By Pastor Daniel Oduro
Pastor Daniel Oduro is from Ghana. You will
be able to tell from his writings that he has a keen awareness
of the spiritual needs of his nation and the African continent.
Truly if Africa is to be won for the Lord it must be done by
Africans as with every nation - by their own with the power of
the Holy Spirit. Missionaries are simply messengers taking the
gospel and making disciples of the locals so their, the local
believers, can continue the work. We enable the believers and
hinder the work by lingering and trying to do the work that only
the Holy Spirit is aptly able to do. As you read Pastor Oduro's
page, please pray for the spiritual needs of Africa and that the
work will not be hindered by good intentions. After all, the
road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Contact Pastor Daniel Oduro at:
Understanding Ghana and the African
scholars have rightly observed that the center of gravity of
Christianity is shifting from the West to �the two-thirds
world,� that is Asia, South America and Africa. The reasons for this shift are varied and complex. However, the
reasons for the growth of Christianity in Africa significantly
include the way the Africans have attempted to deal with their
threatening fears, especially witchcraft. Witchcraft has been a
prevailing belief in African cultures and has continually posed
problems for the African people groups.
research into witchcraft among the Azande of Congo and his
advancement of the misfortune or the explanation theory,
the African phenomena of witchcraft have become prominent on the
agenda of anthropologists. Significant are the works of J.
Clyde Mitchell, Middleton and Winter, Max Marwick, Mary Douglas
and others who
the function of witchcraft as a release of tension within
certain types of African social structure.
The studies of S. F. Nadel, M. Gluckman and Debrunner also
demonstrate that witchcraft belief is the outcome of social
instability such as famine, rapid change, oppression and
Other works, such as Margaret Field�s case studies and analysis
of so-called witches in Ghana, reveal how witchcraft is rooted
in the psychological reactions of those suffering from ill
health, misfortunes and inability to control their destinies.
These interpretations led some
anthropologists and missionaries to think witchcraft belief was
only superstitious to be dispelled with modernity. Thus
Parrinder argues, �an enlightened religion, education, medicine
and better social and racial conditions will help to dispel
Unfortunately Parrinder lived to become �a false prophet� in the
sense that, although an enlightened religion- Christianity- has
grown in African, belief in witchcraft has survived and even
The current studies on witchcraft
in Africa such as those by Peter Geschiere, Birgit Meyer, Jean
and John Comaroff show that the concept is no longer
�traditional� but operates as a very important aspect of
In some of these presentations, witchcraft provides images of
defining modernity through the local consumption of global
they show how witchcraft is domesticated in personal violence
and also how
the phenomenon is involved in politics.
For the African, such images are real and deadly. For example,
Geschiere has shown how in Maka area in Cameroon the state
courts have started to convict so-called witches.
Furthermore, in her work among the Tonga speakers in Gwembe
Valley in Southern Province in Zambia, where fathers are often
accused of witchcraft, Elisabeth Colson, has demonstrated how
the accused do suffer and in one case a man had to hang himself
to avoid such suffering.
In recent election in Ghana, Dr George Ayittey reports of how
one parliamentary candidate, Professor Philip Kofi Amoah,
complained, after he had been hit in the face by a crow that
some people were out to fight him spiritually because of his
He continued that soon the professor complained of dizziness and
died on his way to the hospital.
As was done in the past, protection
from witchcraft activities has become a common concern.
Formerly such protection was sought from the priests of the gods
or from sorcerers and medicine men. From the early part of the
twentieth century, however, a variety of exorcists activities
(anti-witchcraft shrine) have dominated African states. Even
when the colonial regimes suppressed witchcraft activities
because they thought they hampered progress, they re-emerged
within the Ingenious African Churches and later in a form of
movement within the classical Pentecostal churches.
As soon as one of these movements expends itself, another of a
similar nature springs up with a larger following. As a
result, at present, almost all churches include exorcists
activities, referred to as �deliverance�
in their programmes, since failure to do so amounts to losing
members to churches that include such activities. Thus some
scholars now observe the �Pentecostalisms� of Christianity in
agenda of this sort of Pentecostalisation is deliverance, which
is based on the fear of spirit forces, especially witchcraft.
