Women of Fire and Spirit: History, Faith, and Gender in Roho Religion in Western Kenya / Edition 1

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The African Christian Roho religion, or Holy Spirit movement, is a charismatic and prophetic movement that arose in the Luo region of western Kenya. This movement has fascinated students of history and religion for more than sixty years, but surprisingly has not been extensively studied. This book fills that lacuna.

In Women of Fire and Spirit, Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton uses the extensive oral histories and life narratives of active participants in the faith, giving them full voice in constructing the history of their Church. In doing so, she counter-balances the existing historical literature, which draws heavily on colonial records. Hoehler-Fatton's sources call into question the paradigm of "schism" that has dominated the discussion of African independent Christianity. Faith, rather than schism or politics, emerges here as the hallmark of Roho religion.

Hoehler-Fatton's book is doubly unusual in foregrounding the role of women in the evolution and expansion of their Church. She traces the gradual transformation of women's involvement from the early years when—drawing on indigenous models of female spirit possession—women acted as soldiers, headed congregations, and served as pastors, to the present condition of Western-style institutionalization and exclusion for women. Despite this marginalization, women members continue to be inspired by the defiance of past heroines.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...adds detail and considerable texture to the study of indigenous religion in Africa."—Choice

"An important and innovative study."—Benjamin Ray, University of Virginia

"Historians, anthropologists, and students of religion will relish this book....This is a significant and original piece of work."—Atienbo Odhiambo, Rice University

"By giving voice to African women of their experience of the Holy Spirit, this remarkable study is one of the most finely textured presentations of religion in Africa available."—Church History

"A must read for anyone interested in East African history, charismatic Christianity, or issues of power and gender."—Religious Studies Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195097917
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Lexile: 1350L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.19 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies
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Table of Contents

Note on Orthography
Note on the Roho (Holy Spirit) Liturgical Language
Key Figures in the Roho Historical Narrative
1 Early Phase of the Roho Movement 3
Different Perspectives on Roho History 3
The Roho Narrative: Emergence of the Roho Movement (1912-1933) 12
Alfayo Odongo Mango 18
Conclusion: Land, Politics and the Spirit 35
2 Rejection and Crisis 40
The Roho Narrative: Ten Critical Months (April 1933-January 1934) 40
Conclusion: Challenging the Schism Model 68
3 Roho Expansion and Church Formation 78
The Roho Narrative: Visions and Missions (1934-1960) 78
Conclusion: The Institutionalization of Roho Religion and Women's Changing Roles 97
4 Sacrifice and Redemption: The Roho Worldview 119
Mango's Sacrifice 119
Musanda Our Home: Locative and Universal Meaning 132
History as Myth and Myth as History 136
A Service of Remembrance 139
Conclusion: Inspiration and Indigenization 170
5 Quiet Wives and Questing Warriors: The Public and Hidden Transcripts of Roho Women 172
Conversion: Gendered Perspectives 174
Work and Feeling Free: Women's Perception of Life in the Spirit 188
Hymns: Women's Expressive Domain 195
Prophet Sarah and the Spirit Mother Church 202
Conclusion: The Persistance of Awiti 204
Closing Remarks 206
Appendix 211
Notes 215
References 243
Index 253
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