The Anthropology of Magic

The Anthropology of Magic

Susan Greenwood

Language: English

Pages: 160

ISBN: 1845206711

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Magic is arguably the least understood subject in anthropology today. Exotic and fascinating, it offers us a glimpse into another world but it also threatens to undermine the foundations of anthropology due to its supposed irrational and non-scientific nature. Magic has thus often been 'explained away' by social or psychological reduction. The Anthropology of Magic redresses the balance and brings magic, as an aspect of consciousness, into focus through the use of classic texts and cutting-edge research.

Taking a new approach to some perennial topics in anthropology―such as shamanism, mythology, witchcraft, and healing―the book raises crucial theoretical and methodological issues to provide the reader with an engaging and critical understanding of the dynamics of magic.

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Scientific Analogy Causal relationship between objects and their qualities Known instance serves as a model for the incompletely known Persuasive Analogy Magical relationship between phenomena Transfer of qualities through sympathetic magic Employed during ritual and spells Magical analogy involves an evocative transference of the value or meaning implied on one set of relationships to a second set of relationships. For example Bron-islaw Malinowski, in his classic fieldwork

different skies’.5 Frazer thought that if he could show that such a custom had existed elsewhere, it might have existed universally. Anthropologists have criticized Frazer’s universalist search for a common, underlying meaning to myth, and also his butterfly-collecting approach to gathering data— his finding of many examples from around the world and putting them together out of context—but his work is important for an understanding of the associative thinking that so characterizes a magical

than culturally understandable constructs’.24 In this view, social relationships are primary and ritual, and belief systems are seen as reflections and expressions of society. A primary figure responsible for these theories is Emile Durkheim, the French sociologist mentioned previously. This position is also shown in the work of Henri Hubert (1872–1927) and Marcel Mauss (1872–1950), two members of L’Année Sociologique (the first sociology journal, of which Durkheim was an editor) who were

spirits, or if spirit communications are labelled as psychological—if they are explained as part of their own internal thought processes—or whether the person thinks that the entities with which she is communicating are independent of her and have a being of their own. Whilst participating in a magical aspect of consciousness, the question of belief is irrelevant: belief is not a necessary condition to communicate with an inspirited world. In this view, humans create spirits in their

series of relationships.28 Webs are Patterns, Patterns Connect The web consists of varying modes of thought that can be imagined as patterns. To reconcile different types of knowledge, Samuel has built on Gregory Bateson’s ideas about a ‘flow of relatedness’, the emphasis on patterns of relationship and connectedness.29 Bateson was drawn to cybernetics, an intellectual movement of mathematicians, neuroscientists, social scientists and engineers concerned with different levels of description

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