witch doctor

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Witch doctors from Lassa, Borno State, Nigeria.


witch doctor (plural witch doctors)

  1. A person who is believed to ward off witchcraft and heal through magical powers; a shaman.
    • 1718, Francis Hutchinson, “The Tryal before My Lord Chief Baron Hale”, in An Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft. [], London: Printed for R. Knaplock, [], and D. Midwinter, [], OCLC 1103131147, page 110:
      [T]he ſaid Dorothy Durent, having been with a Witch-Doctor, acknowledges upon Oath, that by his Advice, ſhe hang'd up her Child's Blanket in the Chimney, found a Toad in it at Night, had put it into the Fire, and held it there tho' it made a great and horrible Noiſe, and flaſht like Gunpowder, and went off like a Piſtol, and then became inviſible, and that by this the Priſoner was ſcorch'd and burn'd lamentably.
    • 1820, J[ohn] C. Knowlson, “The Felon”, in The Complete Cow-leech, or Cattle-Doctor; [], Otley, Yorkshire: Printed for the author by T. F. Bristow, [], OCLC 265485925, page 104:
      Some people are so foolish as to go to a witch-doctor when they have Cows in this complaint [prematurely parting with their unborn calves]:—they give him some money, and he tells them some frivolous tale, such as that some person that wishes them bad luck, or looks upon them with an evil eye, [...]
    • 1893, South African Law Journal, volume 10, Cape Town: Juta & Co., ISSN 0038-2388, OCLC 664581000, page 219:
      At that consultation, according to the habit of a witch-doctor, he divined and announced the occasion of their attendance, and indicated the complainant, Mdungazwe, as the wizard who had caused Ranise to suffer.
    • 1958 April 1, David Seville [pseudonym; Ross Bagdasarian Sr.] (lyrics and music), “Witch Doctor”, in The Alvin Show:
      I told the witch doctor I was in love with you / And then the witch doctor he told me what to do
    • 1971, W. G. Jilek, “From Crazy Witch Doctor to Auxiliary Psychotherapist: The Changing Image of the Medicine Man”, in Psychiatria Clinica, volume 4, number 4, Basel; New York, N.Y.: S[amuel] Karger, OCLC 743248436, abstract, page 200:
      Review of the literature cited in the bibliography of the present paper left this author with the impression that there is indeed a very widespread institution variously labelled by Western observers with epithets such as medicine-man, shaman, witch-doctor, native healer, or with indigenous terms such as angakok (Eskimo), or mganga (Swahili).
    • 1982, Sudhir Kakar, “Other Shamans”, in Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions, New York, N.Y.: Knopf, →ISBN; republished New York, N.Y.: Knopf, 2013, →ISBN:
      In much of popular Western literature, the non-Western professional who attends to the relief of distress and alleviation of anxiety in his society is known by many names, none of them exactly respectful. He is a medicine man or a witch doctor, native healer or voodoo sorcerer—the "quack," so to speak, never the "doctor."
    • 1993, Hama Tuma, The Case of the Socialist Witchdoctor and Other Stories (African Writers Series), Oxford, Oxfordshire; Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, →ISBN, page 36:
      The man being led into the Cage did not strike me as a witchdoctor. Slim and tall, he was a middle-aged man with a fuzzy Afro which made him look even younger.

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