Spiritual Conflict and Folk Religion

David G Burnett

Suffering, misfortune and evil are part of human life. How these are understood and explained varies as does the methods used to alleviate the problems. The major world religions have addressed the matter in philosophical arguments, but for most people in the world these explanations fail to address the practical aspects of daily life. ‘Why is my wife sick?’; ‘Why did my well run dry?’; ‘Why did this accident happen to my son?’ For these people, answers are sought in the realm of the non-empirical. Important questions are then raised concerning the whole issue of spiritual conflict as understood by Christians. This article first reviews the concept of ‘folk religion’, and the way it has been addressed by Western missionaries. Second, it explores some of the causes of misfortune assumed in many folk communities. Third, it considers some of the common means of protection used in folk religion against evil forces. Finally, it raises some of the issues that Christians must address in the current discussion of folk religion and strategic level spiritual warfare (SLSW).

1 Folk Religion

The late nineteenth century saw the categorisation of religious traditions by Western scholars into major collections labelled as Hinduism, Mohammedism (later more respectfully Islam), Buddhism, etc. These religions of major civilisations were therefore considered as ‘world religions’ based partly upon a respect of these civilisations, and the literacy of the religious tradition. However, such categories create gaps, and into these gaps were gathered heaps of intransigent phenomena. Rosalind Shaw argues that in religious studies, these residual categories were classed as ‘tribal religion’ or ‘primitive religions’, and later ‘traditional religion’, and ‘primal religion’ were employed in this typology. (1) The category traditional religion therefore tends to be the catch phrase for all other religious expressions from whatever part of the world they may originate and used in the plural form ‘Traditional Religions’. Harold Turner made deliberate use of such a distinction when he defined primal religions as those that ‘have preceded and contributed to the other great religious systems.’

In the 1950s Robert Redfield pointed out that peasants in Latin America whilst stating their allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church manifested many of the beliefs and practices similar to traditional religions. (2) In order to discuss the religious nature of peasant society, Redfield employed a two-tier model with the concepts of the ‘great’ and ‘little’ traditions. The great tradition is the culture of the priests, theologians, and literary people who live mainly in the great cities. Although it is the most respected and authoritative, it is usually only followed by the educated elite. In contrast, the lesser tradition is the religion of the majority of villagers who were essentially illiterate and had little access to the teaching of the Bible.(3) Redfield never suggested that these traditions were totally discrete, but argued that they were like ‘two currents of thought and action, distinguishable, yet ever flowing into and out of each other’. (4) One may understand this as three permeable bands: ‘philosophical world religion’, ‘folk religion’ and finally ‘traditional religion’.The latter two bands are distinguished by whether or not the people acknowledge an allegiance to a world religion. The middle band or ‘folk’ religion is usually a reworking of long existing beliefs, but within the confession of the major religion.

This model has become a popular concept among Christian missionaries because it gives a simple way of explaining the differences they have observed between philosophical and local aspects of major religious traditions. (5) Norman Allison, for example, proposed the following characterisation of ‘high’ and ‘low’ religion. (6)

High Religion
Low Religion
Answers cosmic questions: origin of the universe, meaning to life. Answers everyday issues: sickness, drought, war.
Written texts with fixed system of beliefs. No written text. Myths and rituals.
Specialist leadership roles Informal leadership, no specialists.
Central institutions: church, mosque, temple, and formal training of leaders. Few formal institutions.
Formalised moral code. Pragmatic

High religions are essentially philosophical in their explanation whilst ‘folk’ beliefs are based upon the existing worldview into which the teaching of the world religion is incorporated. Thus, as far as this paper is concerned many of the issues relating to spiritual conflict in traditional religions are found in folk religion. The people look for explanations and answers different from those offered by the philosophical religion. For example, when some misfortune comes to a villager in India, their neighbours will attribute this to bad actions (karma) in a previous life in accordance to the teaching of the higher tradition. However, frequently the person concerned may reject this explanation and attribute the misfortune, not to bad karma, but to sorcery or the evil eye of a jealous neighbour. One of the common influences of the world religion is the introduction of new symbols of spiritual power that can be applied to traditional methods. The use of the sacred text of the great tradition is often adopted into the folk tradition as are distinct religious symbols and rituals. This religious syncretism occurs within all major religions including Christianity.

