Although in England, people are not known to process such a material substance, however a person may possess powers. In medieval times these powers were mainly seen as being bad or evil, like with the Azande thought it was the power to harm others. Some people did believe this power came from an extraordinary gift from God for healing powers. In 1587 George Gifford said that the hatred of witched was from fear of their hostile acts towards others not from their association with the devil and religious intolerance. The idea of witchcraft and it’s practise, seems to have divided in the later years in England, into black and white magic.
White magic or the white witch seems to be more commonly known. The witch of history, who was seen as evil is a thing of the past. It is generally unclear how the power of witchcraft is obtained. People in England believed it is a gift comes to them as an accident of birth or else the special recipe or charm has descended from father to son, like that with the Zande. Another belief is that it has been given to them by the former owner and as a rule it is used for the benefit if their friends to cure diseases. It is seen as an insult for the person who has these powers to be called a white witch. The term healer is preferred. One might not even know they possess these powers. Seymour states ‘anybody might become a victim of the witch epidemic.’ (1989).
In medieval England there were many common Witchcraft charges. These varied from having a birthmark or physical defect to recovering from an illness and having a long life. Others were performing as a midwife to healing. Here in after midwifery was not seen as Witchcraft but a normal part of life. Living into old age is also common as a result of medical advances. However other accusations of Witchcraft such as performing it on others to harm them is not very common in England. There is no longer execution of Witches as the last Witchcraft law was repealed in 1736.
This idea of witchcraft and the charges, which surround the issue, is very different from that of the Azande of Sudan. The Zande people do not dare to think that they could persecute a witch. Witchcraft is seen to be both conscious and unconscious. Although a person may not be aware that they possess Mangu, they still have the power to harm others. If a person becomes sick it is down to Witchcraft. However a Witchdoctor is not contacted every time someone is ill, like in England, the Zande people have their own remedies for healing ailments. ‘Their reference of sickness to supernatural causes (does not) lead them to neglect treatment of symptoms . . . they possess an enormous pharmacopoeia . . . and in ordinary circumstances they trust drugs to cure their ailments.’ Evans-Pritchard (1987).
In the same way in England, one would get something for a cold, and trust the drugs to work. If the drugs don’t work, a doctor would be consulted. It is also true of the Zande to seek other help if the drugs have failed. Instead of seeking a doctor they appeal to Oracles. This is done as a result that the Zande believe someone is bewitching them and that is why the drugs did not work. This is different from ideas in medieval England and latter years.
One would no longer believe that someone is bewitching them but instead have several different theories of causation from the illness. People believe sickness is attributed to not eating enough nutritional foods, psychological problems, depression or stress. Also the belief in karma, that what wrong doings one has done in the past comes back onto them. These can happen even if generally in good health. In modern day England, white Witches or healers are contacted for remedies, just like the Zande. Also there is Reiki which is a spiritual healing using the natural energy in the body.
Similarities between the Zande and Medieval to modern day England are regarding the fact that both expect people to be ill. In medieval times, when a person died, the death was rarely attributed to Witchcraft but mainly to God. In later years the death is said to be caused by lack of medical knowledge and ultimately by God. When a death occurs amongst the Zande people it has different ‘spears.’ The first spear is the illness or injury and the second spear would be either the Witchcraft which inevitably kills the person, Sorcery or Mbori. It is especially so if the person gets sick suddenly and dies, that a Sorcerer is at work.
Magic has been made by the Sorcerer, not a witch, and has been used against this person to kill him. This means that the Sorcerer can be both good and bad, as the Zande may use one to find out who is bewitching them. However there is a limit to the remedies. Sorcery is usually conscious and involves performing spells and making medicines. David Pocock said the majority of people in modern day England spoke of a sorcerer as specifically masculine and had a scientific air about him. Sorcerers defined by Keith Thomas was said to be ‘a thing or mischief which is distinct from Witchcraft, thus, Witchcraft being performed by the Devil’s insinuation of himself with witches, . . .Sorcery being performed by mere sophistication and wicked abuse of nature in things of natures own production.’
The difference between Witchcraft and Sorcery regarding the Zande, is explained in relation to more natural happenings in a chain of causation. For example a skilled wood carver has bowls that occasionally split during his work even if he was careful and knew well the techniques of the craft. He would attribute this to Witchcraft. In modern day England, one would say that the carver had not been careful enough when making the bowls or that there was something wrong with the materials. Evan-Pritchard states ‘Witchcraft explains why events are harmful to man and not how they happen.’
The Zande people select the cause, which is socially relevant Witchcraft is the socially relevant cause when a man is killed by spear in war or is bit by a snake and it is the prime determinate of social behaviour. Witchcraft was seen as more of an anti-social behaviour in medieval England as it went against the laws and rules of society. In modern day England there is very little social relevance of Witchcraft. The Zande is in complete contrast having Witchcraft play a daily role in everyday life. Witchcraft amongst the Zande people has become their culture and a way of life. As it is embedded deep in the roots of their civilisation, ideas about witchcraft will not change dramatically over time.
Evans-Pritchard, E.E, Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937): Oxford.
Lea,H.C, Materials towards a history of Witchcraft, ed. A.C.Howland (1939): Philadelphia.
Pocock, D; Understanding Social Anthropology. (1998): London and new Brunswick – N.J.
Robbins, Prof, Encyclopaedia of Witchcraft and demonology, (1959): New York.