In August 1986, Alice Auma, a young Acholi woman in northern Uganda, proclaiming herself under the orders of a Christian spirit named Lakwena, raised an army called the “Holy Spirit Mobile Forces.” With it she waged a war against perceived evil, not only an external enemy represented by the National Resistance Army of the government, but internal enemies in the form of “impure” soldiers, witches, and sorcerers. She came very close to her goal of overthrowing the government but was defeated and fled to Kenya.
This book provides a unique view of Alice’s movement, based on interviews with its members and including their own writings, examining their perceptions of the threat of external and internal evil. It concludes with an account of the successor movements into which Alice’s forces fragmented and which still are active in the civil wars of the Sudan and Uganda.
Angels live in communities, wear clothes, and have no wings! So said Emanuel Swedenborg, Swedish scientist and seer who, for the last twenty-seven years of his life, visited heaven and hell almost daily and met angels and evil spirits. Swedenborg's visions and the meaning they can have in our lives are explained in this remarkable book. Author Robert H. Kirven also shows how angels work for us from birth through death and how we can be angels on earth.
"Fascinating. . . . A fun and thorough look at how humans have tried to communicate with the dead over time."—Library Journal
"An impressive piece of research. . . . A must-read for anyone fascinated with Spiritualism."—Alma Katsu, author of The Deep and The Hunger
Calling the Spirits investigates the eerie history of our conversations with the dead, from necromancy in Homer’s Odyssey to the emergence of Spiritualism, when Victorians were entranced by mediums and the seance was born.
Among our cast are the Fox sisters, teenagers surrounded by “spirit rappings;” Daniel Dunglas Home, the “greatest medium of all time;” Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose unlikely friendship was forged, then riven, by the afterlife; and Helen Duncan, the medium whose trial in 1944 for witchcraft proved more popular to the public than news about the war.
The book also considers Ouija boards, modern psychics and paranormal investigations, and is illustrated with engravings, fine art (from beyond), and photographs. A hugely entertaining contribution from the supernaturally adept Lisa Morton, Calling the Spirits begs the question: is anybody there . . . ?
A highly original study that examines the central role played by women as mediums, healers, and believers during the golden age of spiritualism in the late Victorian era, The Darkened Room is more than a meditation on women mediums—it's an exploration of the era's gender relations.
The hugely popular spiritualist movement, which maintained that women were uniquely qualified to commune with spirits of the dead, offered female mediums a new independence, authority, and potential to undermine conventional class and gender relations in the home and in society.
Using previously unexamined sources and an innovative approach, Alex Owen invokes the Victorian world of darkened séance rooms, theatrical apparitions, and moving episodes of happiness lost and regained. She charts the struggles between spiritualists and the medical and legal establishments over the issue of female mediumship, and provides new insights into the gendered dynamics of Victorian society.
Often dismissed as a nineteenth-century curiosity, spiritualism influenced the radical social and political movements of its time. Believers filled the ranks of the Free Democrats, agitated for land and monetary reform, fought for abolition, and held egalitarian leanings that found powerful expression in campaigns for gender and racial equality. In Free Spirits , Mark A. Lause considers spiritualism as a political and cultural force in Civil War-era America. Lause reveals the scope, spread, and influence of the movement, both in its links to reformist causes and its ability to amplify previously marginalized voices. Rooting spiritualism's appeal in the crises of the time, Lause considers how spiritualist influences, through the distillation of the war, forced reassessments of the question of Radical Republicanism and radicalism in general. He also delves into unexplored areas such as the movement's role in Lincoln's reelection and the relationship between Native Americans and spiritualists.
In this exceptional book, Kucich reveals through his readings of literary and historical accounts that spiritualism helped shape the terms by which Native American, European, and African cultures interacted in America from the earliest days of contact through the present. Beginning his study with a provocative juxtaposition of the Pueblo Indian Revolt and the Salem Witchcraft trials of the seventeenth century, Kucich examin[e]s how both events forged “contact zones”— spaces of intense cultural conflict and negotiation—mediated by spiritualism. Kucich goes on to chronicle how a diverse group of writers used spiritualism to reshape a range of such contact zones. These include Rochester, New York, where Harriet Jacobs adapted the spirit rappings of the Fox Sisters and the abolitionist writings of Frederick Douglass as she crafted her own story of escape from slavery; mid-century periodicals from the Atlantic Monthly to the Cherokee Advocate to the Anglo-African Magazine; post-bellum representations of the afterlife by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Mark Twain and the Native Americans who developed the Ghost Dance; turn-of-the-century local color fiction by writers like Sarah Orne Jewett, Charles Chesnutt and Maria Cristina Mena; and the New England reformist circles traced in Henry James’s The Bostonians and Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood. Kucich’s conclusion looks briefly at New Age spiritualism, then considers the implications of a cross-cultural scholarship that draws on a variety of critical methodologies, from border and ethnic studies to feminism to post-colonialism and the public sphere. The implications of this study, which brings well-known, canonical writers and lesser-known writers into conversation with one another, are broadly relevant to the resurgent interest in religious studies and American cultural studies in general.