Jane Paris struggles with the right terminology for describing
such a deliverance center at Dorman in Ghana. She calls it
aduruyefo (medicine maker), but her presentation including
the warding off of evil spirit from so-called contaminated
Bibles, involvement of intensive prayers and invocation of the
Holy spirit, indicates that she was talking about a Christian
prayer center; she mistakenly thought that it was an
This paper will attempt to explore how deliverance ministry has
replaced the anti-witchcraft shrines and the exorcistic
activities of the African Indigenous Churches. Using Ghana as a
case history, I shall evaluate this ministry to find out its
positive and negative effects. Most of the research on which
this paper is based was carried out among Ghanaian Christians
between 1997 and 1999. These include interviews I conducted with
pastors, exorcists, traditional priests, so-called witches and
delivered witches. The data also include a survey I conducted
in 1999 of 1201 participants across Ghana concerning the belief
in the traditional spirit-world. The survey showed relatively
even distribution across education, occupational categories and
age. However, many people who filled the forms were males, from
Pentecostal denominations. My prior experience as a Ghanaian
Pentecostal pastor of over twenty-four years is also an asset.
Christianity in Ghana
initial attempt to evangelize Ghana by the Roman Catholic
Mission in the fifteen century had been a failure, Christianity
had firmly been established in the mid 1800s, through the
enterprising missionary activities of the Basel Mission (1845),
the Bremen Mission (1847), the Wesleyan Methodist (1840) and
the Catholic Mission (second attempt in 1880).A
recent survey conducted by Operation World and published in 1993
shows that 64% of Ghanaians were Christians.
As an effort to
the indigenous people, on the one hand, the missionary taught
that the belief in the Spirit�forces such as the gods,
fetishism, dwarfs and witchcraft was superstitious. Yet, on the
other hand, they also presented the Devil and demons as the
power behind these spirit-forces.
By the introduction of a
Devil and the association of the gods with demons, the
missionaries strengthened the belief in witchcraft, yet they
failed to provide for the holistic needs of the people. For the
Ghanaian these images were real life-threatening forces.
Many people held that the power of the gods and the other spirit
forces, which could be used either for good or evil
operate through human intermediaries, namely, traditional
priests. Yet the human intermediaries often allied themselves
with witches. Witches were thought to feed on human flesh and
drink human blood, inflict material losses on people, infest
diseases on people, and make people ignoble through their
misdeeds. Consequently, all misfortunes were thought to be the
work of witches.
Therefore people became preoccupied with finding out from the
traditional priests the supernatural causes of misfortunes if
initial attempts to find a cure failed. Tutelage under the gods
was thought to be the best way of protection. Thus as Kalu says
of the logic of Igbo of Nigeria's covenant making
and Meyer observes about the images of evil among the Ewes of
Ghana, these life-threatening forces can be considered
representations of particular fears that, in turn, are centered
around the Ghanaian cultural hermeneutics.
Since the missionaries were unable
to do deal with the situation satisfactory, there emerged a
prophetic ministry in Ghana which announced a new dawn of
was seen in the African Indigenous Churches, called spiritual
churches in Ghana.
Healing and exorcism were central in their services. Although
these churches attracted a lot of adherence, their weaknesses,
such as lack of theological framework and accountability from
the ministers which made some involved in some questionable
such as exploitation and immorality,
caused a decline and paved a way for the popularity of the
classical Pentecostal Churches.
�Pentecostalisms� of Christianity in Ghana
The origins of classical
in Ghana can be traced back to Apostle Anim, who upon receipt of
a magazine called �Sword of the Spirit� from the Faith
in 1917, began preaching healing in Christ. Consequently, a new
movement began. His desire to know more about the baptism of
the Holy Spirit finally linked him with the Apostolic Church of
Bradford, England, which sent James McKeown to assist him in
Anim�s stance on medicine later
caused a split between him and McKeown. Whereas McKeown
believed in the use of medicine in addition to prayer, Anim
rejected all types of aids including medicine.�
Eventually, Anim named his group �Christ Apostolic Church,�
while McKeown�s group remained as �The Apostolic Church.�
McKeown�s church, The Apostolic Church grew faster. But this
was later to be split in 1953 and again in 1962. The churches
established by Anim and McKeown, The Apostolic Church and The
Church of Pentecost, The Christ Apostolic Church, and The
Assemblies of God,
were the main Pentecostal Churches in Ghana until the 1970s.