It was Paul Hiebert who raised the issue of ‘the excluded middle’. (7) The Enlightenment worldview resulted in a distinction between mind and body, spirit and matter. ‘The result was a secularisation of science and a mystification of religion.’ (8) Science dealt with the empirical world using mechanical analogies and religion became based upon private faith. The ‘middle zone’ became marginalised as superstition. Western missionaries adopted the Enlightenment worldview in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Missionary work therefore became focussed along two levels: arguing that Christianity is the most rational of religions, and providing education and technology to meet social needs. Magic and folk beliefs were generally discounted and it was considered that they would die out with further education.


High Religion Formal Christianity
Folk Beliefs ?
Traditional Science Modern science

The surprise was that these traditional beliefs did not die out, but often became compartmentalised. Much of life was lived as a member of the global technological society, but when things go wrong the people turn to traditional practices. In recent years scholars have shown how political, social and economic changes have often given rise to beliefs and practices centred on occult forces. (9) (10) It is in the realm of ‘folk belief’ that much of the discussion of spiritual warfare has its context, and it often revolves around theodicy – the problem and cause of evil.

2 Causes of Misfortune in Folk Religion

Why do bad things happen? I am going to use the general term ‘misfortune’ for those things that people consider to be evil, bad and are the cause of suffering. There is always a danger of oversimplifying the situation and imposing alien categories upon other societies. However, there are two common causes of evil found in most societies: those attributed to spiritual beings and those to human beings. It is important that these aspects always be seen as part of the wider culture and are not distinct elements. To fail to appreciate this means a failure to appreciate the underlying fears and beliefs that are inherent within the society as a whole.

2.1 Spiritual beings

Although a belief in a Supreme Being who is the creator is common to most traditional religions, he is usually considered as distant and unconcerned with human affairs. It is the lesser gods and spirits that are bound up with human experience and require shrines, images, priests and rituals to placate them. These deities are neither totally good nor totally evil. Some of the spirits are regarded as of greater importance than others, and some may be more popular at one time than another. These beings may range from powerful spirits, which must be treated with respect, to relatively insignificant spirits of the forest, field or water who may merely cause a nuisance. Often such deities are associated with certain geographical areas or natural phenomena. A river may be associated with a particular god, or a tree is perceived as the dwelling of a specific spirit, or even a dark valley as the abode of demons. Occasionally, there is a territorial association of the spiritual beings, as described by David Lan in his study of the Dande of Zimbabwe. (11)

Ghosts and ancestors are a class of spiritual beings that are often believed to cause harm. These often result from a ‘bad death’ such as those who have died as a result of suicide, murder, execution or untimely death. This may lead to considerable fear so the house may be abandoned in case the ghost will return and cause harm. However, more usually a diviner would be called in to identify the cause of death. Once the cause has been identified some offering may be necessary to pacify the ghost and encourage it to leave and cause no more harm to the people. Amongst the Bimoba of Ghana one of the worst forms of bad death is that of a woman dying during childbirth with the baby undelivered. In this case the woman’s room is broken down, every trace of it is cleared, and all her belongings are thrown away. No funeral ceremony can be performed in such cases, for the (ghost) refuses to go to the high god; it just wanders about. (12)

Many societies believe that ghosts may materialise in some form that can be seen by the living. In northern India for example, the bhut are believed to be able to appear at night in the form of human beings. There are two notable differences: first, they do not cast a shadow, and secondly, their feet point backwards. In the villages of India the fear of ghosts is strong and a person would avoid being in isolated fields when night has come. It is easy to consider this a result of superstitions and a lack of education, but many Western people have similar fears in dark and isolated areas. Another common belief is the possibility of a person becoming possessed by a wandering ghost. A bhut may lay hold of any passer-by that may have unwittingly trespassed within its domain, or may have roused its interest. The ghost is said to ‘lay hold of’ the person and the victim has to resort to exorcism for deliverance.

Chuuk, is the most populous state of the Federated States of Micronesia. Francis X. Hezel, SJ recounts the following story of a young women who is possessed by an ancestor:

An incident involving Fermina, the 15-year old daughter of devout Christian parents, is rather typical. One evening a few years ago she went to bed complaining of a pain in her stomach. By the next morning her body was twitching uncontrollably and she was seized with convulsions. As the family gathered around her mat to comfort her, they heard her suddenly reprimand a much older male relative, angrily telling him ‘Leave the house, because I don’t like what you are doing.’ The words came from Fermina’s mouth, but the voice was that of her mother who had died a year or two earlier. Fermina recovered within two or three days of the incident, but she has had similar experiences a few times since this one.(13)

Possession by a spirit or ghost is an important aspect of spiritual conflict and will be returned to later.

