Dammed divinities : the water powers at Bujagali Falls, Uganda

Upphovsperson: Oestigaard, Terje
Utgivare: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Agrarian Change, Property and Resources | Uppsala
År: 2015
Ämnesord: Uganda, Nile river, Dams, Water power, conflicts, Traditional religion, Cultural heritage, Belief, rituals
The damming of Bujagali Falls, located only 8 kilometers north of the historic source of the White Nile or the outlet of Lake Victoria, has been seen as one of the most controversial dams in modern times. In 2012, the dam was eventually inaugurated after years of anti-dam opposition and delays. A unique aspect of the controversies was the river spirit Budhagaali living in the falls blocking the dam and opposing the destruction of the waterfalls. This spirits embodies a particular healer – Jaja Bujagali, but he was bypassed by another healer who conducted no less than three grandiose appeasement and relocation ceremonies for the Budhagaali spirit clearing the way for the dam. Why has this particular dam been so controversial? How can a water spirit block a nearly billion dollar dam? What was the ritual drama behind the construction of the dam and is it possible to move a spirit? And what happened to Budhagaali and the indigenous religion after the falls were flooded and can a river spirit be drowned in its own element – water?

Gish Abay – the source of the Blue Nile

Upphovspersoner: Oestigaard, Terje | Abawa Firew, Gedef
Utgivare: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Agrarian Change, Property and Resources | University of Bergen | Southampton. Boston
År: 2011
Ämnesord: Blue Nile, Gish Abay, ox sacrifice, Religion, rituals, source, water, History of religion, Religionshistoria
The river Nile is by many seen as the most important river in the world. The source of the Blue Nile is a spring called Gish Abay in Ethiopia. This is the source of Gilgal Abay (meaning the little Abay), which is the most voluminous of the some sixty rivers flowing into Lake Tana. Although the Nile Quest has attracted emperors and explorers alike since Antiquity, after the sources of the Nile were discovered the majority of studies have focused on hydrology and not on cultural and religious aspects of the river. Gish Abay has been seen as the outlet of the river Gihon flowing directly from Paradise linking this world with Heaven. The holiness of Abay and the source in particular have had and still have an important role in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Moreover, before the source was Christianised it had a central role in the indigenous religion where lavish ox sacrifices were conducted. Thus, in this article we highlight the ritual and religious role of Gish Abay in a historic perspective.


Upphovsperson: Oestigaard, Terje
Utgivare: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Agrarian Change, Property and Resources | Oxford
År: 2011
Ämnesord: water, Religion, rituals, Archaeology, Archaeology, Arkeologi
Water in the archaeology of ritual and religion includes water as a perspective and water as empirical data. The life-giving waters in society and religion are the fresh waters in their many facets in the hydrological cycle. Water is always in a flux. The fluid matter changes qualities and capacities wherever it is, and it always takes new forms. This transformative character of water is forcefully used in ritual practices and religious constructions. Water represents the one and the many at the same time, and the plurality of ritual institutionalizations and religious perceptions puts emphasis on water’s structuring principles and processes in culture and the cosmos. Water is fundamental in many ritual practices and to conceptions of the divinities and cosmos in prehistoric religions, and consequently the study of water in ritual and religion may reveal insights into both what religion is and how devotees perceive themselves, the divine spheres, and their own religious practices and rituals. The pervasive role of water-worlds in society and cosmos unites micro and macro cosmos, creates life, and legitimizes social hierarchies and religious practices and beliefs. Water is a medium which links or changes totally different aspects of humanity and divinities into a coherent unit; it bridges paradoxes, transcends the differenthuman and divine realms, allows interactions with gods, and enables the divinities to interfere with humanity. Water is a medium for everything—it has human character because we are humans; it is a social matter but also a spiritual substance and divine manifestation with immanent powers; and, still, it belongs to the realm of nature as a fluid liquid. The hydrological cycle links all places and spheres together, and water transcends the common categories by which we conceptualize the world and cosmos (Tvedt and Oestigaard 2006). The religious water-worlds, cosmologies, beliefs, and ritual practices are evident in the archaeological record, mythology, and written sources. Hence, it is necessaryto identify different types of water, the particular qualities associated with each of them,and how water materializes as religious and ritual structures, practices, and beliefs.