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Negotiating Charisma: The Social Dimension of Philippine Crucifixion Rituals

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The Philippines are the only predominantly Christian nation in Southeast Asia. The tradition of the passion of Christ is supposed to be the centre of Philippine religiousness and the fascination with the suffering, battered and dead Christ can be regarded as a characteristic feature of Philippine lowland society. The most spectacular expressions of the so-called Philippine 'Calvary Catholicism' are flagellation and crucifixion. In 1996–1998, the author studied Philippine passion rituals in the village of Kapitangan. During the Holy Week, thousands of people mostly from Manila visit the church and observe the spectacle of ritual crucifixions on Good Friday in the churchyard. In Kapitangan, mostly women are nailed to the cross, which is, however, is not an act of volition. They act under directions 'from above', possessed by Sto. Niño or Jesus Nazareno. All of them are (faith-)healers. All of them are founders of a religious movement. In this article, the author uses Ernst Troeltsch's typology — church, sect, mysticism — as a tool to raise questions about ritual crucifixion as a focus of community and collective identity formation, both on the local and national level of society. Troeltsch's typology sheds light on the delicate relation between the Philippine 'official' church and practices of the so-called 'folk-Catholicism'. It illuminates motives and aims of the healers, who are called 'new mystics' by some scholars, and the sense of belonging of their followers. It also reveals discourses of consent and dissent among the spectators and general public, provoked by that literal re-enactment of Jesus' death.

Affiliations: 1: University of Bremen

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/content/journals/10.1163/156848409x12526657425262
2009-10-01
2016-12-04

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