(1922) Malinowski, Bronislaw.
In treating of the various customs and practices of the Kula, I had at every step to enter into the description of magical rites and into the analysis of spells. This had to be done, first of all, because magic looms paramount in the natives’ view of the Kula. Again, all magical formulae disclose essentials of belief and illustrate typical ideas in a manner so thorough and telling that no other road could lead us as straight into the inner mind of the native. Finally, there is a direct, ethnographic interest in knowing the details of magical performance, which has such an overweening influence over tribal life, and enters so deeply into the make-up of the natives mentality.
It is now necessary to complete our knowledge of magic and to focus all the dispersed data into one coherent picture. So far, the many scattered references and numerous concrete details have not furnished a general idea, of what magic means to the natives; how they imagine the working of the magical forces; what are their implied and expressed views on the nature of magical power. Collecting all the material which has already been presented in the previous chapters, and supplementing it with native and ethnographic comments, we shall be able to arrive at a certain synthesis, respecting the Kiriwinian theory of magic.
All those crises of life, which are associated with fear of danger, with the awakening of passions or of strong emotions, have also their magical accompaniment. The birth of a child is always ushered in by magic, in order to make the child prosper, and to neutralise the dangers and evil influences. There is no rite or magic at puberty; but then, with this people, puberty does not present any very definite crisis in the life of the individual, as their sexual life starts long before puberty arrives, and gradually shapes and develops as the organism matures. The passion of love, however, has a very elaborate magical counterpart, embodied in many rites and formulae, to which a great importance is attached, and all success in sexual life is ascribed to it. The evil results of illicit love that is love within the clan, which, by the way, is considered by these natives as the main class of sexual immorality can also be counteracted by a special type of magic.
The main social interests, ambition in gardening, ambition in successful Kula, vanity and display of personal charms in dancing all find their expression in magic. There is a form of beauty magic, performed ceremonially over the dancers, and there is also a kind of safety magic at dances, whose object is to prevent the evil magic of envious sorcerers. Particular garden magic, performed by an individual over his crops and seeds, as well as the evil magic which he casts on the gardens of his rivals, express the private ambitions in gardening, as contrasted with the interests of the whole village, which are catered for by communal garden magic.
The basic, food-providing economic activities, which in the Trobriands are mainly gardening and fishing, are also completely magic-ridden. The success of these pursuits is of course largely due to luck, chance or accident, and to the natives they require supernatural assistance. We had examples of economic magic in describing the construction of a canoe, and the fishing for kaloma shell. The communal garden-magic and the fishing magic of certain village communities show to a higher degree even than the cases described, the feature which we found so distinct in canoe magic, namely: that the rites and formulae are not a mere appendage, running side by side with economic efforts, without exercising any influence over these. On the contrary, it may be said that a belief in magic is one of the main, psychological forces which allow for organization and systemisation of economic effort in the Trobriands. The capacity for art, as well as the inspiration in it, is also ascribed to the influence of magic.
The passions of hatred, envy, and jealousy, besides finding their expression in the all powerful sorcery of the bwaga’u and mulukwausi are also responsible for many forms of witchery, known by the generic term of bulubwalata. The classical forms of this magic have as their object the estrangement of the affections of a wife or a sweetheart, or the destruction of the domestic attachment of a pig. The pig is sent away into the bush, having been made to take a dislike to its master and to its domestic habits; the wife, though the spells used to estrange her are slightly different, can be made also to take a dislike to her domestic life, abandon her husband and return to her parents. There is a bulubwalata of gardens, of canoes, of Kula, of kaloma, in fact of everything, and a good deal of beneficial magic is taken up with exorising the results of bulubwalata.
The list of magic is not quite exhausted yet. There is the magic of conditional curses, performed in order to guard property from possible harm, inflicted by others; there is war magic; there is magic associated with taboos put on coco-nuts and betel-nuts, in order to make them grow and multiply; there is magic to avert thunder and resuscitate people who are struck by lightning; there is the magic of tooth-ache, and a magic to make food last a long time.
All this shows the wide diffusion of magic, its extreme importance and also the fact that it is always strongest there, where vital interests are concerned; where violent passions or emotions are awakened; when mysterious forces are opposed to man’s endeavours; and when he has to recognise that there is something which eludes his most careful calculations, his most conscientious preparations and efforts.