World History Connected Home    
Home List journal issues Table of contents
Printer-friendly format  Article citation        

Religious Conversion Across Cultures


A Working Typology of Cross-Cultural Religious Interaction as Applied to the Yoruba

David Lindenfeld


Introduction: Yoruba religion as world religion

     What constitutes a world religion? The impact of globalization on the study of religion in world history is gradually introducing new answers to this question. For example, the body of spiritual beliefs and practices of the Yoruba peoples and their descendants is coming to be recognized as deserving that honorific title.1 This represents a significant departure from previous practice. At least since the Parliament of World Religions that met in Chicago in 1893, the list of world religions has remained more or less the same. One defining characteristic was that each (with the exception of Shinto) had was a set of written scriptures that had been around for a long time. They have also been divided roughly into "Eastern" and "Western" religions.2 Yoruba religion fit neither of these criteria, but has been designated by such labels as "traditional", "primal", "basic", "tribal", or "indigenous" in religious studies textbooks, where it has been lumped together with a heterogeneous assortment of religions from far-flung parts of the world that were neither scriptural nor Eastern/Western.

     The Yoruba are managing to overcome this classificatory handicap by virtue of their own dispersal over several continents. The peoples that came to be known as Yoruba—the term became widespread internationally only in the twentieth century—had no common political structure, but were recognized as one by virtue of their language and religion, which retained their identity even as their adherents were transported from their homeland in West Africa (today in southwestern Nigeria) across the Atlantic as slaves, or then as "recaptives", i.e. freed slaves, to Sierra Leone in the early nineteenth century. Thus in Brazil they were known as Nago (from a particular subgroup), in the Spanish colonies as Lucumi, and, in Sierra Leone as Aku (both derived from greetings which they used with one another).3 The Yoruba worshipped a panoply of supernatural beings known as orişas, which, despite many local variations, remained recognizable in these different geographical settings.

     The argument for elevating the status of orişa devotion to a world religion is based partly on numbers: there are an estimated 25 million Yoruba in West Africa, plus at the very least another 12 million or so descended from slaves in the Americas. The multiple orişa deities and spirits that the Yoruba brought with them are at the heart of much Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban religion, namely Candomblé and Santeria, and to an extent Haitian Vodoun. And while many if not most of West African Yoruba profess adherence to Christianity or Islam, this often does not mean that they have given up the orişas entirely. Thus if all these are considered orişa devotees in some sense, this religion is well ahead of Judaism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism, all considered world religions, in terms of population.4 The argument is further based on the perception that, in the words of Yoruba Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, "Orişa is the voice, the very embodiment of tolerance."5 The very multiplicity and indeterminateness of the Yoruba pantheon has enabled it to incorporate spirits from other religions (much like Hinduism) as it constantly grows and morphs with the movement of its peoples around the globe.

     Instead of a scriptural tradition, Yoruba religion maintained its stability over time and in different locales through a system of divination known as Ifa (named for the city in Yorubaland where it originated). The system is inscribed in 256 memorized poems located in the heads of the priests known as babalawo, "the father[s] of secrets", and as such were portable, able to survive the disruptions and brutalities of slavery. The key to unlocking the right poem is the throw of sixteen consecrated palm nuts and reading the pattern they reveal when thrown (similar to the Chinese I Ching). While this may appear to be random to an outside observer, the Yoruba insist that it is not. Thus Yoruba religion puts a great deal of stock in expert knowledge which is not to be shared with the broader public. To this day, it is characterized by elaborate—and expensive—initiation processes that distinguish insiders from outsiders. I find it noteworthy that this extreme concentration of spiritual authority contrasts with the diffuseness and malleability of the orişa spirits themselves.

Beyond syncretism

     Thus Yoruba religion would thus appear to be a syncretic religion par excellence. Yet a comparison of the evolution of Yoruba religion on either side of the Atlantic reveals a very different set of histories in each case, determined in no small part by the Yorubas' encounters with Christianity (and also, on the African side, with Islam). This fact alone casts doubt on the usefulness of the label "syncretism", which can mean a great variety of things in different contexts—not to mention the fact that it is still a loaded term in some religious discourses, as we will see. Tracing the history of these encounters affords an opportunity to develop and test a more differentiated vocabulary to describe cross-cultural religious interactions. The forum in which this article appears seeks to pursue this approach in a number for diverse cases in world history, using a typology of such encounters. These can be applied to situations of conversion as well as syncretism, for as it turns out the two are closely related. For a more detailed treatment of this typology, the reader is referred to the editor's introduction. Here, for convenience, is a summary, encompassing a spectrum from rejection to acceptance:

  1. Resistance—can be violent (as in the Boxer Uprising) or non-violent, such as non-cooperation. There is also intellectual resistance, as in post-colonial writers such as Franz Fanon.

