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Witchcraft, Magic & Shamanism

1) In the essay, "Magic, Science and Religion", Bronislaw Malinowski, claimed that each of these was a viable mode of cognition and that most societies exhibit all of them in variable proportions, but in what ways does magical thinking persist in contemporary North America and is it likely to persist into the future?

2) How is modern medicine reconciled with traditional beliefs in Swaziland?

3) Why do some societies have shaman? How does one become a shaman? How can the widespread occurrence of shamanism be explained?

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Questions & Answers on Witchcraft & Shamanism

1) In the essay, "Magic, Science and Religion", Bronislaw Malinowski, claimed that each of these was a viable mode of cognition and that most societies exhibit all of them in variable proportions, but in what ways does magical thinking persist in contemporary North America and is it likely to persist into the future?

For Malinowski, elements of magic, science and religion are tools of interpretation, of understanding, a way of making sense of the reality that confronts any culture and society for these 3 are mechanisms in reaction to the nature of man posed against the puzzle that is the world. Hence, he called them 'viable modes of cognition', a way of meaning making and knowledge creation based on the structures of language and knowledge a group, culture, society, civilization is, has or achieved. In terms of magic and faith, he declared in this collective sentence his ethnographic observation on the first paragraph of his 1948 book "Magic, Science, and Religion" -

"There are no peoples however primitive without religion and magic. Nor are there...any savage races lacking either in the scientific attitude or science, though this lack have been frequently attributed to them."

How is knowledge built, how do we come upon knowledge? We do it via observation. Now, before science, there was religion and faith. Before established religious structures like Christianity and Islam all over the world even in the earliest dawn of man, small clans of Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens sought to find explanations and interpretations of what their senses tell them via sight, hearing, taste, feel, touch. Rene Descartes once declared 'Cogito Ergo Sum', I think therefore I am and even our earliest ancestors in their own way utilised the phenomenon of human cognition to try and make meaning of their world and their lives more so because nature engineered man to also exhibit and feel emotions being one of the most complex creatures in the animal Kingdom. Thus, magic and the idea of the supernatural came forth. Whenever there is an observation of a social or a natural phenomenon that man has the inability to truly understand or fathom, it was attributed to the Supernatural. The idea of the supernatural began in the longing the living had for their dead as well as the positive thought of a 'better reality' elsewhere after death. An indigenous tribe, the Igorots in Northern Philippines believed that just as trees and plants begin live anew through their seeds, the old tree's spirit lives elsewhere in a new world. They have also come to observe the healing capacity of certain herbs and plants in the forest to be able to extend life. They have come to observe their flora. fauna and natural environment through the millennia and they believe that all living things has its own magic and soul. Their beliefs are rooted in their tribes' experience making the capacity of their medicine men to be dependent upon knowledge, training and observation of the true attributes of their environment. Now, how does this relate to science and the continuation of Magic in North America in the future? Science is just another ...

Solution Summary

The solution is an extensive 2,214 word Q&A essay narrative that provides answers to the questions listed in the original problem (see long description). Tackling the topic of witchcraft, magic & shamanism, the solution is divided into 3 main sections in accordance with the original questions. The work and viewpoints of Malinowski is discussed, modern & traditional beliefs coexisting in Swaziland as well as the concept of shaman and shamanism. W word version fot he solution is attached for easy printing. References are listed, from web to print.

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