The Pentecostal practices of deliverance have been developing
gradually since 1937.
developments have been necessary, since originally classical
Pentecostalism had not been encouraging deliverance ministry,
which has been a very important issue of African traditional
Although, the British sociologist Stephen
Hunts observes that �the growth and appeal of deliverance has
come with the expansion of the �classical� Pentecostal movement
at the beginning of the twentieth century,�
at this period the emphasis was on speaking in tongues as an
initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and also a
powerful weapon for evangelism. Healing and exorcism were to be
From this perspective, some early Pentecostals opposed those who
attempted to make deliverance a specialty.
The Ghanaian Pentecostal churches held a similar position until
the visit of the Latter Rain team from the U.S.A. to Ghana (and
Nigeria) in 1953. The Latter Rain Movement bore many
similarities to the early Pentecostal movement that originated
at the Azusa Street Revival, yet it emerged with the aim to
revitalize Pentecostalism, since, for them, Pentecostalism was
experiencing dryness of faith.
Among other things, the Latter Rain laid emphasis on deliverance
and was opposed to the establishment of human organization.
After their visit, lay prophets and prophetesses emerged and
exorcised people of afflicted spirits. But some
misunderstanding between them and the leadership made their
ministry short-lived. By the end of 1958, all those lay
exorcists had left the classical Pentecostals to establish their
own ministries. Their ministries led the exorcists activities
in Ghana in the 1960s.
developed within Ghanaian Christianity during the 1970s and
1980s, which eventually led to the formation of a �distinct
theology.� First of these are the books and cassettes from some
western preachers, especially Americans, including Oral Roberts,
Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Reinhard Bonke and latter on
Benny Hinn which were used to enhance the preaching of many
ministers. Many sermons by the pastors in Ghana and other parts
of Africa were derived from materials drawn from these
ministers, especially Roberts� seed faith principle, which is
centered on prosperity and Hagin�s faith healing. The second
trend (during the later part of 1980s) was the interest in books
and cassettes (both video and audio) which seek to increase
people�s awareness of demons and how to exorcise them.
Prominent among these materials are the books and cassettes of
who visited Ghana in 1987 on the ticket of the Ghana Pentecostal
asserts that a person can be a Christian, baptized in the Holy
Spirit and speak in tongues, yet one may still have demons,
ancestral and other curses in one�s life, until the Holy Spirit
reveals them to be dealt with.
He offers reasons for this theory.
Dwelling heavily on Matthew 11: 12, among other quotations,
Prince argues that casting out a demon or renouncing a curse can
be a lengthy process, and it is only forceful men who can lay
hold of it.
Prince's stance is similar to some ministers like Basham,
This view is significantly different from the Classical
Pentecostals who had refused to accept the possibility of a
Christian being possessed by a demon.
However, since Prince's theory appeals to the Ghanaian world-
view, some Pentecostal as well as some other Christians,
accepted it. Consequently, some Christians, both
intellectuals and non-intellectuals began to reinterpret
these teachings in culturally relevant ways and put them into
practice. What was going on in Ghana was also taking place in
other parts of Africa.