  2. Selective Incorporation—taking a few elements of the foreign culture and incorporating it into one's own without fundamentally changing the latter.

  3. Concentration of Spirituality—a call for energized religious commitment, mainly through the elimination of portions of one's previous religion in order to concentrate on a few aspects, thereby purifying or intensifying religious experience. Often associated with smashing of "idols", or with ascetic behaviors, such as sexual abstinence or fasting.

  4. Conservation of Form—indigenous religious content is largely abandoned, but foreign rituals are used to preserve basic structures (e.g. clan relationships, or the underlying assumptions of an indigenous religion).

  5. Vernacular Translation—translation of sacred scripture into vernacular languages. Also, indigenous peoples may try to make sense of Christianity by "translating" its message into one's own terms, e.g. Biblical interpretation, such as seeing one's own people as descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.

  6. Dual Participation—practicing two religions simultaneously, without attempting to translate one into the other.

  7. Selective Acculturation—identifying with a portion of a foreign culture and a willingness to accept its religion, together with such things as its education, customs, dress.

  8. Acceptance and Commitment—supererogatory dedication, as in doing charitable or missionary work; thus the proselytized become proselytizers themselves. This often arises as a response to persecution.

The Yoruba on either side of the Atlantic

     To begin with the Americas, most of the Yoruba slaves wound up in Catholic countries, where they experienced conversion by coercion. For the Catholic Church, slavery meant a harvest of souls to be saved, and baptism remained compulsory in the Portuguese, Spanish, and French colonies. This, however, could consist of nothing more than sprinkling holy water on a group of newly arrived slaves.6

     I would characterize the Yoruba response to this situation as selective incorporation (#2). According to an elder in Cuban Santeria,

In order to practice their religion, the African priests and priestesses formed a council to decide how they could continue to worship their ancestral beliefs. Realizing there were not enough traditional leaders to maintain the regional system of worship established in Africa, in which one orişa protected a geographic area or village, they decided to join all the orişa practices under one system, which they called La Regla de Ocha. They used Catholic saints with similar attributes to the orişas to camouflage their African divinities. They knew, as we know, that the orişas are not Catholic saints.7

Nevertheless, over time, the slaves came to internalize the saints, incorporating them more firmly into their spiritual universe by a process of vernacular translation (#5). This involved finding a series of correspondences between saints and orişas—and not only them, but also with numbers, colors, foods, dance postures, emblems, and principles, not to mention gods and customs of other African nations—illustrating the comprehensive connectedness that characterizes the Yoruba worldview. Thus Shango, the orişa of lightning, is paired with Santa Barbara, whose father was struck by lightning, and also with the principle of force, the colors of red and white, and the numbers 4 or 6.8

     Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the Yoruba were experiencing upheavals of their own. The "recaptives" who arrived in Sierra Leone were located in Christian villages and subject to intense proselytization by the British Church Missionary Society. While this was far from uniformly successful, it did create a core of committed converts who became missionaries themselves as they eventually returned to their homeland (acceptance and commitment, #8). Foremost among them was Samuel Ajayi Crowther. Born in Yorubaland around 1806, his town was burned to the ground by Muslims invading from the north. He was sold into slavery, put on board a Portuguese slave ship which was "recaptured" by the British, taken to Sierra Leone, where he learned to read and write, and was baptized as an Anglican in 1825. Two years later he enrolled in a mission-run school in Freetown where he studied, among other things, Greek. Crowther created a written language for the Yoruba and translated the Bible into it (#5). Indeed, the very label "Yoruba" stems from Crowther's Vocabulary of the Yoruba Language, published in 1843.9

