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Real-life witchcraft explored in public course

Thursday, 14 February 2002

FORGET Charmed and Harry Potter, there are real witches, sorcerers and magicians out there whose lives and rituals are just as interesting -- if not more so.

A new course open to the public delves into the practices of real-life "Harry Potters". The course, called Sorcery, Witchcraft, Shamanism and Healing, is part of the latest program of public courses being offered by Adelaide University's Centre for Professional and Continuing Education.

Under the guidance of anthropologist Dr Kingsley Garbett, participants will learn for 12 weeks (starting in March) about the witchdoctors of Africa, shamans from the Amazon and Zambezi valleys, witches from the 16th century, and others who practise magic rituals.

Dr Garbett has recently retired from Adelaide University following a long career in the university's Anthropology Department. He has been Reader in Anthropology at Adelaide University since 1976 and has studied rituals for more than 40 years, including field work in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Sri Lanka. He is now a Visiting Research Fellow at the University.

"Witches, sorcerers, magicians and shamans are credited universally with extraordinary powers to kill or cure, to bring rain, to make crops grow and often to foresee the future," Dr Garbett says.

"People credited with such ritual powers are often poor, politically weak and, frequently, women. Why should this be so? How do the politically weak and marginal come to be credited with such extraordinary powers? How do they justify and protect their powers against the sceptical and the curious?

"These questions and more will be answered during the course."

For more information about this course or other public courses available this semester, members of the public should call Professional and Continuing Education: (08) 8303 4777.

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