The outcome of this reformulation is what this paper refers to
as �witch demonology.�
The paper uses the term �witch
demonology� instead of the usual western terms �demonology� and
�witchcraft,� because firstly, the traditional definitions of
the terms �demonology� and �witchcraft� do not fit into the
Secondly, the understanding and practices in the Ghanaian
context, as will soon be presented, is a synthesis of both the
western and the Ghanaian concepts, especially that of the
Ghanaian traditional religions where the witch is always the
Thus the term �witchdemonology� is used in this paper to
describe the beliefs and practices of deliverance ministries in
Ghana. These include witchcraft, demonology, ancestral curses
The theology of �witch demonology� is
strongly based on the Ghanaian cosmology. To throw more light
on this, I shall call on data from the survey I conducted in
1999 of 1201 participants. To the question, �Is witchcraft
real?� on the whole, 91.7% said yes, 7.7% said no and 0.7% was
In terms of educational background, 100 % of all those who
held first degrees said yes, while 85% of those who did not have
any official schooling said yes and 15% said no.
The terms �witch� and
�witchcraft� are used synonymously with the terms �demon,�
�demonology� and �evil spirit.� Demon possession is described
as when a demon comes to live in one without one�s consent. It
is considered a covenant of soul and spirit without ones
permission. Witchcraft is taken as an advanced form of spirit
possession. From this background, it is assumed that almost all
traditional priests are witches.
some of the writings of Pentecostals, such as Dickason, Kraft
and Hagin, the origin of demons is linked with the fallen
It is held that these beings (fallen angels) with disembodied
spirits, found themselves in rivers, seas, mountains, rocks,
trees and in humans and that these have become the gods of the
Africans. All Africans are therefore under a curse because
their ancestors worshiped the gods.
Ancestral curse is a new �doctrine� which
has emerged with the theology of �witch demonology.� Although
this concept has its basis in traditional beliefs, the emphasis
was not based on curses, but on blessings.
Yet, the Pentecostal concept of the ancestral curse is the
belief that the consequences of the sins committed by the
progenitors are recurrent in their family lines. The effects of
these curses in a person�s life include chronic diseases or
hereditary diseases, mental breakdowns, emotional excesses,
allergies, repeated miscarriages, repeated unnatural deaths such
as in suicides and accidents, continuing financial
insufficiencies, frequent breakdown of marriages, abnormal
behavior such as extreme anger tantrums or extreme reservedness.
Linked with the origin of
demons/gods and ancestral curses is the strong belief in the
territorial spirit, specifically promoted by the �third wave
theologian,� Peter Wagner.
Territorial spirit is the notion that the demons assume a
hierarchy with powers of greater and lesser ranks having
specific geographical assignments. The proponents of �witch
demonology� have assumed that the real sources of African
problems are the controlling powers of various territorial
spirits such as poverty and idolatry. This is to say that
African�s problems do not just depend upon scientific and modern
development. Taking a cue from Wagner some African scholars
such as Professor Oshun and �Evangelist� Nwankpa have stressed
the need to wage �spiritual warfare� against these spiritual
enemies to break free the African continent.
Beside the signs,
which give an indication that a person is placed under ancestral
curses, it is believed that there are signs, which hint that a
person is demonised or a witch. One of the surest signs
proponents of this ministry offer is that such people are
especially unease in the presence of �spiritual people.�
many ways through which demons are said to enter people and be
passed on to their families or others. The terms for this
process is demonic �doorway� or �opening.�
Idolatry of any kind is said to be a major opening.
Other demonic doorways which deliverance exponents assume,
include: sinful deeds (Lk 22:3);
involvement in any other religion apart from the �one prescribed
by the Lord,� that is evangelical Christianity;
and any type of emotional pressure from childhood experiences
It is also propounded that demons may enter human being through
emotional traumas like the death of a loved one or survival in
car accident, in murder, or building explosion; those who watch
such incidents on the television are also vulnerable to demon
It is assumed that
all evil acts have their demonic counterparts. For example, a
demon of fornication enters the one who fornicates while the
demon of lust enters the person who watches pornographic video
or pictures. While the Bible reveals the seriousness of sin and
the need to get over it through Christ (e.g. Eph. 4:25-32), this
theology claims that all evil acts and experiences come from
demons and open doors for them. The logical inference is that
demons are at work any time some evil behaviors or diseases are
present in the lives of both Christians and non-Christians.
