Sonia Silva deposited Witchcraft and the Gift: Killing and Healing in Northwest Zambia in the group Indigenous Studies on Humanities Commons 4 years, 6 months ago
This chapter on witchcraft in northwest Zambia shows that forms of asking and giving may be deployed to suspend suspicion about the motives of others, even as they possess the potential to kill. When a woman asks a witch for a gift of salt to flavor her food, the witch feigns generosity but forces that woman to join the coven in recompense. In becoming a witch, that woman kills one of her relatives, whose flesh is consumed by the cowitch. The cowitch, in turn, becomes indebted to her and must provide more human flesh. This cycle of death may be broken when a healer offers a gift of sacrificial blood to the accused witch in exchange for the victim’s life. Drawing on David Graeber’s concept of human economies as well as Peter Geschiere’s treatment of intimacy and trust in witchcraft discourse, this chapter shows that requests and gifts may constitute leaps of faith that are dangerous but also necessary to undertake.