Scholars delved into analysis and in-depth examination of witchcraft practices in the late 19th century (Jackson, 1989, p. 105). Since then, the practice has continued to intrigue numerous scholars, in particular, anthropologists…
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They have conducted numerous studies and largely described witchcraft as a psychosocial factor among that exists among societies such as American Indians, early modern Europeans and Africans. The findings have been applied to the study of witchcraft in practices in the earlier and in the contemporary societies. Remarkably, witchcraft plays a significant role in the society, as explained in numerous theories that have been developed by modern and earlier anthropologists. According to Detweiler (1975), numerous theories that have been established by different scholars generally demonstrate that witchcraft acts as a form of social control, serves as a way through which life misfortunes are explained and helps in releasing social tension. These three distinct functions are the reasons as to why witchcraft has intrigued anthropologists throughout since establishment of the discipline of anthropology. This paper looks at these functions of witchcraft in both the modern and in the early societies, as explained by various anthropologists. Discussion Anthropologists have learnt that witchcraft serves as a way of explaining the causes of life misfortunes. Human beings in all societies find explanations for all misfortunes that occur in their lives. In some societies, there are no rational explanations to some disturbing events, using conventional ways. There is high possibility for people in such societies to attribute these events to witchcraft practices. Their thoughts regarding the alternative causes of these events give them logical, coherent explanations which fully or partially satisfy their beliefs. This approach was developed by Evans-Pritchard in his study of Azande witchcraft. Azande is an ethnic group of people that live in Central Africa where they practice agriculture (Evans-Pritchard , 1937). They are famous for their witchcraft called mangu, which plays a significant role in shaping their understanding of the world and occurrences. They believe that some individuals are witches and posses the power of affecting others adversely. This power is believed to be inherited and acts at an unconscious level. The witch is believed to exercise this power physically without conscious intention and without speech or rite. The Azande people attribute most of the misfortunes that occur in their society to witchcraft. In case a misfortune is significant and leads to the suffering of a person, they look for a neighbour of the affected person who might be the source of unfortunate in order to find a resolution. In case they do not find out, they look for a ‘poison oracle’ in order to consults and determine the individual who might be the have caused the misfortune. The members of this society also consult the oracle before engaging in important ventures to determine whether misfortunes will occur. The poison oracle is a chicken which is fed with a particular quantity of poison known as benge. If the chicken or more than one chicken die, this is a sign of misfortune. After the aggressor or the witch is determined, he or she is approached by an intermediary and he or she responds by ‘blowing water’ over the dead chicken’s wing while asserting his or her good intentions towards the harmed person (Evans-Pritchard, 1937). Witchcraft appears in numerous aspects of the Azande and as Evans-Pritchard noted, it plays a role in determining their chances for luck or adversity. Generally, it plays a bog role in explaining particularity of events. Evans-Pritchard illustrates that when an experienced woodcarver splits wood perfectly during his work, the split is
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As defined above,
y Innocent VIII had declared that the inquisitors appointed by the church for putting to trial and punishing persons accused as witches, had complete power to punish “the aforesaid persons for their said offences and crimes” (1484). It is clear from the above statement
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