The discourse so far indicates that
everybody including Christians could be witches, demon possessed
or could inherit ancestral curses. It is purported that in
addition to salvation, every African Christian needs deliverance
from witchcraft, demons, ancestral curses or diseases, before
they will be set free. In my survey, when asked the question,
�Considering the Ghanaian background, does every Christian need
deliverance?� 55.1% said yes, 41.2% said no, and 3.7% no idea.
It is not uncommon for those who answered �no� and �no idea� to
seek explanations in ancestral curse when they are faced with
problems that seem to prolong and baffle their minds.
Therefore, prayer groups have been formed within the churches to
cater for this need. Within some churches, especially the
Church of Pentecost, which is the largest Protestant church in
Ghana (with over 920, 000 membership), residential Prayer
centers, have been established to accommodate the sick.
Deliverance becomes a major activity there.
In such centers, the leaders prescribe specific days of fasting
and prayer to the clients. So-called witches are chained until
they are delivered or otherwise.
two types of deliverance offered, mass and personal. Mass
deliverance, which is our focus now, though begins like the
normal Pentecostal type of service, the focus is on testimonies
and preaching about the works of demons and how God�s power can
set people free from them.
Before the main deliverance session
some clients might have seen the exorcists already in their
homes. Often a form with exhaustive questionnaires seeking
information about the background of the person is required to be
filled, after which an interview is conducted to find out the
supernatural causation of problem. Such people who had seen the
exorcists already as well as others who need deliverance are
asked to move to the front of the congregation and form queues.
The instructions differ from person to person. But often
following Evangelist Tabiri�s
innovation of �breaking,� instructions are given to participants
to write names of parents and family members known to them and
keep them for the breaking rituals.
After the initial instructions, the congregation sings with much
expectancy, accompanied by clapping and musical instruments.
The leader may then pray and also give instructions on how to
pray. Prayer is often said repeatedly with gestures to �break�
(bubu), �bind� (kyekyere), �bomb,� trample on
them (tiatia wonso), �whip with canes,� �burn with fire
�strike with the axe of God,� �cast out demons� behind diseases
and �break� curses. As these things are done with gestures, for
example, bombowon, shooto won (bomb or shoot
them) are usually followed by the sound poo, poo, pee, pee
with the paper in their hands.
Some leaders sell special canes at Church for the purpose of
canning the witches spiritually.
The �blood of Jesus� and �the name of Jesus� are used repeatedly
to rebuke witches and all evil powers. Meanwhile the team
members move among the people and lay hands on them. As the
prayer goes on people begin to sob, groan, shout, roar, fall
down and struggle on the ground. The leaders pay special
attention to those who show such signs without falling down, by
commanding and sometimes pushing them. Unlike the Charismatic,
especially the Catholic Charismatic who, according to Csordas,
consider falling down as resting in the Spirit,
falling down is interpreted here as a manifestation of demons.
Therefore, when someone struggles or falls down, some of the
team members continue to cast, bind or break the power of evil
in them. When there is resistance, the leader engages in
dialogs with the person, asking the name of the demon.
people begin to speak in some forms, which show that some
spirits have taken over. Such people become points of attraction
and the leaders engage in active dialogs with them.
As the process of deliverance goes on, people may cough, vomit
or urinate. Through the teachings of deliverance proponents
such as Prince it has come to be accepted that demons may go out
through any one of the orifices in the human body.
Thus these acts are considered as signs of successful
deliverance. The process may take two to three hours, until the
rumpus cools down. But this is not the end of the
session. The leader may call those with specific needs and pray
for the groups in turns.
After this, the leader often requests testimonies of
deliverance and healing from the members. Thereafter the leader
may instruct the participants to go out delivered, however,
since it is claimed that a person needs constant deliverance,
s/he may instruct them on how to do self -deliverance.
