A global study found that approximately one billion people in the adult population of 95 countries surveyed believe in the “evil eye” and in witches who can “cast curses or spells that cause bad things to someone”.
Calculated by evaluating surveys of 140,000 people from 95 countries and territories, it was found that on average, 40% of respondents believe in witchcraft. And, people living in countries with “weak institutions” were more likely to believe in witchcraft.
The world’s population recently surpassed eight billion, and the study’s authors pointed out that their findings likely underrepresent the full scale of belief in witchcraft.
Several highly populated countries were excluded from the study, including those in the Southeast Asian region, India and China.
Study leader Boris Gershman, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the American University in Washington, DC, described “weak institutions” as countries with “poor governance,” where he doesn’t There are no extensive social safety nets that “insulate community members from negative shocks to their livelihoods”.
Gershman said Pleasemynews that beliefs differed considerably from country to country.
“An important finding from my study is that beliefs in witchcraft are significantly more prevalent in countries with weak institutions,” he said. “The idea is that historically, one of the primary social functions of witchcraft beliefs has been to build social cohesion and maintain order in societies lacking alternative mechanisms to do so.
“The importance of this function is higher in societies where social order is not effectively maintained by formal institutions (such as fair courts, trustworthy police, effective central government), which explains why beliefs in witchcraft tend to be more prevalent in countries with weak institutions.”
Dangerous beliefs in witchcraft remain prevalent in some countries. In Ghana, for example, women are still frequently accused of witchcraft and suffer horrific punishments as a result.
Until now, exact data on witchcraft beliefs by country has been lacking. The study found that beliefs in “westernized” countries tended to be much less common. For example, only 16.5% of people in the United States said they believe in witchcraft.
This could be because Western societies tend to have more “well-established” formal institutions and are able to provide people with a social safety net. Western societies also tend to have higher proportions of highly educated people, who rely more on natural than supernatural explanations for life events.
A notable finding was that Russia had a witchcraft rate of 56%.
“It is indeed above average, although far from the maximum score of 90%,” Gershman said. “The reasons for the prevalence of beliefs in witchcraft [being] so low in the West also explain why it is high in Russia.
“Russia is notorious for its broken institutions, including corrupt courts, police and generally dysfunctional central and local governments. It is also a country with a very thin social safety net and a high proportion of people vulnerable to negative shocks (such as illness and poverty), and thus seek to explain misfortunes in their lives (which includes attributing them to supernatural powers such as witchcraft).”
Other countries with a particularly high amount rate include Morocco, Tunisia and Tanzania.
“[The U.S. belief rate of 16.5 percent] is rather low (compared to the rest of the sample) and is not surprising and generally consistent with the low prevalence of witchcraft beliefs in the West,” Gershman said.
A high percentage of witchcraft beliefs is also correlated with people exposed to shocks, such as drought or unemployment, according to the study.
This indicates that, in countries where institutions are less well established, beliefs in witchcraft can provide people with a reason on which to base their misfortunes.
Tanzania, for example, had a high witchcraft rate of 80%. It is also one of the countries in East Africa that is suffering from severe drought.
“What surprised me more than any specific country was the vast differences in the prevalence of witchcraft beliefs between countries, including those located in the same geographic region,” Gershman said.