In the Presence of Angels
Andrea R. Garrison Swedenborg Foundation Publishers, 2013 Library of Congress BL73.G37A3 2013 | Dewey Decimal 204.092
In October 2004, Andrea Garrison’s mother, Mattie Pearl, passed into the spiritual world. The weeks leading up to her crossing were a powerful time for Andrea and the rest of her family as Mattie Pearl shared her love, her insights, and her visions of heaven with those around her.
Andrea knew from the time she was a little girl that there was a spiritual reality beyond what we could see, and her mother encouraged her to explore different understandings of the Divine. As an adult, Andrea encountered the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and was struck by the similarities between his theology and her experiences. Her quest to find others who knew about the Swedish mystic led her to new friends and, ultimately, a deeper exploration of her family history.
Originally published as The Crossing Over of Mattie Pearl, this expanded edition tells more about Andrea’s family history, including the role her father played in her life, as well as her reflections on Emanuel Swedenborg. Anyone who has mourned the loss of a loved one or been curious about the other side will be inspired and uplifted by this true story of a remarkable woman.
Just one generation ago, the Sora tribe in India lived in a world populated by the spirits of their dead, who spoke to them through shamans in trance. Every day, they negotiated their wellbeing in heated arguments or in quiet reflections on their feelings of love, anger, and guilt.
Today, young Sora are rejecting the worldview of their ancestors and switching their allegiance to warring sects of fundamentalist Christianity or Hinduism. Communion with ancestors is banned as sacred sites are demolished, female shamans are replaced by male priests, and debate with the dead gives way to prayer to gods. For some, this shift means liberation from jungle spirits through literacy, employment, and democratic politics; others despair for fear of being forgotten after death.
How can a society abandon one understanding of reality so suddenly and see the world in a totally different way? Over forty years, anthropologist Piers Vitebsky has shared the lives of shamans, pastors, ancestors, gods, policemen, missionaries, and alphabet worshippers, seeking explanations from social theory, psychoanalysis, and theology. Living without the Dead lays bare today’s crisis of indigenous religions and shows how historical reform can bring new fulfillments—but also new torments and uncertainties.
Vitebsky explores the loss of the Sora tradition as one for greater humanity: just as we have been losing our wildernesses, so we have been losing a diverse range of cultural and spiritual possibilities, tribe by tribe. From the award-winning author of The Reindeer People, this is a heartbreaking story of cultural change and the extinction of an irreplaceable world, even while new religious forms come into being to take its place.
In Mormonism we are sometimes seemingly casual
about death: it’s a veil or a mission call to the spirit
world. But our actual encounters with the reality of
death inevitably change us in ways that are difficult
In this collection, Mormon writers wrestle with
mortality and its aftermath. A family sings a hesitant
rendition of Happy Birthday to a grief-stricken
mother who buried her toddler just a few hours earlier;
an agnostic son decides he’s Mormon enough to
arrange a funeral for his believing father.
Some essays use death as a means to understand
faith. One author imagines a world where Heavenly
Mother visits her children in the form of their
female ancestors, appearing to her descendants in
times of grief or pain.
Others address practicalities: how do you protect
your children from death while still allowing them
to experience the world; how do you get through
one more nausea-ridden day of cancer treatment?
Still others delve into death’s questions: does the
overwhelming suffering that occurs in the animal
kingdom have a function in the “plan of happiness”?
Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking,
always thought-provoking, these personal essays,
poems, and stories may never be heard at a Mormon
funeral. But they probably should be.
When St. Louis homemaker Pearl Curran began writing fiction and poetry at a Ouija board in 1913, she attributed the work to the “discarnate entity” Patience Worth, a seventeenth-century Puritan. Though now virtually forgotten, her writing garnered both critical praise and public popularity at the time. The Patience of Pearl uncovers more of Curran’s (and thus Patience Worth’s) biography than has been known before; Daniel B. Shea provides close readings of the Patience-dictated writings and explores the historical and local context, applying current cognitive and neuro-psychology research.