An important question that must be considered is to how these spiritual beings are conceived within Christian theology. Paul addresses this issue in the first letter of Corinthians chapters 8 and 10. He affirmed that there no God, but the one true God. (8:4) However, he recognises the existence of other ‘gods’ and ‘lords’, but in a qualitatively different way. (14) Are they manifestations of Satan and his demons in that local society? Can we say that Satan can contextualise himself in the religious beliefs of the people? How far can Christians take the beliefs of a people as being absolute expressions of reality? If a community believe in a particular deity ruling a specific area does this mean that such a being actually exists, or is it just a belief in their own hearts and minds.

Often when a society has converted to a major world religion the ‘High God’ has been associated with the deity of the world religion. Christian translators have often used the name of the High God to translate the word Yahweh in the Scriptures, and the lesser deities have often been ignored being considered as some manifestation of demons. Likewise, occasionally, a particular deity has been associated with Satan. For example, amongst the Yoruba, ‘Olodumare’, the Supreme Being is often seen to be like that of a traditional king who works through his ministers. (15) Within traditional Yoruba tradition there is no marked duality between good and evil. Esu is the messenger to the world above, and is everywhere observing and reporting to the divine. He may deceive people into doing wrong, so necessitating them to offer sacrifices in order to regain the favour of the gods. He is often represented in the form of a human figure with horns and a nearby club or knife. Esu is considered as the power of mischief, and has been aligned by Christians and Muslims with Satan.

Meyer in her study of the Ewe of Ghana showed the confusion missionaries caused to the Ewe by claiming that God was good and that the devil was responsible for all the evil in the world. (16) This made little sense to the people because they had always thought of spiritual beings as ambivalent beings. ‘In the Ewe’s encounter with Pietist missionaries conversion did not bring about what professional theologians and social scientists tend to expect, namely rationalisation and disenchantment… In the context of Pietist (and also Pentecostalist) missionaries who approach the world in terms of the dualism between God and Satan, new converts tend to adopt a variant of Protestantism, emphasising the image of the Devil and transforming gods and ghosts into ‘Christian’ demons.’ (17) The missionaries therefore demonised the lesser gods and spirits and brought about a radical dualism in the cosmology of the Christian converts. Is this the reason that there has been an increase in the fear of demons with the failure to achieve economic progress in many parts of Africa? Has this also lead to an associated rise of ‘Prosperity Teaching’?

2.2 Human Beings

A common starting point for the discussion of witchcraft and sorcery has been the observations of Evans-Pritchard among the Azande of southern Sudan, who noted a distinction between witchcraft and sorcery. (18) Although this distinction is useful it is necessary to recognise that in many societies no such simple separation can be made, but it does however provide a vocabulary to start discussing this subject.

Among the Azande, witchcraft is seen as the cause of most misfortunes that can affect an individual. Witchcraft can be the cause of sickness, accident, failure of the crops, failure in hunting and general lack of success. For example, if a man is careful to take all the normal precautions, but still wounds himself with his cutlass whilst clearing a field, he assumes that this must be the result of witchcraft. The notion of coincidence, or probability, is not a sufficient answer. There must be an answer as to why it has happened to this individual, and for the Azande, witchcraft is the ‘obvious’ answer. However, this does not mean that the people are unaware of a technological element to the whole incident. Imagine two people sat under a small food granary, which suddenly collapses killing them. A Western perspective may say that the termites had eaten the supports, which unfortunately gave way while the two men were seated under it. The Azande would say that witchcraft is not necessary for the collapse, but is responsible for the conjunction of the collapse and the people sat underneath. As Evans-Pritchard says, ‘The attribution of misfortune to witchcraft does not exclude what we call its real causes, but is superimposed on them and gives to social events their moral value.’ (19) The Azande believe that witchcraft is inherited from one’s parents. If a man is a witch, the substance will be passed on to his sons, and likewise a mother to her daughters. The witchcraft substance, called mangu, is considered to be a definite physical part of the body which resides near the liver or gall bladder of the person. This substance can be discovered by autopsy.

