Re: Belief in magic and witchcraft

Schaeffer (
Fri, 17 Nov 1995 14:33:09 LOCAL

Many anthropologists think of witchcraft (of the African variety at least)
as a system of justice. Village culture in some nations included the notion of
a hierarchy of gods (the religion of "animism" is based on this idea). There
are national gods who defend nations, local gods than defend local community
interests, and even individual gods that defend individual or family
interests. Associated with the gods are a hierarchy of shamen or prophets who
can communicate with the gods and interpret their reactions using various
magical implements. When a nation feels wronged, the shamen who communicates
with the national gods are asked to influence their national god to act on the
nation's behalf. Similarly, when individuals, families or communities feel
wronged, they work through the shamen to obtain intervention for them. The
shamen pass the messages to the gods and interpret what the gods say. The
people hear the gods through their shamen. In many ways, the shamen are more
like lawyers than priests. The effect of witchcraft is simply acceptance of
the intervention of a god. Hexes are very much like law suits, legal
pronouncements or court orders. For example, if a person finds that a neighbor
with whom he is conflict has had his representative god put a hex on him, he
can pay a shamen to obtain intervention for him from his own friendly god. If
the intervention fails, the victim will accept the sentence by acting or
feeling in accordance with the hex. Everything depends completely on total
immersion and acceptance of the legal system, whether the system be
constitutional democracy or witchcraft. Acceptance of the system is glue
which holds the society together. People who reject the system or disbelieve
in its laws will be outcasts.

--Don Schaeffer, Ph.D.