysis of which is likely to increase understanding of the politics of developing countries. Willis pointed to the importance in the theory of social change of what he referred to as "proto-institutions," such as anti-witch cults, in which a general discontent with the strains of culture contact takes the form of organized rejection of traditional belief systems. 


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