Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 February 2013
This chapter presents the history of the Uganda Martyrs Guild (UMG) and traces the Guild's emergence as an anti-witchcraft movement in Tooro. I will explore various body techniques of the UMG through which the Holy Spirit, associated with air and/or electricity, was mediated in the fight against evil. This examination is continued in the following chapter, focusing on the processes of mediation. I am interested in the Catholicized Pentecostal ‘aesthetics of persuasion’ (Meyer 2010) and the creation of the UMG as a ‘pneumatic community’, in which, above all, the power of the Holy Spirit became accessed and shared. Further, this chapter deals with the (dis)continuities and reformulations of certain Christian body techniques in the UMG as opposed to the (pagan) Embandwa spirit possession cults. Although radically refusing their own ‘pagan traditions’, members of the UMG – often unintentionally – reworked a common and widely held stock of ideas about the invisible world, its agents and the body in Christian practices.
HISTORY OF THE UGANDA MARTYRS GUILD
In 1885 and 1886, in Buganda under King Mwanga, a number of young Catholics, Protestants and Muslims working as pages at the king's court were brutally beheaded, speared, hacked into pieces, and burned. The reasons for this persecution are still heavily debated (Hyam 1990; Faupel 1962; Kassimir 1991). Since that time, the Catholic Church has attempted to make the Catholic victims the focus of a cult of martyrs, interpreting them as the followers of older African martyrs such as Perpetua, Felicity, and Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage.