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Belief in Witchcraft Still Widespread

Published: 2022-11-25 - Updated: 2023-07-04
Author: PLOS - Contact: plos.org
Peer-Reviewed: Yes - Publication Type: Observational Study
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On This Page: Summary - Defining Witchcraft - Main Article - About/Author

Synopsis: Witchcraft beliefs are still widespread worldwide, with prevalence related to cultural, institutional, psychological, and socioeconomic characteristics. Numerous prior studies worldwide have documented people's beliefs in witchcraft - the idea that certain individuals have supernatural abilities to inflict harm. According to the dataset, over 40 percent of survey participants said they believe that "certain people can cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen to someone."

Definition

Witchcraft

Witchcraft traditionally means the use of magic or supernatural powers to harm others. Contemporary cultures that believe in magic and the supernatural often believe in witchcraft. Anthropologists have applied the term "witchcraft" to similar beliefs and occult practices described by many non-European cultures. Cultures that have adopted the English language will often call these practices "witchcraft" as well. Modern witch-hunting is still found in parts of Africa and Asia.

Main Digest

Witchcraft beliefs around the world: An exploratory analysis

A newly compiled dataset quantitatively captures witchcraft beliefs in countries worldwide, enabling investigation of key factors associated with such beliefs. Boris Gershman of American University in Washington, D.C., presented these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on November 23, 2022.

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Numerous prior studies worldwide have documented people's beliefs in witchcraft - the idea that certain individuals have supernatural abilities to inflict harm. Understanding people's witchcraft beliefs can be important for policymaking and community engagement efforts. However, global-scale statistical analyses of witchcraft beliefs have been lacking due to a lack of data.

Gershman compiled a new dataset that captures such beliefs among more than 140,000 people from 95 countries and territories to deepen understanding of witchcraft beliefs. The data come from face-to-face and telephone surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and professional survey organizations between 2008 and 2017, which included questions about religious beliefs and belief in witchcraft.

Article continues below image.
A map showing country-level prevalence of witchcraft beliefs around the world - Image Credit: Boris Gershman, 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
A map showing country-level prevalence of witchcraft beliefs around the world - Image Credit: Boris Gershman, 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Continued...

According to the dataset, over 40 percent of survey participants said they believe that "certain people can cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen to someone." Witchcraft beliefs appear to exist worldwide but vary substantially between countries and within world regions. For instance, 9 percent of participants in Sweden reported belief in witchcraft, compared to 90 percent in Tunisia.

Gershman then investigated various individual-level factors associated with witchcraft beliefs using this dataset. This analysis suggests that, while beliefs cut across socio-demographic groups, people with higher levels of education and economic security are less likely to believe in witchcraft.

Gershman also combined this dataset with other country-level data, finding that witchcraft beliefs differ between countries according to various cultural, institutional, psychological, and socioeconomic factors. For instance, witchcraft beliefs are linked to weak institutions, low levels of social trust, and low innovation, as well as conformist culture and higher levels of in-group bias-the tendency for people to favor others who are similar to them"

These findings and future research using the new dataset could be applied to help optimize policies and development projects by accounting for local witchcraft beliefs.

The authors add:

"The study documents that witchcraft beliefs are still widespread around the world. Moreover, their prevalence is systematically related to several cultural, institutional, psychological, and socioeconomic characteristics."

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Attribution/Source(s):

This peer reviewed observational study article relating to our African Disability News section was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Belief in Witchcraft Still Widespread" was originally written by PLOS, and published by Disabled-World.com on 2022-11-25 (Updated: 2023-07-04). Should you require further information or clarification, PLOS can be contacted at plos.org. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

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Cite This Page (APA): PLOS. (2022, November 25). Belief in Witchcraft Still Widespread. Disabled World. Retrieved September 26, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/news/africa/witchcraft.php

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