The thing about African religion is that it's very dynamic and astonishing. To see someone possessed by the spirit and actually become a god and handle burning coal with impunity and cut into the skin and so on—your reaction is either fear or disbelief for those of us who don't know our god in this direct way.
There's no question that in African religion there are very theatrical displays of faith.
The reason you cut yourself or handle burning embers is to show that a person taken over by the god is a god and can't be harmed.
There are things like animal sacrifice that we get very upset about. Well, actually what's going on there is—as in many religious traditions—a sense that disease or misfortune must be addressed by reestablishing energetic equilibrium. So you make an offering, and that offering is something precious to you, whether it be human blood or animal blood.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Via National Geographic