Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Women and Religious Authority in Ethiopia: Ethiopian High Priestess Abebech Wuletu at the Crossroads

Serawit Bekele Debele


The position and role of women as founders and leaders of religious congregations is under studied in Ethiopia. Whilst they are depicted as receivers of religious services, their role in forming congregations and taking up positions of authority are less emphasized. Drawing on the life of Abebech Wuletu, a priestess and founder of a galma (a shrine dedicated to a benevolent spirit), this article examines the career of a woman religious figure in Ethiopia in the context of changing political regimes. By unearthing the life of Wuletu who formed a formidable religious congregation, this article bridges the gap in the representation of women in discourses on religious leadership in Ethiopia. As well, the study sheds light and initiates further studies, on women’s success stories instead of dwelling on narrations of victimhood. The description and analysis are based on the data obtained from field work conducted in Ethiopia in 2008 and 2012.


Women; Religion; Orthodox Christianity; Deprivatization

Full Text:


JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

Published by Africa Resource Center, Inc. All inquiries about rights, permissions, reprints and license should be directed to AfricaResource.

Copyright © Africa Resource Center, Inc., 1999 - .