Clearly, the methodology for the
deliverance session is a mixture of a wide range of practices,
including African traditional, spiritual churches� and
biblical. For example, like the traditional shrines and the
spiritual churches, psychology is implied in the confession of
witches, the drumming and the repetition of the songs that
builds up pressure on the people before deliverance is carried
on. Again, like the spiritual churches �magical methodology� is
apparent in the repetition of the �prayer languages� during
deliverance. In addition to these, the techniques of hypo
�therapy are applied indirectly during the teaching and
testimonies around demons and deliverance. The use of
psychoanalysis is also evident in the questionnaires and the
interviews conducted by the exorcists before and during
deliverance. The fasting, prayers and commands are the
re-interpretations of some scripture verses and how Jesus dealt
with the demonic.
�WITCHDEMONOLOGY�: EMANCIPATION OR SERVITUDE
The discussion so far shows that
the theology of �witch demonology� gets its demonstration
foundation from the missionaries� interpretation of
African traditional beliefs and practices and other religions.
Yet it departs from the missionaries� interpretation, when it
comes to the concept of power and deliverance where it derives
its demonstration strength from the ministries and materials of
the North American deliverance exponents. Gifford observes
that, �undoubtedly the U.S. charismatic demonology has
traditional African beliefs; but the demonology of Africa�s
contemporary charismatic churches may well be getting its
special character through the power of American literature.�
What comes out here is that in the attempts to appropriate
foreign Christian materials for their use, the proponents of
�witch demonology� are concerned about demonstration, especially
of the African traditional practices, and how to exorcise such
things, which they believe are threats to their successful
living. Yet by putting such emphases on demonization and
deliverance, the proponents of this ministry have been too harsh
on other religions and also rejected their own cultures.
Many scholars such as Gifford,
have observed this strong position which neo-Pentecostals have
taken, that which Hackett describes as �somewhat merciless
toward �traditional and �ancestral beliefs� and practices.�
Meyer feels the scholars have played down the role which
demonology played in the spiritual churches. She writes, �they
drew a much stricter boundary between non-Christian religion and
Christianity than earlier studies of such churches might
But Meyer�s point is weak here, since continuously her works
appear to communicate the Pentecostals� �rigid stance towards
more than the scholars mentioned.
This paper identifies with those
scholars who conclude that neo-Pentecostals see more demons than
the spiritual churches. The reasons are that, for example,
whereas both accepted the African world view and dealt with it
accordingly, the spiritual churches did not promote the issue of
the ancestral curses, complete annihilation from festivals and
family gathering. For these spiritual churches, throwing away
idols and stopping worshiping them were enough.
But, neo-Pentecostals or proponents of �witch demonology� do not
only advocate complete abstinence from traditional practices,
they also see demons associated with them and �impose�
deliverance for all its adherents.
From this perspective, that is the
neo-Pentecostals� emphasis on ancestral curses and deliverance,
Meyer has postulated that, for neo-Pentecostals, to �become
modern individual� means breaking with the past.
By this Meyer identifies with many of the current
anthropologists such as Comaroff and Comaroff, Geschiere, Colson
and Parish whose works in Africa have demonstrated that
�witchcraft is a finely calibrated gauge of the impact of global
cultural and economic forces on local relations�.�
That this partly holds for the deliverance ministry in Ghana is
seen in the fact that 23% of those who expressed the reasons for
visiting prayer centers during my survey included those who
wanted success at business or prosperity in another area. Yet
make no mistake here, the quest for wholeness (e.g. prosperity,
dignity, health, fertility and security) has its bases in the
Ghanaian cultures, but within the cultures, such desire was to
enable one to support the extended family.
Thus here Meyer, as well as the said anthropologists, does well
to unearth the ultimate outcome of the deliverance ministry that
is, promotion of individualism, as against the interest of the
traditional extended family system. Nevertheless, this assertion
does not take into account the main reason why many clients
consult exorcists. As found out through my fieldwork, the
rationale behind consultation is often toward abisa, that
is, the desire to find out the causation of one�s problems.
Deliverance often becomes a remedy after diagnoses had been
Beside this point, such scholars
mentioned and others including Kamphausen, Asamoah-Gyadu and
Meyer herself elsewhere see deliverance ministry as a response
to modernity, where individual riches and foreign commodities
are often seen as of demonic origin, which need to be exorcised.