Comaroff and Comaroff have shown that most of the missionaries who came to sub-Saharan Africa from Europe in the nineteenth century were imbued with a secular perspective especially with regards to witchcraft. (20) According to Western missionaries, sickness and disease were caused not by witchcraft, but by bacteria, parasites and viruses. A cure was effected by Western medicine and education. Witchcraft was considered not to exist, so Christians should ignore it. Where Christianity became the dominant force in a region, this view was outwardly accepted, but often belief in witchcraft was merely driven underground. This is another example of the ‘flaw of the excluded middle’.

A second position that has been adopted by Christian missionaries mainly from Pentecostal churches is that witchcraft is demonic and the accused needs to be delivered. Today, among the Charismatic churches in Africa, and many other areas of the world, witchcraft is dealt with by vigorous prayer leading to the exorcism of the spirit. Witchcraft is perceived as one of the manifestations of the work of Satan in the community, and it is part of the spiritual warfare that the Christian is obliged to fulfil. This is considered as a direct encounter between the power of God and that of evil. Public confession of sin is required after which the person is encouraged to receive the cleansing blood of Christ and the enduing power of the Holy Spirit.

More recently, Harriet Hill, a missionary who has worked for many years in Cote d’Ivoire has proposed a third option. (21) She argues that witchcraft concepts correspond to what in the West are regarded as psychic powers that may be dealt with by living a pure life. ‘It can therefore be considered neutral in the same way that intellectual power, physical power, and emotional power are accepted as neutral. We do not automatically assign them to God or to the devil….. If this is an accurate assessment of witchcraft, then we need to speak out against the evil use of witchcraft rather than against witchcraft itself. The key message, then, is, love thy neighbour, live a pure life, and renounce evil in all its forms. Do not give Satan a foothold…. In the end, then, we find we are no different from our African brothers and sisters after all. Do we not all struggle with jealousy, envy, and hatred?’ (22) How do Christians address these issues in a way that does not result in witch-crazes that have often resulted in much social trauma. This was seen in the witch trials of Medieval Europe, Salem as well as Africa.

Sorcery is Evans-Pritchard second category. He considered it to differ from witchcraft in that it is a deliberate conscious act of an individual, or group of individuals, to harm another by non-empirical means. It can express itself in various forms including the evil eye, curses and black magic.

Dundes defined the evil eye as ‘a fairly consistent and uniform folk belief complex based upon the idea that an individual, male or female, has the power, or involuntarily, to cause harm to another individual or his property merely by looking at or praising that person or property.’ (23) All over the Muslim world the evil eye (nazar) is considered to be a frequent cause of misfortune. According to Arab proverbs, ‘The evil eye empties the house and fills the graves’; ‘The evil eye owns two-thirds of the graveyard’. (24) The eye is regarded not only as an instrument for transmitting evil wishes, but also as an originating source of injurious power. This power need not be a voluntary act, but can work automatically from a person desiring something of another. Thus, a man blind in one eye is assumed to be envious of another man with two good eyes, and a barren woman would be envious of a woman with many children. The danger is considered to be even greater if it is accompanied with speech which expresses admiration or envy. A mother would feel great fear if a European woman was to smile at her baby and compliment the mother on a lovely baby. This may be normal practice in Europe, but in North Africa it could be regarded as the exercise of the evil eye.

The concept of uttering curses or blessings appears universal amongst human societies.

To appreciate the concept behind these oral expressions it is necessary to realise that in the traditional worldview words are not merely viewed as vibrations in the air. Words, which are said deliberately with intention take upon themselves a reality of their own which can bring about the desires of the speaker. India especially has developed an elaborate cosmology of sound in the use of mantras that are considered as effective words that establish a relationship between the cosmos and the magician. The effectiveness of the curse is dependent upon several factors: the intensity of the desire for the wish, the manner of its expression, and the personality of the curser. Behind the spoken word stands the personality of the one who expresses the words. The greater the personality of the speaker, the greater will be the effectiveness of the spell. Thus, if a god, or his devotee, utters a curse in his name the effect will be very great indeed. This is reflected in the Old Testament passages in which God says to Adam, ‘Cursed is the ground because of you’ (Gen 3:17). The curse here is God’s judgement against sin. For this reason calling upon the name of a deity, often strengthens a curse, or blessing.

