Azande and witchcraft in medieval Europe
Compare and contrast examples and principles of witchcraft from either two different societies, or two different time periods, to point out what has changed and what has stayed the same. In this essay I am going to look at two types of witchcraft and attempt to compare them. I have chosen witchcraft amongst the Azande and witchcraft in medieval England. Evans-pritchard found that the Azande have an profound interest in the discussion of witchcraft as a topic of conversation, compared to articulation about God (Mbori). Although witches conceived by the Azande do not exist, a natural theory is found in witchcraft.
This provides an explanation for hapless events and a way to respond to such events. Witchcraft plays a daily part in zande life. It is everywhere from domestic life of the home to the labour of hunting and fishing. In medieval England there was not the same frequency of witchcraft as that which occurs daily in the Azande. Witchcraft was becoming very popular in the fourteenth century and came to it’s high during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
The English too were intrigued by witchcraft however in medieval England and later periods, witchcraft was against the law and was seen as an offence against God and Man. Witchcraft involved the renunciation of God. The witch would make a pact with the devil and this is how she gained her powers. Keith Thomas states that the church constructed witch craze by producing literature on witches or devils worshippers and highlighting how the witches were thought to have conducted themselves. The belief in witches was an explosive force and witchcraft expanded after the Renaissance.
Trevor-Roper believes that the church exploited pagan beliefs. The theory of Satan’s Kingdom was produced with it’s hierarchy of demon’s and witches. Witchcraft was known as the new diabolical religion and the persecution of apparent witches began. This theory was used in the trial of witches and in judicial torture. H.C. Lea points out that some of the more extravagant details remain absent from the confession’s of English witches, compared to the rest of Europe.
This could have been something to do with the fact that witches in England were hanged not burnt unlike in Europe. H.C. Lea also states that the rise and decline concerning the use of judicial torture is directly associated with the rising and slope of the witch craze in Europe. Trevor-Roper states from the evidence supplied by H.C.Lea that ‘the witch craze grew by it’s own momentum.’ It maybe concluded that there is a association between the two processes as judges in England sometimes refused to allow the testimony as they knew it had been obtained under duress.
Prof. Robbins interpretation of witchcraft, in his encyclopï¿½dia of witchcraft and demonology (1959) states that ‘witchcraft was never of the people… in essence the persecution of witches was a product of a cold-blooded campaign launched by self-interested clerics and inquisitors. It had no genuine social roots.’ Certain people are believed by the Azande to possess a material substance in their body, which can cause damage or injury to people and property. This matter is called ‘Mangu.
Mangu is a red/black oral organ, located between the breastbone and intestines. A person can use this to cause witchcraft. As a consequence of this doctrine, all human conduct must be regulated in an elaborate values system. Mangu is passed from father to son and mother to daughter. However it does not necessarily mean the grandfather or grandmother had it to. The Azande believe that there is nothing special about being a witch as you could be one yourself.