Title of the article:



Andrey V. Popovkin

Galina S. Popovkina

Information about the author/authors

Andrey V. Popovkin — PhD in Philosophy, Head of Department of Philosophy, The Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East.
ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1824-9448
E-mail: andrey.popovkin@gmail.com

Galina S. Popovkina — PhD in History, Senior Researcher, The Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East.
ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6521-8658
E-mail: galina.popovkina@gmail.com


Theory and history of culture




Vol. 64


pp. 65–77


December 10, 2020

Approved after reviewing

August 10, 2021

Date of publication

June 28, 2022



Index UDK


Index BBK



The paper discusses the issue of constructing a classification of holders of sacred knowledge in a traditional culture of the Eastern Slavs, in particular, aiming to elucidate the causes of difficulties for researchers (anthropologists) in differentiating the figures of sorcerer and healer. The first methodological setting of the undertaken research is the distinction of the “knowers” as a phenomenon of popular consciousness existing in a vital world of traditional culture, and as the subject of academic research. Since the scientific classification involves an explanation of the differences between types, the second setting was to consider the constructed typologies of “knowers” in terms of the typology of explanations accepted in modern philosophy of science. Basing on the analysis of field materials and research works in which typological attempts were made, the paper considers three types of scientific explanations — causal (by indicating the actual reason), functional (by indicating the function) and intentional (by indicating the goals or intentions of the actor) — used in the systematization of “knowers”. As a rule, none of the typologies relies on just one type of explanation, but combines a causal or intentional explanation with a functional one. Classifications based on causal explanation often consider magical influences as a kind of objective reality and a valid reason that distinguishes the practices of the sorcerer and the healer. Which is fraught with various dangers, in particular, the involvement of pseudoscientific physicalist theories. The typologization adopted in folklore is most often based on a functional explanation that perfectly solves the problems of grouping characters of traditional culture. However, this approach is not sufficient for an integral cultural and anthropological description and understanding of the phenomena of “knowers”. Understanding the existence of this phenomenon in the public consciousness often requires the use of intentional explanations. The authors conclude that building a unique, objective and independent of the characteristics of a particular person and their relations with the society of the typology of “knowers” is hardly possible, if we are not talking about folk characters. In the study of real folk life, the typological affiliation of holders of sacred knowledge will always be situational in nature. 


Eastern Slavs, quackery, witchcraft, “knowers”, traditional culture, methodology of cultural and anthropological research.


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