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Zande Religion

Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631181392.1995.x


[ ii ] The Azande (= the people; adjective: Zande) live in north-east Zaire and south-west Sudan, and are a highly secular but traditional society, valuing courtesy, good judgement, humour, hospitality and scepticism. Its kings were greatly respected, but not for religious reasons. The existence of Mbori, the supreme being, maker of all things and thought to reside at the head of streams, may be unquestioned, but arouses little interest, no regular cult and few personal prayers. Nor is there great interest in, or ritual devoted to, other spiritual beings. Zande explanation of misfortune and especially death is in terms of witchcraft ( mangu ) and bad magic, i.e. sorcery ( gbegbere ngua ). The theory of these is partly moral (the ill will of evil men), partly materialist; it is not a matter of the agency of spiritual beings, but of certain mysterious physical powers at work in people and things. Thus the witch has an identifiable substance in his body which provides his power. His action can be detected through D ivination , either through the use of oracles ( soroka ) – of which the most reliable is the poison oracle (the administration of a substance called benge to fowls) – or through the mediumistic activities of witch-doctors ( abinza ). The initiation of the latter again chiefly consists in learning what trees and herbs provide the right medicine with which to detect witchcraft. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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