Re: Malinowski

karl h schwerin (schwerin@UNM.EDU)
Mon, 18 Dec 1995 11:49:46 -0700

On Fri, 8 Dec 1995, anderson wrote:

> I was wondering if anyone out there could provide definitions for
> Malinowski's use of Sympathetic Magic and Contagious Magic. Thanks for
> the help!
> Rachel Anderson
> <>
> San Diego State University

Rachel -
Malinowski (1954:72) attributes the distinction to Sir James Frazer:
"Besides such rites, however, in which a dominant element serves to
express an emotion, there are others in which the act does forecast its
result, or, to use Sir James Frazer's expression, the rite imitates its
end. ... It is, however, not necessary to adduce any other examples, for
this aspect of magic and the allied one of contagious magic has been
brilliantly described and exhaustively documented by Frazer. Sir James
has also shown that there exists a special lore of magical substances
based on affinities, relations, on ideas of similarity and contagion,
developed with a magical pseudo-science."

Other observations by Malinowski:
"magic and religion are not merely a doctrine or a philosophy, not merely
an intellectual body of opinion, but a special mode of behavior, a
pragmatic attitude built up of reason, feeling, and will alike. It is a
mode of action as well as a system of belief, and a sociological
phenomenon as well as a personal experience" (1954:24)

"Thus there is a clear-cut division: there is first the well-known set of
conditions, the natural course of growth, as well as the ordinary pests
and dangers to be warded off by fencing and weeding. On the other hand
there is the domain of the unaccountable and adverse influences, as well
as the great unearned increment of fortunate coincidence. The first
conditions are coped with by knowlege and work, the second by magic"

The Trobriand Islanders "practice magic to master the elements of chance
and luck" in ocean fishing and warfare, illness and death (1954:30-32).

"Magic is akin to science in that it always has a definite aim intimately
associated with human instincts, needs, and pursuits. The magic art is
directed towards the attainment of practical aims. Like the other arts
and crafts, it is also governed by a theory, by a system of principles
which dictate the manner in which the act has to be performed in order to
be effective. In analyzing magical spells, rites, and substances we
have found that there are a number of general principles which govern
them. Both science and magic develop a special technique. In magic, as
in the other arts, man can undo what he has done or mend the damage which
he has wrought. ...Thus both magic and science show certain similarities,
and, with Sir James Frazer, we can appropriately call magic a
pseudo-science" (1954:86-87)

Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1954. Magic, science and religion, and other
essays. with an introduction by Robert Redfield. Garden City, NY:
Doubleday Anchor

Karl Schwerin SnailMail: Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131

Much charitable endeavor is motivated by an unconscious
desire to peer into lives that one is glad to be unable
to share. . . . . Edward Sapir