     At the same time, the situation in the Yoruba homeland itself was unstable. The downfall of the Oyo Empire, the dominant state in the region, in the 1820s ushered in a 70-year period of intermittent wars between rival cities and the rise of warlords, with all the insecurity and fear that such movements tend to generate. This included movements of refugees, enslavement, but also the growth of new commercial centers such as Lagos. Such circumstances were favorable for the penetration of both Islam and Christianity. Islam had come first, and became quite successful in attracting prominent members of society and thus in providing stability in troubled times.10 There is good evidence that the babalawo received both of these new religions with customary tolerance and willingness to engage in dialogue.11 This should not, however, minimize the differences between them. Comparing Ifa and Christianity, J.D.Y. Peel writes, "where the indigenous wisdom of Ifa was secret, pragmatically oriented, flexible, specific in its application, and linked to status, the Word of God as presented by the missionaries was open, ethically oriented, fixed, universal in application, and in principle independent of status."12 Thus it should not be surprising that Christianity caught on very slowly, at first attracting mainly marginal members of society, as happened in so many other places as well. Peel estimates the number of Christians in Yorubaland in 1890 to be about 1% of the population. But by the 1921 census, that had gone up to 10%, and by 1952, to 47%, equal to that of Muslims, while the official "pagan" population had dropped to 6%, down from 74% in 1921.13

     Describing this shift in terms of strategies is complicated, but I would suggest that the basic process is conservation of form (#4), wherein the old content was discarded—membership in the orişa cults dropped dramatically—but the underlying assumptions of the old religion were preserved. In this case, one can point to an enduring believe in aşe, the power of supernatural beings to channel and control the physical forces of the natural world. In other words, religious practice was thought to have practical effects by way of improving day-to-day life in this world and concomitantly of warding off evil. Thus the power and hence the validity of Christianity as imported by the West was shown by the effectiveness of Western literacy, technology, medicine, and education that came along with it (just as Islam represented the connection to a network of trade and to Arabic language and literature).

     A dramatic instance of this association of religion and this-worldly power is the story of the Ijebu, a group of Yoruba who had steadfastly resisted Christianity. In 1892, they suffered a decisive defeat at the hands of the British; in the decade following, at least 7000 Ijebu converted (there was also an influx to Islam). The Nigerian historian E.A. Ayandele explains it thusly:

This was due partly to the disappointment the Ijebu suffered from their juju. Before the expedition they were buoyed up with the hope that a most powerful deity was fighting on their side, and were reported to have sacrificed 200 men and women to propitiate it. . . It was natural that now that maxims and seven pounders had exploded the myth of his supernatural powers. . .the vacuum created in the spiritual life of a deeply religious people should be filled with the religion of the conquerors. This was the explanation of the curiosity of the people to know the secret of the white man's power, which they felt was contained in his religion.14

Many years later, in the late 1970s, the political scientist David Laitin interviewed Christian and Muslim elders in Ife about the changes that their religions had brought about. 45% of the Christians and 37% of the Muslims used the word "civilization" to describe these. According to Laitin, "civilization" suggested to these people liberation from local control and ever new opportunities for wealth and health.15 This entailed identifying with significant portions of a foreign culture, a process of selective acculturation (#7).

     The port city of Lagos offered a number of striking examples of this process, at least as concerns the literate portion of the population, which was estimated in the 1880s to be about 10% of the whole.16 The curricula of several schools offered Latin, Greek, and French; writers were fond of displaying their classical erudition. Thus a letter to the editor of the Lagos Observer in 1882:

Our friend has all along been—to use the vulgar parlance—beating about the bush. His statements are what Quintilian would be led to call an "empty torrent of words." Has he not fallen on the Charybdis while unwarrantedly warning me to escape the Scylla? To endeavor to "show the unprofitable discussion" of another in this manner, would be no less than to attempt the sisyphian task rolling uphill, what Vergil terms, "the insurmountable stone."17

The extraordinary life of Crowther also exemplified this process. His combination of scholarly, missionary, and diplomatic talents won him an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Oxford, and he was consecrated a bishop in Canterbury Cathedral in 1864.

