An Anthropological Perspective
Chapter Six: Witchcraft: Evil in Human Form
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Witchcraft: Evil in Human Form
A witch is an individual who is believed to possess innate powers to cause harm to persons and property by supernatural means. Witchcraft is part of religion because it involves unseen forces. The terms witchcraft and sorcery are sometimes taken to mean the same thing. Both refer to acts of harmful magic. However, some anthropologists make a distinction between the two. Sorcery is basically the use of harmful or black magic. Anyone who knows the correct spells and formulae can perform acts of sorcery or function as a sorcerer. The sorcerer employs spells, rituals, medicines and manipulates objects to achieve his goals. He can work on his own behalf, deliberately harming enemies, or on the behalf of clients who are afflicted by the sorcery or witchcraft of others. To what extent people practice sorcery is difficult to determine. However, the belief in sorcery, i.e., that others are causing us harm through evil magic, is real enough and affects human behavior. In this respect, sorcery and witchcraft are similar in nature. Both function to explain misfortunes through scapegoating and the patterns of accusation arising from suspicions that one has been attacked by sorcery or witchcraft are in some cases similar.
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