Systems of North American Witchcraft and Sorcery

By Deward E. Walker Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
SORCERY IN SANTIAGO EL PALMAR

Benson Saler

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?

-- Henry IV, Part I, Act 3, Scene 1

I tend to think of sorcery largely in terms of certain kinds of beliefs, including beliefs about magical techniques for the accomplishment of purposes which are likely to be malignant. I tend to stereotype a sorcerer, then, as a person who, in accordance with a set of beliefs, is supposed to use a repertory of magical techniques for the achievement of ends 2 which people in his society may often consider to be reprehensible, immoral, antisocial, or the like -- albeit at times the sorcerer's work may be socially approbated as when, for example, he counteracts someone else's evil magic.

The above very broad conceptualization of sorcery is in keeping with generally accepted anthropological usages of the term. Yet, to my knowledge, there is no unanimity among anthropologists as to a cross-culturally applicable definition of sorcery. The difficulties of achieving such a definition notwithstanding, it is common practice among anthropologists to treat sorcery as a subset of the set "religion." Now the problems attendant in working toward a definition of religion are even more thorny than those encountered in essaying the meaning of sorcery. Without involving ourselves deeply in the larger problem, however, suffice it to say that when anthropologists talk about "religion," they often have in mind beliefs of a certain kind and practices associated with those beliefs ( Horton 1960; Spiro 1966). Sorcery, then, might be characterized as encompassing a smaller aggregation of those beliefs and practices. In accordance with this convention, I intend to describe Quiché sorcery beliefs and sorcery practices (or, as I would prefer to say, "techniques") encountered in the Guatemalan pueblo of Santiago El Palmar (see Figure 11). The Palmar Indians employ a Quiché term which we can gloss as "sorcerer," and my discussion will revolve about native usages of that term.

At the outset, however, I wish to make it clear that, insofar as I am aware, I have never witnessed Quiché sorcery rites; my knowledge of them derives from the reports of my informants. Moreover, virtually all of those informants whom I questioned on the subject alleged that they themselves had never actually observed sorcery rites; their knowledge of such rites, they maintained, stemmed from what they had heard from their fellows.

-125-

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Systems of North American Witchcraft and Sorcery
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Contents vi
  • Introduction 1
  • References Cited 9
  • Chapter I - Western Apache Witchcraft 11
  • Chapter II - Pueblo Witchcraft and Medicine 37
  • References Cited 70
  • Chapter III - Witchcraft in Tecospa and Tepepan 73
  • References Cited 92
  • Chapter IV - Two Views of Obeah and Witchcraft 95
  • References Cited 108
  • Notes 122
  • References Cited 123
  • Chapter V - Sorcery in Santiago El Palmar 125
  • References Cited 145
  • Chapter VI - Introduction Skokomish Sorcery, Ethics, and Society 147
  • Appendix 5 166
  • References Cited 181
  • References Cited 182
  • Chapter VII - Menomini Witchcraft 183
  • Chapter VIII - Witchcraft AMong Kaska Indians 221
  • References Cited 235
  • Chapter IX - Iroquois Witchcraft at Six Nations 239
  • References Cited 262
  • References Cited 264
  • Chapter X - Sorcery Among the Nez Perces 267
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