Amongst some Christians there is a growing tendency to ascribe certain events and circumstances to the influence of curses. Derek Prince’s book, Blessing or Curse: You can choose! is an example. The comment on the backcover reads, ‘Blessing and curses ..are vehicles of supernatural spiritual power…They tend to continue from generation to generation’. (25) Is this a biblical position or as some would suggest a distortion of the Scriptures? (26)

These beliefs often result from the jealousy one person may have towards another. This is why anthropologists have often considered witchcraft and sorcery to act as a means of social control as well as explanations of misfortune. The possibility of these spiritual powers generates intense fears even in the hearts of Christian converts, and raises the question of how people achieve protection from these sources of evil.

3 Protection from Evil

Misfortunes are part of everyone’s life, and they usually leave us perplexed and uncertain as to the cause and the appropriate actions to take. Decisions have to be made, and the results have to be accepted whether they be good or ill. How are such decisions made? First, common sense tends to be used to deal with the multitude of little matters, which are part of everyday life, but often people feel the need to draw upon additional resources from some non-empirical source, so they turn to divination.


Misfortune Divination Cause & Treatment



3.1 Divination

The methods used for divination are many, but most involve some sort of ritual or spirit possession. (27) Generally missionaries have dismissed divination as evil, but have failed to address the question of what is its replacement. Christians have therefore been left with secularised methods of healing, education and agriculture. However, various methods of divination and foretelling the future continue in all societies. In UK, 40% of the population regularly read their horoscope.

3.2 Charms & ritual protection

Various means are used to protect vulnerable members of the community. Children may, for example, be protected from the evil eye by some ruse. A child may be left unwashed, or a child may be dressed in rags, or a baby boy may be dressed in girl’s clothing. (28) These things seek to make the child less attractive, less open to envy, and so divert the evil eye. Another means of protection is the use of charms of which there are a great many in the Muslim world. Charms made of iron, or the claws of a tiger or a bear, are thought to be able to resist the influence of the evil eye by some inherent property of the material itself. Muslim women often wear a charm that has the hand of Fatima: an open hand with an image of an eye on the palm. The symbol of the eye itself is regarded as having great power in throwing back evil and it is often used in patterns and designs.

These practices are based upon an inherent belief and fear of the evil power of magic in its various forms. Frequently the Bible comes to take the role of a new powerful charm for the young convert. What is required is not merely a response to one aspect of magic, but a radical change in worldview that sees Jesus Christ as Lord over all – visible and invisible (Col. 1:16).

3.3 Exorcism

Where possession is known within a society there is usually some indigenous means of exorcism to deal with the affliction. There are often recognised exorcists who know appropriate rituals, and claim to be endowed by a more powerful spirit. A common aspect of exorcism is the transference of the spirit from the patient to an animal or object. This form of exorcism may provide some cure, but this may only be temporary.

An alternative treatment is that the person is initiated into a possession cult. (29) In possession cults the individual therefore comes into a working relationship with the afflicting spirit. The individual remains free from the recurring sickness so long as the person takes part in the periodic cult festivals. During these festivals the person becomes possessed by the spirit, which acts out its particular character. The person needs to be initiated into the cult. In the course of time the person may graduate to a position in which she is in full control of her own spirit, and is capable of controlling and healing others with similar afflictions.

In folk societies these healers, whether witchdoctors, shaman, exorcist or other healers are considered to play a socially positive role. When is person is sick and they have no money for Western medicine, or the medicine is ineffective indicating deeper causes, to whom do the people turn? Missionaries have often considered these healers their main opponents, and in some cases they have been. But, they have sometimes been the first to recognise the power of God. How should Christians relate to such healers? Do they cast out Beelzebub by the power of Beelzebub?

Christians have often taken the role of these healers and exorcists. Demonization and deliverance has therefore become an important issue alongside territorial spirits in the debate of SLSW. Some practitioners have made a distinction between possession and demonization. They would say that non-Christians may be possessed and be controlled by spirits. Christians, however, are possessed by Christ, but may be demonised and in need of deliverance. Care needs to be exercised in ascribing all such manifestations as being simply demonization and not psychological or physical.

4 Current Issues for Ongoing Discussion

First, forces of evil and misfortune are an integral part of ‘folk’ tradition, and the people need to see Christianity as not merely a satisfying theology, but the power of God to deal with the issues they face in their world. Teaching on spiritual warfare must be part of a holistic approach to mission and theology. Just as in the 1970s the Lausanne movement did much to unite evangelism and social action into a more holistic approach to mission, now there is a need to integrate spiritual warfare into the whole. It should be word, works and wonders!

