Witchcraft and Sorcery in East Africa

Witchcraft and Sorcery in East Africa

Witchcraft and Sorcery in East Africa

Witchcraft and Sorcery in East Africa

Excerpt

The subject of witchcraft and sorcery is a matter of great importance and also one on which there is a great deal of misunderstanding. Beliefs about witches and sorcerers have a world-wide distribution; in Africa their occurrence is almost universal. Although in some societies they play a very minor role in the daily lives of the people, in most it is no exaggeration to say that one cannot gain any fundamental grasp of the attitudes which people have towards one another nor can one understand many aspects of their behaviour in a wide range of social situations without a fairly extensive knowledge of their ideas regarding good, evil and causation, and their associated beliefs in witches and sorcerers. Witch beliefs have played a very important role in Western society until very recent times. The fact that most Europeans no longer hold these ideas, though, and the fact that they regard them as superstitions, products of ignorance and error, often hampers communication between Europeans and Africans. And the failure to understand the precise nature of witchcraft beliefs and, of even greater significance, the failure to understand the roles of these beliefs in the context of the lives of those who hold them, is often at the basis of naïve statements that the 'African mind' is different in some fundamental way from the 'European mind' and in an ultimate sense incomprehensible. But these beliefs are social, not psychological, phenomena and must be so analysed.

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