Jour. Anth. Inst.


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The reputation of witch doctors, as of all other Zande magicians, is completely overshadowed by the political power of the royal Vongara house. The prestige of the chiefs rests on a powerful political organization and its sanctions are of a purely political nature. The secular and government functions of the state are everywhere supreme and its ritual functions are entirely subordinate to them. One of the ways in which this subordination is maintained is by members of the noble class abstaining from magical activities, so that magic becomes mainly a commoner interest and practice. The witch doctors have no political power, and those with political power do not become witch doctors. It is important that chiefs are not initiated as witch doctors and that commoners with political ambitions refrain as a rule from joining the corporation. It can easily be understood that under these circumstances the witch doctor’s social position is never an exalted one.

At the same time, chiefs respect witch doctors and give them patronage. Chiefs, like everyone else, have their interests to protect from witchcraft. They have indeed a wider range of interests, since political interests are added to those of householder and producer. It is one of the special cares of a witch doctor summoned to court to inform his master of any unrest in his kingdom or principality. A chief, owing to his large harem, is also more susceptible than a commoner to attacks by women witches, since he has a greater range of contacts with women and has consequently greater opportunity for arousing feminine ill will.

Avongara [chiefs] patronize witch doctors because their magic is good magic. It causes no one an injury and protects many from harm. It is not an ally of jealousy and spite, but their enemy. All Azande are agreed that the witch doctor is harmless and everyone praises his medicines. Witch doctors may, it is true, fight among themselves, but that is their affair. They do not injure others so that people do not fear them and speak ill of them. Their squabbles and magic combats among themselves are a great source of amusement to Azande.1

1Evans-Pritchard, E.E.n/an/an/an/a, "The Zande Corporation of Witchdoctors," , 63: 94–95.


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Chicago: "Jour. Anth. Inst.," Jour. Anth. Inst. in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed May 23, 2022,

MLA: . "Jour. Anth. Inst." Jour. Anth. Inst., Vol. 63, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 23 May. 2022.

Harvard: , 'Jour. Anth. Inst.' in Jour. Anth. Inst.. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 23 May 2022, from