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A Pastoral Approach to Spirit Possession and Witchcraft Manifestations among the Fijian People

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In this article Columban missionary, Frank Hoare, examines incidents of spirit possession and witchcraft accusations in a Catholic Fijian village. Spirit possession has a communal dimension in socio-centric cultures and the tensions of the community are played out in and through the messages of the spirit. Crises of evil are understood as essentially moral and connect the individual, community and spirit world and the community is energized to resolve the situation and ward off the evil. The recognition by a community of individuals who have effective spiritual power may surface alternative dormant ritual economics and politics based on a traditional cosmology that may be more or less articulated to the dominant cosmology. A foreign missionary should beware of ethnocentrism and the reductionism that dismisses the local idiom and traditional cosmology. Instead, crises of evil offer an opportunity for deeper dialogue between the Christian gospel and traditional beliefs and practice. Study of the history, social relations and culture of the community is time well spent and the missionary should rely on mature local Christians. A liturgy that takes community crises into account can provide a wider context of meaning for the concerns of the community.


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