Stephen Hayes writes: ‘Over 200 people who were accused of being witches were burnt to death in South Africa between the beginning of 1994 and mid-1995. These killings were not legal executions, but took place at the hands of lynch mobs, mostly from the communities in which the accused lived.’ (30) He concludes that this increased fear of witchcraft is as a result of the social tensions that have been experienced in South Africa in recent years. Bawa Yamba made a similar observation in a recent study on witchfinding in Zambia in the face of HIV transmitted disease and AIDS. (31) There is a need for an approach that relates the social, economic and personal, and not merely sees the demonic as the sole cause of evil.

Second, Christians have to relate to the beliefs of their own particular cultural context. Although we accept the influence of Satan within all human societies does this mean he works in the same way in all societies? Are river gods, for example, merely to be perceived as ‘territorial spirits’? In societies where witchcraft is considered the greatest source of evil do we merely go along with a simple view of SLSW? Accepting the ontological truth of the reality of the demonic, there is a need to appreciate the cultural expression as ‘cultural truth’. Western Christians are now writing and speaking about SLSW, but this must not be imposed unilaterally upon Christians throughout the world. The worldwide Church must humbly listen to each other and place themselves under the authority of Scripture, so avoiding overt speculation.

Thirdly, the New Testament shows that converts who have been involved in magic should destroy the paraphernalia they have used. A frequently quoted example is that of Paul on his visit to Ephesus where the sorcerers were famous for a particular form of charms known as ‘Ephesian letters’. This ‘power encounter’ is an essential rite of separation from old ways and entry into the new life in Christ. However, there is a danger of this being perceived as Christian magic, or stimulating an unnecessary interest in spirits. God is not merely more powerful than Satan, but has a radically different nature. As Paul Hiebert has continually argued when Christ was suffering on the cross he could have called down legions of angels to establish his kingdom. The cross is the demonstration of victory through weakness, of love over hate, and of God’s way over that of Satan. (32)

Fourth, Christians should be aware of the changing social context throughout the world. Frequently those accused of being witches were people at the fringes of society, such as an old widow living on her own, or minority groups who become ‘scapegoats’ for the social tensions. However, there are major changes occurring as illustrated in Nigeria. ‘In the past elderly women with ugly wrinkled skin were more likely to be accused of witchcraft. The belief was that the older wife acquired witchcraft to attack her husband because he no longer cared for her now that he had a younger wife or a more attractive and fertile co-wife. Today the story is different as all categories of people-young and old, male and female, students and civil servants-are believed to be involved in witchcraft.’ (33) The Christian message should result in the restoration of social harmony through reconciliation and mutual acceptance.

Fifth, there is a danger of Christians becoming pre-occupied with spirits and developing an unhealthy interest. Mary Douglas tells a sad story of the Roman Catholic mission working among the Lele of the Republic of Congo. (34) The mission had associated the god of the Lele with Satan of Christian traditions. Whereas before they had believed in one god, the universe now seemed to be controlled by two deities, one good and one bad. The priests of the old religion including the herbalists were classed as sorcerers and all seen as Satan’s servants. As most of the younger people had been baptised in the Church and educated in the mission schools, the youth increasingly derided the traditions of their parents and grandparents. This resulted in a tension between younger and older generations. Newly ordained Catholic priests began persecuting the practitioners of the traditional religion. Eventually the mission began to run its own anti-sorcery cult to detect and expose all sorcerers. The practice of the movement resulted in physical abuse and accusation of the old, the handicapped and mentally defective. When the anti-sorcery activities came to the attention of the Bishop he promptly suspended the young priests from their duties and sent them overseas for two years. Douglas concludes with a significant warning.

Contemporary Western theology is not attuned to answering the questions that plague Africans about the causes of evil in the world, the causes of sickness and death, questions which their pagan traditions answer all too plausibly in terms of sorcery. On this there is a block, or a gap, a pregnant silence. (35)

Sixth, one must recognise that within our global society literature, video, internet are allowing the exchange of ideas from East and West, North and South. This is resulting in new movements in the teaching on SLSW, which are at times highly speculative. The booklets and videos made by Christians in West Africa demonstrate popular beliefs that are found among Christians in that area. Christians must maintain a balance between secular scepticism and the adoption of animistic beliefs. (36)

* * * * *

Christians from a background of folk religion need to develop a worldview and theology that acknowledges the demonic, but does not continue to captivate them. They, like all Christians need to have their eyes fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ who has all power and authority. We all must be aware of the radical nature of the Kingdom of God that manifests not merely the power of God, but the shalom of God that transforms people and societies.