     Of course, this attraction to the glories of western civilization was not exactly reciprocated by Westerners themselves at the turn of the twentieth century, given the growing tide of racial prejudices of Europeans at the time. Once again, Bishop Crowther, now advanced in years, served as both exemplar and symbol of this shift in attitudes. He was increasingly criticized and eventually humiliated by a younger generation of English missionaries who were critical of his policies. His consequent resignation in 1890 created a crisis that the acculturated Christian community could hardly ignore. It catalyzed a wave of resentment against foreign domination of the African churches and led to the formation of African independent churches, which introduced a certain amount of African dress and music into the services. Many of these churches also upheld the practice of polygamy, which the mission churches condemned but was nevertheless widespread. This can be seen as part of a trend towards cultural nationalism, embodying resistance to the foreign missionaries (# 1).18

     In any case, there arose, beginning in the 1920s, a new, more widespread and intense expression of Yoruba Christianity known as the Aladura churches (meaning "owners of prayer"), which have continued down to the present. This was part of a wave of religious revivals, inspired in large part by charismatic African leaders, which swept large parts of the continent in the early 20th century, and may be seen as expressions of concentration of spirituality (#3). Africans were now converting themselves, rather than waiting for missionaries to come to them. There were four major Aladura churches that developed, each associated with one or more prophetic figures: the Cherubim and Seraphim, the Christ Apostolic Church, the Church of the Lord Aladura, and the Celestial Church of Christ. What they shared in common was an emphasis on faith healing, using prayer to tap into the aşe as dispensed by Christianity. A catalytic event in triggering the movement was the terrible influenza pandemic of 1918, against which both the remedies of Western medicine and orişa devotion proved equally powerless. Thus the Aladuras saw themselves as separating from both the mission churches and Yoruba religion. The most readily visible expression of concentration of spirituality was the destruction of idols, which implied a wholesale rejection of orişa devotion and was obviously consonant with the teachings of the monotheistic religions. One of the founders of the Cherubim and Seraphim, Moses Orimolade, is reported to have preached that it was a sin to profess faith in god and to secretly visit a babalawo.19 The biggest campaign was instigated by a preacher in what became the Christ Apostolic Church, Joseph Babalola, in 1930. According to Adrian Hastings, "Several times a day, armed with Bible and handbell, he called on the people to bring out all their idols and juju to be burnt. God alone was sufficient. Never in Yorubaland was there such a mass movement and never such bonfires of the implements of traditional religion."20

     A further expression of concentration of spirituality, familiar to readers of Max Weber, is asceticism. In several Aladura churches, this took the form of fasting, which is closely associated with effective prayer. Orimolade claimed that "prayer and fasting are the only ways through which man can reach God."21 In the Celestial Church of Christ, the prohibition of alcohol, tobacco, and pork, is written into the constitution. According to Laitin, much of this comes from the Muslim tradition.22

     Attention to purity is evident in the Aladuras' attitude towards their sacred space, the church. In most of them, shoes are to be removed, and everyone dons a white robe. In the Celestial Church of Christ, once the service begins, crosses are placed diagonally across the doorways to keep out evil spirits.123 The notion of the church as a sacred space is a familiar feature of African religions—including the exclusion of menstruating women from church, which is also written into the CCC constitution.24 The church is also a space where one can communicate with the Holy Spirit through altered states of consciousness. The Cherubim and Seraphim, for example, scheduled a regular Saturday night vigil, lasting from 10 PM to 2 or 3 AM, with singing and clapping invoking the Holy Spirit to descend, leading to people falling into trances and speaking in tongues. In smaller groups, known as praying bands, members actually slept in the church and were awakened to share their dreams and visions in the middle of the night.25 The Aladuras found ample precedent for such altered states in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. The 1938 constitution of the Church of the Lord Aladura states, "We believe in dreams and visions because those of ancient days used to speak to God through visions and dreams. People like Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, Solomon, etc. . . .And we are directed by the Holy Spirit."26

     The energy generated by such practices has led over time to new levels of acceptance and commitment (#8) within the Aladura churches. This is especially evident in the communities of Africans abroad, where they serve as a "home away from home" to many migrant residents and have engaged in service work to address the social problems of these communities. At the same time, they proclaim an evangelical outreach beyond these communities—many of their websites have "worldwide" in their titles—and engage in ecumenical efforts.27

     These efforts notwithstanding, the Aladuras in Nigeria have also exhibited a certain contrary tendency, namely towards religious exclusivity. Each of the Aladura churches tended to believe that it was the preferred channel of communicating with God, which of course prevented the various churches from uniting.28 While it should be noted that in practice the Aladura churches do not dwell on demonizing each other, this tendency has led to a great deal of factionalism and fragmentation within each of them. The Church of the Lord Aladura experienced no less than 21 secessions as of 1961; the Cherubim and Seraphim experienced 51 as of 2006, although many of these were temporary.29 This was of course due in part to the visionary character of the charismatic leadership, which enabled multiplication of such visions on the part of the followers, with no decisive means of testing their validity. But the contrast with the development of Afro-Cuban Yoruba religion is striking: there a diffusion of spirits with a concentration of spiritual authority, here a concentration of spirituality with a diffusion of religious authority.

