Magico-religious practitioner types and socioeconomic conditions

Cross-Cultural Research Vol/Iss. 20(1-4) Sage Published In Pages: 17-46
By Winkelman, Michael James


The authors examine the relationship between magico-religious practitioner type and socioeconomic variables in order to present a typology of magico-religious practitioners. Three bases for magico-religious practitioners are discussed in terms of selection procedures and activities. Several hypotheses are empirically tested, and descriptive generalizations derived from analyses are presented.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
Standard Cross Cultural Sample (SCCS)

Hypotheses (12)

"The Priests are full-time specialists, with high social and economic status, who generally exercise political, legislative, judicial, economic, or military power. These practitioners are predominantly or exclusively male" (27)NA
"The Malevolent Practitioners are generally referred to by terms that are translated as 'sorcerers' or 'witches'. They are part-time specialists, with low social and economic status. In most societies, malevolent practitioners can be either male or female". (27)NA
"Mediums are part-time practitioners who in most societies are predominantly female; males are also found in this role, but less frequently. Mediums act at clients' requests to heal and divine while in possession trance states".(27) "Mediums were characterized by training that included significantly higher levels of spontaneous seizures or illness, compulsive motor behavior, tremors, and convulsions. All but one of the Mediums were characterized as undergoing possession trance experiences" (30).NA
"Trance states, labeled as soul journeys, were present for almost all of the Shamans"(30)NA
"the nature of the selection procedures for magico-religious roles is strongly related to the activities in which practitioners engage" (33)NA
"If a Shaman is present, there are generally no other practitioner types present". (34)Supported
"Societies with a single practitioner always has a practitioner from the Healer Complex present, generally a Shaman. Societies with two practitioner types present generally has a Priest and a Shaman/Healer or a functionally equivalent pattern", and societies with three practitioner types present all had a Priest and a member of the Healer Complex, with the third practitioner being either a Malevolent Practitioner or a Medium. "Societies with four practitioners exhibited a single pattern of a Priest, a Malevolent Practitioner, a Medium, and a practitioner from the Healer Complex". (35)NA
"All of the Shamans were in nomadic or seminomadic societies, which generally has hunting and gathering economies" (36)..."However, all of the Shaman/Healers were found in societies with agriculture, and almost all of the Healers were found in societies with political integration beyond the local level" (36)Supported
"Mediums occurred in societies with agricultural or pastoral economies, and, with one exception, they occurred only in societies with political integration beyond the local level" (36)Supported
Political integration and the presence of classes are correlated with the presence of Malevolent PractitionersSupported
"Priest practitioners were present only in sedentary societies with a major reliance upon agriculture or pastoralism"(37)Supported
"Societies with a single practitioner type were generally hunting and gathering societies; while those with two practitioner types always had agriculture as a major mode of subsistence. The societies with three practitioner types present had agricultural or pastoral economies and, with one exception, political integration beyond the local level. Those societies with four practitioner types present had agriculture and political integration beyond the local level and, with one exception, the presence of classes." (37)Supported

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:Kate Cummings Amelia Piazza emily.pitek