References Cited

1. Shaw, R. ‘The Invention of African Traditional religion’, Religion 20 (1990), p.p. 339-353.

2. Redfield, R. Peasant Society and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956)

3. Redfield, R. The Little Tradition, (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1955)

4. Ibid. p. 72.

5. Musk, Bill, Unseen Face of Islam (Eastbourne: Monarch 1992).

6. Allison, N. ‘Make Sure You’re getting Through’, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 20 (1984), p.p. 167-8. Recently Hiebert, Shaw and Tienou Understanding Folk Religion (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999) have developed this perspective, p.p. 73-9.

7. Hiebert, Paul G. ‘The Flaw of the Excluded Middle’ Missiology 10 (1982), p.p. 35-48.

8. Hiebert, Shaw and Tienou Understanding Folk Religion (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), p. 89.

9. Shaw, R. ‘The politician and the diviner: divination and the consumption of power in Sierra Leone’, Journal of Religion in Africa 26 (1996), 30-55.

10. Danfulani, Umar H. D. ‘Exorcising witchcraft: the return of the gods in new religious movements on the Jos Plateau and the Benue regions of Nigeria’ African Affairs 98 (1999) 167-193.

11. Lan, David Guns and Rain: Guerrillas and Spirit Mediums in Zimbabwe (London: James Curry, 1987).

12. Barker, P. Peoples, Languages, and Religion in Northern Ghana (Accra: GEC, 1986), p. 164.

13. Hezel, Francis X. ‘Spirit Possession in Chuuk: A Socio-cultural Interpretation’, The Micronesian Counsellor Occasional Papers, N. 11 July 1993.

14. Arnold, C. E. Powers of Darkness (Leicester: IVP, 1992), p.p. 94-8.

15. Idowu, E. B. Olodumare: God in Yoruba belief (London: Longmans, 1962).

16. Meyer, Birgit, Translating the Devil Religion and Modernity among the Ewe in Ghana (Edinburgh: EUP, 1999).

17. Ibid. p. 110.

18. Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976).

19. Ibid., p. 70

20. Comaroff, J. & J. Of Revelation and Revolution: Christianity, colonialism and consciousness in South Africa (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1991).

21. Hill, H. ‘Witchcraft and the Gospel: Insights from Africa’, Missiology 24 (1996), p.p. 232-344.

22. Ibid., p. 337.

23. Dundes, A. ‘Wet and dry, the evil eye’, in Dundes, A. (ed.) The Evil Eye: a Casebook (London: Garland, 1981), p.p. 258.

24. Westermarck, Pagan Survivals in Mohammedan Civilizations (London: McMillan, 1933) p. 24.

25. Prince, D. Blessing or Curse: You can choose! (Milton Keyne: Word, 1990).

26. Evans, Mary J. ‘A Plague on Both Your Houses’: Cursing and Blessing Reviewed Vox Evangelica 24 (1994), 77-90.

27. See David Burnett World of the Spirits (Tunbridge Wells: Monarch, 2000), cp. 7 for a detailed list of Bunyoro (Uganda) divination practices.

28. Bevan Jones, V. Women in Islam (Lucknow: Lucknow Publishing House, 1941) p.p. 359-360.

29. Prince, R. ‘Indigenous Yoruba Psychiatry’, in Kiev, A. Magic, Faith and Healing (New York, Free Press, 1974).

30. Hayes, S. ‘Christian Responses to Witchcraft and Sorcery’ Missionalia 23 (1995), p. 339.

31. Bawa Yamba, C. ‘Cosmologies in Turmoil: Witchfinding and AIDS in Chiawa, Zambia’, Africa 67 (1997), p.p. 200-223.

32. Hiebert, Paul G. ‘Spiritual Warfare and Worldview’ DUFE website (May 2000).

33. Danfulani, Op. Cit. 170.

34. Douglas, Mary ‘Sorcery Accusations Unleashed: The Lele revisited, 1987’, Africa 69 (1999), p.p. 177-193.

35. Ibid.

36. Priest, J R, Campbell, T & Mullen B A, ‘Missiological Syncretism: the New Animistic Paradigm’ in (ed.) Rommen, E. Spiritual Powers and Missions: raising the Issues (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1995).

Date: 22 Aug 2000

Gathering: 2000 Nairobi