Beyond typology

     It would appear then that this narrative has moved quite far away from the habits of tolerance that Soyinka proclaimed at the outset, and even from orişa devotion altogether. To explain this, it is necessary to go beyond the limits of typology and introduce a narrative strand. From what I can tell, this strand is one of oscillation, namely of moving away from the Orişa and native customs, only to return to them again, in a cyclical pattern that repeats itself. Peel noticed this in the nineteenth century and found it to be especially true among the second generation of Yoruba Christians, particularly in the area of sexual behavior and marriage customs: they tended, for example, to revert to polygamy more than their parents—a pattern the missionaries labeled "backsliding." Peel cites an appropriate Yoruba proverb to express this: "If the leaf stays long enough upon the soap, it will become soap," i.e. dissolve into it. It points to the tremendous absorptive power of Yoruba traditions.30 Over time, members of the mission churches appear to have settled into a habit of dual participation (#6), the simultaneous practice of Christianity and Yoruba religion without necessarily attempting to integrate the two.31 Thus even as the cults of orişa devotion declined, the practices of that devotion tended to persist, and still do so. Local rulers felt the need to perpetuate orişa rituals as a matter of civic responsibility, even if they were professing Christians or Muslims.32 Nevertheless, when the Aladura movement came along, its concentration of spirituality was in part a reaction to this dual participation. Here is an example from one of the converts in the 1920s:

Odubanjo [theAladura preacher] preached on God's power to heal, protect, and bless. All this was new to me—that God was still doing this today. Id' never heard this in the Methodist church, nor that God meets our financial needs also, and protects us from all dangers and perils. As Methodists we had relied on juju as our parents had done; we had gone to native doctors, and that meant bowing to idols.33

Over time, however, the Aladura were subject to the same "backsliding" tendencies. An example would be a certain prophet Wobo, duly baptized in the Church of the Lord Aladura, who in 1960 established his own church. Wobo's ministry consisted largely of individual consultations in the form of predictions about their life-events, much in the manner of Ifa divination. Wobo's clientele came not only from his church, but from the mission churches, who visited him in secret.34 For a Christian scholar, such practices naturally set off an alarm bell, namely that the distinctive message of Christianity, namely Christ's salvific power, was in danger of being lost.

     In this respect, it is instructive to compare accounts of the Aladura by two such scholars, writing some 38 years apart. The first, by Harold Turner, was an article entitled "Pagan Features in West African Independent Churches," which appeared in 1965. He pointed to the use of holy water, candles, and the reappearance of divination in Christian guise, as examples in which ritual objects were no longer seen as indicative of the power of God to heal or save, but seemingly possessed that power in themselves. Nevertheless, he concluded that "this syncretistic element. . .has been much exaggerated," and merely represented the growing pains of young churches that were by no means unique to Africa in the history of Christianity.35 The second, by Ogbu Kalu in 2003, found these practices to be much more widespread and disturbing, to the point that he could even label some Aladura groups as no longer Christian.36

     All of this is of considerable relevance to explaining the rise of Pentecostalism among the Yoruba and in Africa generally in recent years. Kalu has pointed out that the virulence of the Pentecostals' reaction against the Aladura goes back to the accusation of idolatry, of failing to exchange former covenants for a new one with Jesus Christ.37 According to Kalu, new members of a Pentecostal church who formerly belonged to a so-called "white garment" church are given special attention in order to deliver them from the "foul spirits" to which they had formerly been exposed.38 All this suggests a recurrence of the cyclical trend what we observed with the birth of the Aladura in the first place.

