Systems of North American Witchcraft and Sorcery

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

CHAPTER VII
MENOMINI WITCHCRAFT

Louise Spindler

The Menomini Indians, with a total population of about 3,000, reside today in nearly 400 square miles of heavily timbered country bisected by the Wolf River in northeast central Wisconsin. Several studies have been made of the Menomini at different times. They offer rich materials on particular periods including reports of early contacts by fur traders, Jesuits, and explorers. In this chapter witchcraft patterns from the early period of contact through the contemporary period of Menomini culture will be described. Because of the scattered and often contradictory reports of the traditional culture during the early period, no reconstruction of a single and unified aboriginal pattern of witchcraft will be attempted. However, witchcraft will be related to traditional Menomini cosmology; power-gaining, many aspects of which are shared with other North American Indian groups and which underlie the system of beliefs concerning acts of witchcraft; and aspects of social and ceremonial organizations which are implicitly related to functions of past and present witchcraft beliefs. Particular emphasis will be placed on the functions of witchcraft in the five levels of acculturation represented in the present-day Menomini community as the people adapt in varying degrees to the modern world.

The majority of witchcraft accounts (see Appendix 6) are from a sample of sixteen female autobiographies collected by the author from five levels of acculturation. Accounts from males are used when available (from G. Spindler 1957). Observations that are separate from the autobiographies are also used. It became obvious after several periods of field work that Menomini native-oriented males talked about witchcraft reluctantly. A partial explanation for this could be that the women in this male-oriented culture are freed from the constraints imposed by involvement with male activities. Their roles of mother and wife free them to talk about areas of behavior either too fraught with danger (in the native-oriented group) or too irrelevant (in the acculturated groups) for males to discuss.

While researching the areas commonly labelled "witchcraft" or "sorcery," problems of definition become complicated. For example, it has been more or less traditional for anthropologists to make distinctions between witchcraft and sorcery that usually follow Evans-Pritchard's classification ( Evans-Pritchard 1937). One basis for distinction depends on whether the action is psychic (witchcraft) or whether it is performed (sorcery). A comprehensive survey ( Fitzgerald 1964:16-17) shows that Menomini witchcraft is a combination of witchcraft and sorcery as they have been traditionally defined.

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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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