Nature alive: Amazonian religion in Peru

book cover ReganThe Amazon rainforest has always been a land filled with mystery since its ‘discovery’. Ranging from the first expedition of the conquistador Francisco de Orellana, to the establishment of Jesuit missions across the Marañon river, and the naturalistic explorations of Humboldt and la Condamine, it still feels as if it has more to be known.

This was also the case for the earliest ‘ethnographic’ records of Gaspar de Carvajal and Francisco de Figueroa . As was often the case with Spanish chroniclers, they ‘misunderstood’ the ‘indigenous’ way of thinking, in some cases even labeling them as atheists (Regan: 2015). In time, this would change, in part because of the continuing social interaction (between missionaries, laymen, other indigenous groups, and so on) but also in more recent times, because of the ethnographic research undertaken by many different anthropologists. This has enabled a more comprehensive knowledge about the beliefs and way of life of the Amazonian indigenous people. In this podcast, Dr Jaime Regan Mainville, a leading researcher in the anthropology of religion and linguistics, discusses his ethnographic research among some of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin; namely the kukama, the awajún, and the wampís, among others.

Regan argues that one particular characteristic of Amazonian  belief is highlighted above the rest: close links with the environment. Amazonian identity and belief systems are articulated into what Philippe Descola and other anthropologists have regarded as animism (Regan: 2015). Of course, these beliefs haven’t remained ‘untouched’ or ‘pure’, but have been particularly influenced by encounters with Jesuits and Franciscans during the sixteenth century. The interview continues to focus upon some of the impacts of this these encounters upon existing belief systems, practices and cosmologies (cf. Regan: 2001).

remate-libro-a-la-sombra-de-los-cerros-las-raices-513001-MPE20264898860_032015-F (1)In the final part of the interview Regan states that the indigenous way of life has drastically changed, because of the Peruvian state’s oil exploration policy s, combined with illegal mining and logging. For example, in the case of oil exploration, in June 2009 the “Baguazo” or Bagua conflict took place in part due to failed attempts at consultation and negotiation between with indigenous leaders of the Amazon region (mostly awajún and wampís) and the Peruvian state: Regan traces this to a conflict of worldviews (Regan: 2010).

Listeners might also be interested in our previous podcasts on Andean Religion in Peru, Vernacular Religion, and the category of “indigenous religion”. You can download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us . And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com, or Amazon.ca links to support us at no additional cost when buying academic texts, stuffed animals, gobstoppers, and more..


Of Demons, Saints and Heaven: Andean religious beliefs in Peru

What happens when two vastly different civilizations meet each other? History tells us that on the one hand, they could make war or, on the other, begin to establish kinship or state alliances. The colonization process of Peru is one that had a lot of the first, and a bit of the second. Just as the people came to conflict, so did their gods. However, the local gods who lost this conflict did not vanish in oblivion, but remained in other forms, even in some places in their original one.

In his interview with Sidney Castillo, Dr. Luis Millones discusses some of the traditions that have formed the basis for his research, particularly in the northern coast, northern highlands and south highlands of Peru. He mentions that, with the impact of colonization, many of the indigenous beliefs were replaced or mixed (to some extent), in order to facilitate the installation of a status quo that incorporated many of the ethnic groups’s beliefs (among other, more ‘earthly’ institutions) that were present prior to the Spaniards’ arrival (Millones 2005). And this is when when different traditions emerge commonly know as folklore (see also vernacular religion).

Ranging from different conceptions of the devil – less as a punisher and more as a trickster (Millones & López Austin 2013) – to the festival in honor of Felipe, Santiago de Zebedeo’s horse (Millones 2015), and from Jesus as a punisher, and the existence of an actual hell on earth (Millones 2010), to being joyful at children’s funerals (Millones 2007), Dr. Millones provides a clear articulation of how these local beliefs makes sense in everyday life. Fortunately, in this worldview, one thing is for sure: we all will go to heaven.

Listeners may also be interested in our previous podcasts on vernacular religion (in general, and in the US)situational belief, the category of ‘indigenous’, Meso-American religion

You can download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us . And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com, or Amazon.ca links to support us at no additional cost when buying academic texts, tea bags, exercise machines and more!


