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Ghosts and Cleansing amongst the Luo People of Kenya in 2000 by Jim Harries

Executive summary

Life issues that Luo Christians in Kenya face are such that typical Western preaching can be to them like oil to water. This project explores some of the reasons for this problem.

The association between ritual cleanliness and blessing or prosperity is strong in the minds of Luo Christians in Kenya. The importance of (spiritual) cleansing is a guiding thread that runs through Luo tradition. The Luo people hence conceive of Christianity as a means of cleansing from evils they know as arising from the breaking of ritual taboos, from 'ghosts' and from witchcraft.

Uncleanness is associated with the presence of ghosts (jochiende, literally 'those who haunt'). The ghosts are traditionally known as arising from departed members of the community. Since the coming of Christianity the devil has been known by the same name. Hence means traditionally known as effective in tackling jochiende are used by Luo Christians in their struggle against Satan.

The maintenance of an appropriate relationship with spiritual forces is a key imperative of Luo people according to this research carried out by Jim Harries in Siaya District of Western Kenya. The intensive field research by participant observation included visits to many indigenous churches and close observation of normal day to day life in rural Luo land over a period of 5 weeks. Of the 9 years Jim has lived in rural Africa, 6 have been with the same Luo community on which this research has been based.


06/13/01 For comments on this web site, write [email protected]. Return to GMI Home Page