Religion among the Azande is not organized as one may find in other cultures. There is no Supreme Being, shrine, structured worship, or ceremonies aimed at one particular religion or belief. The Azande do not seem to care about western religion, however, they do have strong beliefs in witchcraft and oracles.
Ferraro defines witchcraft as “an inborn, involuntary, and often unconscious capacity to cause harm to other people.” The Azande believe that witchcraft is a physical object that occupies certain people. Azande believe it is inheritable and if one parent is a witch with a strong soul, then it is inevitable that any child born will inherit the power to do harm. Since witchcraft is a physical property, it has the capacity to grow, making older people who encompass witchery more dangerous then they young ones. Azande profess that witchcraft is the cause for all misfortune, believing that there is no accidental death, people die either from murder, witchcraft, or magic. The Azande feel that it is the “soul of the witchcraft” that has the capability of traveling and causing harm, however, there are limitations on how far it can actually travel. To protect themselves, the Azande prefer to live a distance between themselves and others around them.
In the Azande culture, an oracle is a device for revelation. The Azande consult with oracles in regards to multiple aspects of their lives. They ask for information on the future of their health, guidance on marriage, building, and almost everything else in daily life and future. There are varying levels of oracles. Some are so strong and dangerous that they can only be used by men. However, there are oracles that are readily available to almost everyone.
The most powerful of all oracles, the benge is to be used by men alone. It is poisonous, and whatever decision is delivered from it, is to be accepted and acted upon. The benge poison is dispensed to a live chicken. Once the poison is in a chicken, questions are then asked in a yes or no form. The answers are interpreted through the chicken. If it is a truth the chicken will die and if it is not the truth then the chicken will live.
The termite Oracle
The termite oracle can be used by most anyone. Two branches, from two different trees are used. Each
branch is inserted into a termite mound. Each branch is assigned an answer and the branches are left
overnight. Whichever branch has been eaten is the chosen path.