Evan Orchard Witchcraft

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The ethnographic group being studied are the Azande, an ethnic group native to north central Africa, where witchcraft and divination practices have been and currently are common. Evan’s Pritchard is known as one of the early anthropologists to work with the Azande and to study witchcraft, as it exists as a practice in Azande societies. The religious behaviour being analysed and deconstructed in this paper is witchcraft, defined as “an imaginary offence” (Pritchard 1937: 417) and magic, as a sort of behaviour with killing or harmful intent (Pritchard 1937: 418). Evan’s Pritchard’s Witchcraft and Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande from 1935 and 1937 will be utilized in this paper. In these ethnographic sources, Pritchard uses methods…show more content…
He explained claims and behaviours related to witchcraft as “customary” (Pritchard 1935: 65). The underlying assumptions made by Pritchard were that assumed belief in witchcraft explains behaviour and that witchcraft functions to maintain the group. For example, he states examples of how witchcraft is a part of every aspect of Azande lives. In Witchcraft he defends everything from stubbing a toe to infidelity as being the product of witchcraft and magic. Likewise, he makes it clear in Witchcraft, that witchcraft and magic regulate behaviour and gives it a “peculiar value” where regular events occur and only become a misfortune when witchcraft is involved (Pritchard 1935:70). This is made clear in one of the first examples in the ethnographic work where a young man stubs his toe on a stump. Him and his fellow kinsmen recall that he knew the stump was there, was walking carefully and was always cognizant of watching out for stumps. However, one incident occurred where he stubbed his toe and it got infected. The young teen explains to Pritchard that he was bewitched and thus, an ordinary event of walking turned into a claim about a supernatural event of witchcraft (Pritchard 1935:…show more content…
For example, he notes that the Azande understand if someone hangs themselves that they could have been responsible for doing the action but they explain causation through witchcraft. To Evan’s Pritchard, this explanation is erroneous and irrational. Along the same lines, Pritchard makes tabula rasa assumptions about the Azande culture claiming there is “no end to misfortune for which the African has no control” (Pritchard 1935:65). This view of the Azande as unintelligent beings touches on the psychological intellectual view of religious behaviour where blank slate minds are not intelligent enough to explain what goes on in the world around them and use religion and witchcraft as explanations. Likewise, it also elucidates some of the darker sides of relationships between ethnographic subjects and the anthropologist. Pritchard does not examine the concept of “belief” except only as a customary and foundational tenet of Azande society and witchcraft practices (Pritchard 1935: 68-70). As such, he also operated under the theoretical orientation that there is no universal method for studying religion and that religious practices must be studied on a case-by-case basis (Pritchard 1937:

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