Kamphausen, for example, notes that �the hermeneutically key to
the decoding of the Pentecostal symbolic system seems to be
implied in the concept of Western commodities being of strange
Thus �[becoming] modern individual� cannot be the real concern
of the deliverance advocates.
Consequently, there is a paradox in
the neo-Pentecostal�s concept of �witch demonology.� On the one
hand, they are seen as carrying the message of the missionaries
by considering traditional practices as demonic, and on the
other hand, they reject the missionary interpretation that
belief in witchcraft and demonology is superstitious, and carry
on the practices of anti-witchcraft shrines by exorcising
anything which gives them cause to doubt their origins and
Thus �witchdemonology� cannot be placed under modernity (or
mission Christianity), neither can it be identified as
pre-modernity (or traditional religion). Clearly, it derives
its strength from postmodernity, where part of the traditional
religion and part of Christianity can peacefully coexist as a
�witch demonology� is a synthesis of both. That post modernity
is a possible way of explaining the acceptability of deliverance
within the churches in Ghana is that whereas exorcism had been
featured prominently in the history of the churches in Ghana, it
had not come into the limelight.
But within the postmodern world where �homogeneous plurality
within fragmentation of cultures, traditions, ideologies, forms
of life, language games, or life worlds,�
is a key feature, deliverance with all its contradictions is
welcomed. With the emphasis on biblical text,
therefore, the desire of the Pentecostals cannot be associated
with just �[becoming] modern individual,� rather it can better
be associated with what Cox calls ��primal spirituality,� that
which he explains as the �largely unprocessed nucleus of the
psyche in which the unending struggles for a sense of purpose
and significance goes on.�
Cox rightly observes that this is found in Pentecostalism
worldwide and also underlies original biblical spirituality.
A nuance of Cox�s assertion, �the sacred self,� is what Csordas
proposes as the center of charismatic healing and deliverance
ministry in North America.
Thus Csordas sees an inquiring into the sacred and the search
for meaning as the underlying factors of charismatic healing and
deliverance ministry. Not coincidentally this sort of �primal
spirituality� intersects with the African traditional
spirituality. For example, in Ghana it goes well with abisa
(consultation) and the rituals that may follow.
Therefore, the theology of �witch demonology� has come to stay
among Ghanaian and
The positive aspects of the
theology of �witch demonology� are seen in several ways:
First, it offers its adherents the
opportunity to oscillate between the traditional and Christian
beliefs and practices. Here people are able to express their
fears in witchcraft and other life threatening forces and seek
protection from them. For those who think that ancestral
spirits are hampering
progress in this modern world, they have the opportunity to be
�exorcised.� Some people see this way of �deliverance� as
cheaper than the expenses incurred in
that will be offered in the Western concept.
Second, it offers women equal
access to places of leadership within the classical
Pentecostals, who have refused to ordain women into the
pastorate. Women who exhibit some charisma can establish prayer
centers. Third, the proliferation of the deliverance ministry
has caused Classical Pentecostals and other churches to
reconsider their beliefs and practices. The prayer centers are
by many reports of miraculous phenomena over against few in the
conventional church services. Fourth, many new people, from top
government officials to the very low in society, join the
Pentecostal churches and other churches through the �witch
The positive side of this theology
of �witch demonology� does not, however, preclude a negative
assessment of it.� The negative aspects include the following.
First, accusations of witchcraft
relinquish people from acknowledging the responsibility for
their wrongdoing, their sins and their inadequacies, and putting
them on someone else, often a poor person, who becomes the enemy
of the whole community.
Yet Pentecostals claim to support the oppressive and the poor in
Thus Shorter rightly sees witchcraft accusation as
�auto-salvation or self-justification.�
Second, teachings on witchcraft and
demons, coupled with testimonies from �exorcised witches�
subject the congregate to pressures quite disproportionate to
the phenomena described. Thus people are psychologically led to
confess antisocial behaviors and nocturnal issues which baffle
their understanding as witchcraft activities. These confessions
from other members of society, and thus instead of deliverance
and healing leading to liberation, the physical and
psychological conditions of such people worsened and in extreme
cases lead to death.
