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Celibacy in African Traditional Religion: The Case of Zimbabwe

Collis Garikai Machoko


The research findings indicate that most Zimbabweans believe that permanent celibacy as practiced by Catholic priests is unZimbabwean and that only ascribed celibacy was practiced in Zimbabwe. Research viewing the social, economic, political, spiritual and ethical roles of celibacy from ATR perspectives indicates that celibacy in ATR is a result of social and economic factors, and not an import of Christian religion. The conclusion is that only ascribed celibacy was practiced in Zimbabwe and also that celibacy within the indigenous religion of Zimbabwe is voluntarily sought for material, social and spiritual benefits. I argue that ascribed/notional celibacy in Zimbabwe’s African Traditional Religion (ATR) is not an innovation of Christianity. I further maintain that permanent celibacy which was practiced in Zimbabwe was done by regional and family spirit mediums who were possessed by the spirits of deceased chiefs or family members until they die, or they had occasional ritual sexual intercourse with a relative or a chief in order to strengthen the chiefdom (kupinga nyika) or to bring financial and material wealth to one’s family.


zimbabwe; african traditional religion; celibacy; christianity; spirit

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Journal on African Philosophy. ISSN: 1533-1067 (online).
Editor: Olufemi Taiwo.

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