  • Millones, L. (2010). Después de la muerte. Voces del Limbo y el Infierno en territorio andino. Lima: Fondo Editorial del Congreso del Perú.
  • Millones, L. (2005). Ensayos de historia andina. Lima: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos-Fondo Editorial.
  • Millones, L. (2015). “Las muchas caras de Santiago, por Luis Millones”. El Comercio. Lima, 01 of August. Accesed on: 04 de agosto de 2015.http://elcomercio.pe/opinion/columnistas/muchas-caras-santiago-luis-millones-noticia-1829935
  • Millones, L. (2007). Todos los niños van al cielo. Lima: Instituto Riva Agüero.
  • Millones, L. & Lopez Austin, A. (2013). Cuernos y colas. Reflexiones en torno al Demonio en los Andes y Mesoamérica. Lima: Asamblea Nacional de Rectores.

African Christianity in the West

‘Africa’. ‘Christianity’. ‘The West’. Three seemingly simple terms with clear referents. Three categories which – perhaps unsurprisingly, to regular listeners of the RSP – have been, and continue to be, associated with and invoked in support of myriad competing agendas, truth claims, ideologies, and more.

In telling the story of the complex interrelationship between these terms, some might point to the Berlin Conference of 1884/5 as a defining moment marking the beginning of intensive Euro-American Christian mission to Africa. Others might direct attention to the fact that Christianity has been present in Africa almost since its emergence, with three of the best known figures of the early church – Anthony (c. 285-356), Athanasius (296-373) and Augustine (354-430) – living and working in the north of the continent. Still others might prefer a more contemporary approach, focusing upon the Christianities that can be discerned among communities of African origin in Diaspora. This week’s podcast focuses upon the latter.

In this interview with Chris, Dr Afe Adogame of the University of Edinburgh provides a stimulating introduction to this vast and complicated triad.

Discussion covers a wide range of questions, including:

  • What makes African Christianity ‘African’? Is it only for ‘Africans’? Who decides? Why do we take this huge continent as a single entity?
  • If African Christianity is particularly non- or anti-Western, how does this manifest itself in the West? Is it also non-African (i.e. non-indigenous?)
  • Does referring to ‘African Christianity in the West’ or even ‘African Christianity’ in general perpetuate racial divides, systems of exclusivity?
  • What is the public image of African Christianity in the West? Is there one?
  • What does the study of African Christianity – in the West or elsewhere – bring to the study of ‘religion’ in general?

This interview was originally conceived as a kind of two-parter with an interview on ‘African Indigenous Traditions in the West’ which has, as yet, not occurred. Of course, it must be stated that ‘Christianity’ and ‘Indigenous Traditions’ are not the full story of ‘religion’ in Africa, with one glaring omission being ‘Islam’ amongst others. However, due to time constraints this interview will focus almost exclusively on ‘Christianity’ and we shall attempt to rectify this in the future.

You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com or Amazon.ca links to support us at no additional cost when buying books, cooking utensils, waistcoats, stuffed animals, and more.

The Uses of “Indigenous Religion”

Since the 1980s, the category of “Indigenous Religion” – or “Religions” – has become a staple feature of the terminology of the study of religion. But what do we mean when we use it? Is it necessarily tied to a particular geographical area? Or something which originates with a particular ethnic group, or something that belongs to all ethnic groups across space and time? To complicate this further, the term has “gone native”, and is increasingly being mobilised in political and legal debates.

In this interview, Bjørn Ola Tafjord of the University of Tromsø tells David Robertson about the various uses of “Indigenous Religion”, and the theoretical issues which arise from them. Through his work with the Bribris in Talamanca, Tafjord demonstrates how claims to indigeneity are in no way as static, exclusive or obvious as they can at times be presented. Finally, he suggests a way forward, by using the term self-consciously as a relational term.

You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.ukAmazon.ca, or Amazon.com links to support us at no additional cost when you have a purchase to make.

Further reading:

The report that David mentions in the interview is here, courtesy of occupy.com