Third, many of the symptoms taken
as witchcraft or spirit possession can be explained away by
In such cases repeated deliverance worsen the person�s
Fourth, the socio-economic factor
in Africa causes many people to begin prayer centers just as
means of financial support.
Since it does not need any training, certificate, or formal
recognition from a body of Christians to begin a prayer center,
charlatans and the unemployed who have strong personalities can
easily claim spiritual encounters and begin centers with a
profit motive in mind. Linked with this socio-economic factor
are the deliverance teachings at the centers, which consider
health and wholeness as the result of obedience to biblical
principles on blessing, at the neglect of biblical principle of
suffering (e.g. 2 Cor. 12:7-12; Luke 13:1-5; Rom. 8: 35-39).
This causes people to strive after modern riches at their own
Fifth, by the demonization of all
other faiths apart of the Evangelical/Pentecostal, in this
pluralistic world, neo-Pentecostals deter healthy ecumenism and
often cause unnecessary tension between Pentecostalism and other
Sixth, the process of deliverance
which often involves breaking links with families eventually
divides the traditional extended family system and promotes
Seventh, the theology of �witch
demonology� reinforces the �primitive animistic � belief system
that keep communities in servile fearfulness and hampers
progress. During my fieldwork there were many instances where
people had stopped building houses in their hometowns for fear
Eighth, the uncritical approach
adopted by both proponents and adherents of this ministry
encourage dubious people to deceive others with their
exaggerated or fabricated testimonies.
who attempt to challenge some of the testimonies are branded as
Beside, it is assumed that theologians cannot understand
�spiritual things,� and by implication cannot teach such
people. The major problem with this is that such exorcists can
lead genuine people to doom, just like the massacre of over 780
members of the Church of the Ten Commandments in Uganda in the
year AD 2000 and other cult-inspired deaths elsewhere in the
Deliverance in contemporary African
has been shown to be based on the persistent belief in
witchcraft and other spirit forces which has been culminated in
the formation of a theology called �witch demonology.� Using
the Ghanaian situation as an example, it has been demonstrated
that the theology of �witch demonology� is based on the
synthesis of both African traditional religion and
Christianity. Important aspects of this theology were seen as
the attempts to identify and exorcise demonic forces in people�
lives (whether in an individual�s life or at a corporate level)
in order for them to succeed in the contemporary world. The
complex problems that one encounters in evaluating this theology
of �witch demonology� are evident after considering both the
positive and the negative effects.
On the one hand, it takes the culture of the people into
consideration, by dealing with related beliefs and threatening
fears in their newly acquired faith, through a synthesis of both
old and new patterns. As Meyer concludes, �in contrast to the
�mission- church Christianity� [it]� offers the possibility of
approaching in safe context of deliverance what people seek to
leave behind but still disturbs them.�
Gifford also concludes that deliverance is relatively
From this positive assessment, then, the theology of �witch
demonology� represents a remarkable contribution to a paradigm
shift in Christianity in Africa. In a way, it is a further
attempt to contextualize the gospel to the African people,
beside the efforts made by the Independent Churches and the
exponents of African Theology.
Nevertheless, the assessment of the
negative effects makes this ministry very much alarming. Its
preoccupation with demons and witches shows that it is an
affirmation of the old order. They appear to have fallen into
the weaknesses of the anti-witchcraft shrines and some of the
African Independent Churches. Similar to what Sundkler observes
about the Bantu prophets in South Africa, their assertions and
promises are �more high sounding than they are sound.�
The approach may fit well into African cultural milieu, but the
emphasis is a threat to the progress of Christianity and
modernity in Africa. In spite of their rapid growth, by their
approach, they cannot bring the African out of the fear of
witchcraft and other supernatural powers. This does not mean
that this ministry should be suppressed. The discussion so far
reveals that this ministry has been progressive among the
African peoples and suppression had never been successful.
Rather, this is to suggest that it is an incomplete ministry,
which needs theological analysis of the spirit-world to
complement it. This theological analysis, therefore, needs to
be the concern of African Pentecostal theologians.