189 major traditions. These tend to view religion as the overcoming of the worldly, by facing up to some invisible dimension. By contrast, Africans are totally committed to earthly life in its eternal flow. To chart what that basic insight implies is the main achievement of this study. Magesa's course material does not consist of original fieldwork or novel anthropo- logical notions. In fact, the majority of the data stems from white researchers of before 1980. Yet, most revealing is his overall ethical framework, which he does not hesitate to link to the mystical, in showing how customs surrounding birth, kinship initiation, joking relationships, sexual delights and laws, marriage, etc. enjoin a central motive of dedica- tion to the eternal flux of life. He explains convincingly the mystical route by which African religion installs in people this overriding value, as also how threats to it are seen to come from spirits, witches and other visible and invisible sources. His functionalist anthropology could sound outdated, but a search for common ethical denominators is bound to stay within functionalist boundaries. This clearly shows in his presentation of witch- craft and political ethics. No doubt, witchcraft belief does foster a cour-
Exchange – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1998
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