Though Pearl Curran had only a ninth-grade education, Patience Worth was able to dictate a biblical novel and a Victorian novel. Echoes of Dickens and the Potters, a circle of St. Louis women writers, make clear that Patience Worth reflects literary debts that go as far back as Curran being read to as a child. Shea argues that the workings of implicit memory suggest the medium’s creative achievements were her own body’s property. Curran also had musical training, and recent developments in the field of psychology regarding the overlap between musical and linguistic rhythms of regularity, anticipation, and surprise supply a firm foundation for attributing skills both automatic and creative to Curran. Her reflections on her doubleness in her self-study anticipate the many-personed Ouija board writing of poet James Merrill.
Shea approaches Curran/Worth as a summary figure for the Victorian-era woman writer’s buried voice at the point of its transition into modernism. He investigates many lingering questions about Curran’s fluent productivity at the Ouija board, including the “smart” versus “dumb” unconscious. Shea links unconscious memory, dissociation, and automatic writing and reconsiders problematic assumptions about individual identity and claims of personal agency. The Curran/Worth Puritan/writer figure also allows scrutiny of gendered assumptions about the dangers of female speech and the idealization of women’s passive reception of divine, or husbandly, revelation.
Novelistic in its own way, Curran’s life included three husbands and a child adopted on command from Patience Worth. Pearl Curran enjoyed a brief period of celebrity in Los Angeles before her death in 1937. The Patience of Pearl once again brings her the attention she deserves—for her life, her writing, and her place in women’s literary history.
In 2005, Tony Perman attended a ceremony alongside the living and the dead. His visit to a Zimbabwe farm brought him into contact with the madhlozi, outsider spirits that Ndau people rely upon for guidance, protection, and their collective prosperity.
Perman's encounters with the spirits, the mediums who bring them back, and the accompanying rituals form the heart of his ethnographic account of how the Ndau experience ceremonial musicking. As Perman witnessed other ceremonies, he discovered that music and dancing shape the emotional lives of Ndau individuals by inviting them to experience life's milestones or cope with its misfortunes as a group. Signs of the Spirit explores the historical, spiritual, and social roots of ceremonial action and details how that action influences the Ndau's collective approach to their future. The result is a vivid ethnomusicological journey that delves into the immediacy of musical experience and the forces that transform ceremonial performance into emotions and community.
Talking to the Dead is an ethnography of seven Gullah/Geechee women from the South Carolina lowcountry. These women communicate with their ancestors through dreams, prayer, and visions and traditional crafts and customs, such as storytelling, basket making, and ecstatic singing in their churches. Like other Gullah/Geechee women of the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, these women, through their active communication with the deceased, make choices and receive guidance about how to live out their faith and engage with the living. LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant emphasizes that this communication affirms the women's spiritual faith—which seamlessly integrates Christian and folk traditions—and reinforces their position as powerful culture keepers within Gullah/Geechee society. By looking in depth at this long-standing spiritual practice, Manigault-Bryant highlights the subversive ingenuity that lowcountry inhabitants use to thrive spiritually and to maintain a sense of continuity with the past.
Three Spiritualist Novels
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps University of Illinois Press, 2000 Library of Congress PS3142.A6 2000 | Dewey Decimal 813.4
This volume brings together for the first time three novels that illustrate the distinguished American writer Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's enduring interest in the afterlife. The daughter of a Calvinist minister, Phelps could not reconcile herself to the idea of a heaven full of spirits who had cut their ties to those left behind on Earth. Rather, she became convinced of the viability of the Spiritualist view that a vital link to earthly life continues in the hereafter.
Articulating an alternative to conservative church doctrine, Phelps assured her readers--many of them women bereft of their loved ones by the Civil War--that Spiritualist ideas about the afterlife were not fundamentally at odds with Scripture. Like the protagonist of The Gates Ajar, these readers wanted to believe "something actual, something pleasant" about the world to come, not "glittering generalities" about a "dreadful Heaven" where their loved ones were too busy singing and worshiping to have any thought of those left behind.
All three of the novels collected here--The Gates Ajar (1868), Beyond the Gates (1883), and The Gates Between (1887)--describe heaven as a perfected version of earthly life and the afterlife as a chance to make up for opportunities squandered on Earth. A grieving sister finds consolation in the Spiritualist idea of a continued connection with her beloved brother; a dying woman finds her soulmate in the afterlife; an erring husband makes amends across the line between the living and the dead.