     Finally, it should be added that Yoruba religion on this side of the Atlantic has experienced its own version of this oscillation. Here the drive towards excision of superfluous elements has been directed against the Catholic saints, which were seen as inauthentic additions forged under the coercion of slavery, and a return to a purified African religion. Here the villain was syncretism itself, which was seen as an artificial product of colonialism. This has been most pronounced in Candomblé, thanks to a priestess named Mae Stella, who campaigned against syncretism in the 1980s. One could see a similar reaction within Santería as well, in the 1960s in New York City. As part of a surge in cultural nationalism there among African Americans, there was a desire to return to African roots in the form of a publicly practiced Yoruba religion.39 None of these movements went uncontested, since they challenged not only the integration of the saints into Yoruba practice, but also the privacy and secrecy of babalawo religious authority. Staging Yoruba rituals on the streets of Harlem did not accord with many Cubans' idea of what the religion should be. In recent years, the use of the internet has raised similar questions over how and where the authority to interpret Oriṣaism should be located.


     The convoluted story of Yoruba religion and its encounters with Christianity in multiple times and places may well prove instructive in understanding religious interactions in the twenty-first century as peoples move increasingly about the globe. It demonstrates both the suppleness and limitations of a typological approach, introducing a more nuanced vocabulary to describe such encounters without allowing these terms to become rigid taxonomies of religious encounters themselves. Rather than determining narratives of how diverse religious cultures interact, these categories provide the building blocks from which narratives may be constructed. In this way they serve as tools for better understanding the place of religion in world history, paying due attention to the importance of material, political, and social factors while also maintaining that spiritual ones constitute an independent variable for many peoples.

David Lindenfeld is Professor of History Emeritus at Louisiana State University. He has co-edited Beyond Conversion and Syncretism. Indigenous Encounters with Missionary Christianity, 1800–2000 (Berghahn Books, 2011) and is working on a single-authored comparative history of indigenous encounters with Western Christianity across the globe. He may be reached at


1 Jacob K. Olupona and Terry Rey, eds., Orişa Devotion as World Religion (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008), 7–8; Stephen Prothero, God Is Not One (New York: Harper Collins, 2010), 220–23.

2 See David Lindenfeld, "The Concept of 'World Religions' as Currently Used in Religious Studies Textbooks," World History Bulletin, vol. 22, no. 1 (2007): 6–7; Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions, or, How European Universalism was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 4.

3 Paul E. Lovejoy, "The Yoruba Factor in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade," in Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs, eds. The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 40–42.

4 Stephen Prothero, 226.

5 Wole Soyinka, "The Tolerant Gods," in Orişa Devotion, 40.

6 See, for example Ralph Korngold, Citizen Toussaint (New York: Macmillan, 1945), 39.

7 Quoted in Marta Moreno Vega, "The Dynamic Influence of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and African Americans in the Growth of Ocha in New York City," in Orişa Devotion, 321–2.

8 See the table of all these elements provided by Joseph Murphy, Santería. An African Religion in America (Boston: Beacon Press), 42–3. I owe the term "vernacular translation" to Saurabh Dube, who studies Christianity in India. According to Paul Christopher Johnson, Secrets, Gossip, and Gods. The Transformation of Brazilian Candomblé (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 38, "the orixas. . .are also a grammar, a cognitive program, and a map of relations by which practicioners are both embedded in an ordered world and enabled and emboldened to change that order for their and their community's benefit."

9 J.D.Y.Peel, Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), 279, 284.

10 Ibid., 121; ch. 7; H.O. Danmolé, "Religious Encounter in Southwestern Nigeria. The Domestication of Islam among the Yoruba," in Orişa Devotion, 203–06; T.G.O. Gbadamosi, The Growth of Islam among the Yoruba, 1841–1908 (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1978.

11 Peel, 115, 177, 186.

12 Ibid., 225. Cf. David D. Laitin, Hegemony and Culture. Politics and Religious Change among the Yoruba (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 51–75, for contrasts between the Christian and Muslim religious communities.

13 Peel, Religious Encounter, 242; Aladura: A Religious Movement among the Yoruba (Oxford University Press, 1968), 52.

14 E.A. Ayandele, The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria, 1842–1914 (London: Longmans, 1966), 68. On Islam see Gbadamosi, 140–1.

15 Laitin, 191.

16 Michael J.C. Echeruo, Victorian Lagos. Aspects of Nineteenth Century Lagos Life (London: Macmillan, 1977), 30. Echeruo estimates the total population of greater Lagos to have been about 60,000.

