jump to navigation
  • Evans-Pritchard and the Witch April 4, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Beach wants to induct E. E. Evans-Pritchard into his Rogue Researchers club for an experience that befell the great British anthropologist during his field work in Africa. This passage comes from his famous first chapter in Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937). The experience is probably from 1925 or 1926:

    I have only once seen witchcraft on its path. I had been sitting late in my hut writing notes. About midnight, before retiring, I took a spear and went for my usual nocturnal stroll. I was walking in the garden at the back of my hut, amongst banana trees, when I noticed a bright light passing at the back of my servants’ huts towards the homestead of a man called Tupoi. At this seemed worth investigation I followed its passage until a grass screen obscured the view.

    If we can rely on Evans-Pritchard’s memories he was clearly shook up by seeing this light. Lights like this were not common where he was based.

    I ran quickly through my hut to the other side in order to see where the light was going to, but did not regain sight of it. I knew that one man, a member of my household, had a lamp that might have given off so bright a light, but next morning he told me that he had neither been out late at night nor had he used his lamp. There did not lack ready informants to tell me that what I had seen was witchcraft. Shortly afterwards, on the same morning, an old relative of Tupoi and an inmate of his homestead died. This event fully explained the light I had seen.

    Then just as you thank the villainous functionalist is about to open his mind…

    I never discovered [the light’s] real origin, which was possibly a handful of grass lit by some one on his way to defecate, but the coincidence of the direction along which the light moved and the subsequent death accorded well with Zande ideas.

    Perhaps Evans-Pritchard does not have the makings of a rogue researcher after all… Other academic rogues: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com