Tremendously popular in Phelps's lifetime, these novels offer a way of reconciling human beings to earthly loss and sorrow, assuring readers of an afterlife both restorative and compensatory. They also provide an intriguing look at a phenomenon that preoccupied nineteenth-century America and continues to fascinate us in the twenty-first century.
"A brilliant mixture of story, philosophy, humor and wisdom, this book reminds us that---if we are open to story, dreams, imagination, and myth---we can open doors within our soul."
—Jay O’Callahan, author, storyteller, and NPR commentator
A lifetime collection of stories, wise words, assembled musings and quotations about overcoming hurdles, elusive enlightenment, personal evolution, persistence in the face of discouragement, this pastiche is designed to encourage the downhearted, lift up the strivers, and add wings to the heels of spiritual seekers.
WINDOW TO ETERNITY
BRUCE HENDERSON Swedenborg Foundation Publishers, 2010 Library of Congress BX8729.F8H46 2010 | Dewey Decimal 236.2
What happens to us when we die? Is there really a heaven and hell? Are there angels watching over us? These questions follow us from early childhood to old age, particularly in moments when we’re confronted with the loss of a loved one.
In Window to Eternity, Bruce Henderson draws from the teachings of visionary Emanuel Swedenborg to paint a vivid picture of heaven and hell, where the souls of the departed become angels and demons and indescribable wonders await. But far from being a distant destination, Henderson shows that heaven is a choice that each of us makes every day—ours to have or to turn away from, regardless of our background or religious upbringing.
Imagine a stage full of black cats emitting electrical sparks, a man catching bullets with his teeth, or an evangelist jumping on a transformer to shoot bolts of lightning through his fingertips. These and other wild schemes were part of the repertoire of showmen who traveled from city to city, making presentations that blended science with myth and magic.
In Wonder Shows, Fred Nadis offers a colorful history of these traveling magicians, inventors, popular science lecturers, and other presenters of “miracle science” who revealed science and technology to the public in awe-inspiring fashion. The book provides an innovative synthesis of the history of performance with a wider study of culture, science, and religion from the antebellum period to the present.
It features a lively cast of characters, including electrical “wizards” Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison, vaudeville performers such as Harry Houdini, mind readers, UFO cultists, and practitioners of New Age science. All of these performers developed strategies for invoking cultural authority to back their visions of science and progress. The pseudo-science in their wonder shows helped promote a romantic worldview that called into question the absolute authority of scientific materialism while reaffirming the importance of human spirituality. Nadis argues that the sensation that these entertainers provided became an antidote to the alienation and dehumanization that accompanied the rise of modern America.
Although most recent defenders of science are prone to reject wonder, considering it an ally of ignorance and superstition, Wonder Shows demonstrates that the public’s passion for magic and meaning is still very much alive. Today, sales continue to be made and allegiances won based on illusions that products are unique, singular, and at best, miraculous. Nadis establishes that contemporary showmen, corporate publicists, advertisers, and popular science lecturers are not that unlike the magicians and mesmerists of years ago.
In the Afro-Cuban Lukumi religious tradition—more commonly known in the United States as Santería—entrants into the priesthood undergo an extraordinary fifty-three-week initiation period. During this time, these novices—called iyawo—endure a host of prohibitions, including most notably wearing exclusively white clothing. In A Year in White, sociologist C. Lynn Carr, who underwent this initiation herself, opens a window on this remarkable year-long religious transformation.
In her intimate investigation of the “year in white,” Carr draws on fifty-two in-depth interviews with other participants, an online survey of nearly two hundred others, and almost a decade of her own ethnographic fieldwork, gathering stories that allow us to see how cultural newcomers and natives thought, felt, and acted with regard to their initiation. She documents how, during the iyawo year, the ritual slowly transforms the initiate’s identity. For the first three months, for instance, the iyawo may not use a mirror, even to shave, and must eat all meals while seated on a mat on the floor using only a spoon and their own set of dishes. During the entire year, the iyawo loses their name and is simply addressed as “iyawo” by family and friends.
Carr also shows that this year-long religious ritual—which is carried out even as the iyawo goes about daily life—offers new insight into religion in general, suggesting that the sacred is not separable from the profane and indeed that religion shares an ongoing dynamic relationship with the realities of everyday life. Religious expression happens at home, on the streets, at work and school.
Offering insight not only into Santería but also into religion more generally, A Year in White makes an important contribution to our understanding of complex, dynamic religious landscapes in multicultural, pluralist societies and how they inhabit our daily lives.