17 Ibid., 10.

18 Peel, Religious Encounter, 280; Adrian Hastings, The Church in Africa, 1450–1950 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 493–97; James Bertin Webster, The African Churches Among the Yoruba, 1888–1922) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), 94.

19 Peel, Aladura, 74.

20 Hastings, 516.

21 Akinyele Omoyajowo, Cherubim and Seraphim. The History of an African Independent Church (New York: NOK Publishers, 1982), 16.

22 Afeosemimi U. Adogame, Celestial Church of Christ. The Politics of Cultural Identity in a West African Prophetic-Charismatic Movement (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1999), 131; Laitin, 87.

23 Benjamin C. Ray, "Aladura Christianity: A Yoruba Religion," Journal of Religion in Africa 23 (1993): 266–291 (275).

24 H.W. Turner, The History of an African Independent Church[the Church of the Lord Aladura], 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 2: 43; Jacob Kehinde Olupona, "The Celestial Church of Christ in Ondo: A Phenomenological Perspective," in New Religious Movements in Nigeria , ed. Rosalind I.J. Hackett (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1987).Variations in gender practice from one Aladura church to another are discussed in Deidre Helen Crumbley, "From Holy Ground to Virtual Reality: Aladura Gender Practices in Cyberspace—an African Diaspora Perspective," in Afe Adogame, Roswith Gerloff, Klaus Hock, eds. Christianity in Africa and the African Diaspora (London: Continuum, 2008), 126–39.

25 Peel, Aladura, 164, 169–70, 174.

26 Turner, 2: 122. Cf. Peel, Aladura, 72–3; Adogame, 186–91.

27 Adogame, "Clearing New Paths into an Old Forest. Aladura Christianity in Europe," in Oriṣa Devotion, 253–57.

28 For the Christ Apostolic Church, this came through its exclusive emphasis on faith healing; for the Cherubim and Seraphim, it was the angels who provided the privileged channel, going back to the founding vision of Christina Abiodun Akinsowon; for the Celestial Church of Christ, which presents itself as the "last ship to salvation," it was communication with Christ himself; for the Church of the Lord, it was the special gifts of the founder-prophet, Joseph Oshitelu, established through a covenant with God. See Peel, Aladura, 111–12, 132, 144; Omoyajowo, 117; Adogame, 147; Turner 2: 287–292, 316.

29 Turner, 1: ch. 5; Ogbu Kalu, African Pentecostalism. An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 76–77. See also Omoyajowo, ch. 4, esp. 82; Peel, Aladura, 269–76.

30 Peel, Religious Encounter, 248, 249–50, 269.

31 The term "dual religious participation" comes from anthropologist William K. Powers and his study of Christianity among the Sioux in Beyond the Vision: Essays on American Indian Culture (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), ch. 5.

32 Andrew Apter, Black Critics & Kings. The Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 170.

33 Turner, 1: 12.

34 Gabriel I.S. Amadi, "Continuities and Adaptations in the Aladura Movement: the Example of Prophet Wobo and his Clientele in South-Eastern Nigeria," in New Religious Movements in Nigeria, 75–91.

35 Turner, "Pagan Features in West African Independent Churches," Practical Anthropology, 12 (1965): 145–51 (151). Writing in 1978, Omoyajowo concurred. See his "The Aladura Churches in Nigeria," in Christianity in Independent Africa, ed. Edward Fasholé-Luke, Richard Gray, et al. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978), 105.

36 Kalu, The Embattled Gods. Christianization of Igboland, 1841–1991 (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2003), 298.

37 Kalu, African Pentecostalism, 80.

38 Ibid., 65. Kalu provides an overview of the controversy in chapter 4.

39 On Candomblé, see Luis Nicolau Parés, "The 'Nagoization' Process in Bahian Candomblé," in The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World, 198–203; On Santería, Christine Ayorinde, "Santería in Cuba: Tradition and Transformation," ibid., 224. On New York, Tracey E. Hucks, "From Cuban Santería to African Yoruba Evolutions in African American Orişa History, 1959–1970," in Orişa Devotion, 337–53.

Home | List Journal Issues | Table of Contents
© 2015 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Content in World History Connected is intended for personal, noncommercial use only. You may not reproduce, publish, distribute, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, modify, create derivative works from, display, or in any way exploit the World History Connected database in whole or in part without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Terms and Conditions of Use