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Open Access Religious Mahbär in Ethiopia: Ritual Elements, Dynamics, and Challenges

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Religious Mahbär in Ethiopia: Ritual Elements, Dynamics, and Challenges

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This article explores the religious association mahbär, also called tsïwwa, in Ethiopia. Data from lay practitioners as well as priests show that religious mahbär has many religious as well as social functions. It is a ritual with long traditions in the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahedo Church. The authors show that what characterizes mahbär as a ritual is its unusual richness, complexity, multifunctionality and flexibility. By placing it within the Ethiopian religious context and the present development, the authors discuss why religious mahbär is in decline despite its multiple functions, flexibility, and support from the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahïdo Church. In difficult economic times one would expect traditional rituals such as mahbär to become more important to people, and hence to be strengthened, but this does not seem to be the case here. In the authors’ view, three factors are pushing this decline: economic challenges, time constraints, and member recruitment.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, Political Science and Community Planning, UiT The Arctic University of Norway TromsøNorway anne.britt.flemmen@uit.no ; 2: Center for Gender Studies, College of Development Studies, Addis Ababa UniversityEthiopia muluzen@yahoo.com

10.1163/15700666-12340062
/content/journals/10.1163/15700666-12340062
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This article explores the religious association mahbär, also called tsïwwa, in Ethiopia. Data from lay practitioners as well as priests show that religious mahbär has many religious as well as social functions. It is a ritual with long traditions in the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahedo Church. The authors show that what characterizes mahbär as a ritual is its unusual richness, complexity, multifunctionality and flexibility. By placing it within the Ethiopian religious context and the present development, the authors discuss why religious mahbär is in decline despite its multiple functions, flexibility, and support from the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahïdo Church. In difficult economic times one would expect traditional rituals such as mahbär to become more important to people, and hence to be strengthened, but this does not seem to be the case here. In the authors’ view, three factors are pushing this decline: economic challenges, time constraints, and member recruitment.

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2016-11-09
2018-09-22

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