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Lecture 6

Lecture 6 Witchcraft continued.docx

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McMaster University
Antonio Sorge

Anthropology 2R03: Religion, Magic and Witchcraft January 17 2013 Lecture 6: Witchcraft con’t Poison Oracle con’t - How is the poison oracle “gendered”? o It is gendered as male  Meaning, it is a technology that can only be used by men  One of the things that can render the poison ineffective is if it comes into contact with women o Can be used to see which one of a man’s wives is bewitching him  Polygamist soc – men hold greater social power than women  Poison oracle can be used to reinforce the inequality btw the sexes  So men conduct the posion oracle to see which one of his wives is bewitching him, women don’t like this  Sometimes women would go into the forest and rip apart and bury the vine used for making the poison  They might also urinate on them to pollute them  Witchcraft accusations tend to follow strains in soc – wife is obvious suspect  Not random accusations - When is it warranted to consult the poison oracle o Whenever significant misfortune strikes, or when people hope to anticipate the outcome of a major undertaking, such as a hunt or a long voyage  Don’t consult it for minor annoyances, only when something considerably bad happens  Not when o Stub your toe o Break a pot o Brew some bad beer  Cannot go consulting oracles all the time, life is too short to find the witch behind every annoyance - What is done when a poison oracle detects a witch? o The witch doctor can make a public statement  “You, witch, you are bothering ___. Stop it!” o Or, bring a wing of the dead fowl to the prince governing the district  Prince sends someone with the wing to the accused witch to persuade him/her to stop their witchcraft o The person accused by the poison oracle cannot deny it  If they do, it confirms that they are a really bad witch  Have to follow the etiquette  Witch has to blow water – take a sip of water and spit out the mist o Known as “cooling the belly”  Witch agrees to try to mend the frayed social relationships Witchcraft con’t - Belief that the older a witch is, the more powerful their witchcraft is - Before British Colonization o If a bewitched person died, and the witch was known, then sometimes a witch would be killed or would have to pay blood money to the family of the deceased o During the poison oracle, the poison was not fed to a bird but to the accused witch  They drank six cups, if they died or were sick, they were a witch, if they were fine, they were not a witch - Functions of witchcraft o Explains misfortune o Function of personal relations – Perfect coincidence btw. Belief system and social action  Encourages people to remain on good terms with one another  Witches don’t bewitch people for not reason, therefore it is important for everyone to be nice to each other o Don’t be rude, don’t show off or brag, avoid rivalry etc. be nice  Encourages husbands to treat their wives with equal respect and consideration o In order to offset the likelihood of one becoming jealous and bewitching him  Corrects uncharitable impulses o Afraid to offend any of your neighbours as you don’t know who is a witch, so be charitable to everyone so hopefully no one bewitches you - Are witches conscious agents? o No  No one confesses to the ability of bewitching anyone on purpose  Always unintentional o What would a person do if they are accused of
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