Wild Religion is a wild ride through recent South African history from the advent of democracy in 1994 to the euphoria of the football World Cup in 2010. In the context of South Africa’s political journey and religious diversity, David Chidester explores African indigenous religious heritage with a difference. As the spiritual dimension of an African Renaissance, indigenous religion has been recovered in South Africa as a national resource. Wild Religion analyzes indigenous rituals of purification on Robben Island, rituals of healing and reconciliation at the new national shrine, Freedom Park, and rituals of animal sacrifice at the World Cup. Not always in the national interest, indigenous religion also appears in the wild religious creativity of prison gangs, the global spirituality of neo-shamans, the ceremonial display of Zulu virgins, the ancient Egyptian theosophy in South Africa’s Parliament, and the new traditionalism of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma. Arguing that the sacred is produced through the religious work of intensive interpretation, formal ritualization, and intense contestation, Chidester develops innovative insights for understanding the meaning and power of religion in a changing society. For anyone interested in religion, Wild Religion uncovers surprising dynamics of sacred space, violence, fundamentalism, heritage, media, sex, sovereignty, and the political economy of the sacred.
Wild Religion Tracking the Sacred in South Africa
In his harrowing account of South Africa's first democratic election in 1994, which was nearly derailed by political opponents and logistical complexity, Peter Harris, head of the Monitoring Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission, turned to religious language. As people stood in long lines to cast their vote, he noted that "the atmosphere is almost one of devotion." Especially for black voters, who had been excluded from democratic participation, the election was redemptive, as Harris observed: "No one wants to miss this time, this day of redemption." Sixteen years later, when South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, devotees of football from all over the world celebrated a sacred festival during what has been called "holy FIFA month." Wild Religion tracks the sacred in South Africa between these two sacred times marked by the advent of democracy in 1994 and the celebration of the World Cup in 2010.
Religion is important in South Africa: according to a 2010 Pew Forum study, 74 percent of South Africans regard it as very important in their lives. And although nearly 80 percent of South Africans claim allegiance to Christianity, South Africa is a multireligious country, home to a variety of religious traditions-indigenous African, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and others-that have established strong, vital constituencies. With a deep and enduring African religious heritage, South Africa is a country that embraces all the major "world religions." Each of these religions, including Christianity, is a diverse category, encompassing many different understandings of religious life. At the same time, many South Africans draw their understanding of the world, ethical principles, and human values from sources independent of religious institutions. In the most profound matters of life orientation, diversity is a fact of South African national life.
Given the diversity of language, culture, and religion in South Africa, the postapartheid government led by the African National Congress (ANC), which came to office after the first democratic election of 1994, has sought ways to turn diversity from a potential obstacle to nationalism into a national resource, seeking not uniformity but unity, as the new coat of arms urges with its motto "Diverse people unite." Endeavoring to come to terms with the legacy of apartheid, the South African government has worked to find new ways of transforming the vicious divisions of the past into the vital diversity of a free, open, and democratic society.
Under the formula "Unity in diversity," the successive ANC administrations of Presidents Nelson Mandela (1994-99), Thabo Mbeki (1999-2008), and Jacob Zuma (2009-present) have tried to manage religious diversity in the national interest. While maintaining a "religion desk"-the Commission on Religious Affairs, which in 2009 became the Commission on Religious and Traditional Affairs-the ANC has also formed interreligious reference groups such as the National Religious Leaders Forum (established in 1997) and the National Interfaith Leaders Council (established in 2009) to mobilize support from the religious sector. Although religion is conventionally identified with that sector of society occupied by specialized institutions dealing in transcendence, wild religion is not contained in churches, mosques, temples, or synagogues. It is not controlled by traditional authorities, defined by census takers, or managed by modern states.
Wild is not a stable term with a fixed referent; its meanings are situational, relational, and contested. One person's wilderness might be another person's home; one person's wild man is another's shaman. Nevertheless, by focusing on the dynamics of the sacred-that which is set apart, but set apart at the center of personal subjectivities and social collectivities-we can identify certain characteristic features of wild religion in South Africa. Here is my central argument: the sacred is produced in relation to wild forces. Sacred space and time, sacred roles, rituals, and objects, are created by both excluding and incorporating the wild. This dual dynamics of the sacred, excluding and incorporating, exorcising and domesticating, is inherent in the duality of the wild. On the one hand, the wild stands as obstacle to maintaining social order. The wild is untamed, undomesticated, uncultivated, unrestrained, unruly, and dangerous. A sacralized social order, whether domestic, public, civil, national, or global, can be produced in opposition to the perceived dangers of wildly threatening forces. On the other hand, the wild stands as energy for creating social order. The wild is dynamic, natural, extraordinary, enthusiastic, ecstatic, and invigorating. In this respect, a sacralized social order can be produced by appropriating or integrating the perceived vitality of wildly energizing forces.
The chapters of this book give substance to the wild ambiguity of the sacred. As we will see, wild religion encompasses the bad, the good, and the ugly in the sacred dynamics of society.
First, as bad, the wild registers as antagonistic to human projects. The wild appears as opposition in African traditional religion. Distinguishing between home space, which is built up by ongoing relations with ancestors, and the wild space of the forest, veld, or desert, indigenous African cosmologies have associated the wild with dangerous, disruptive forces. The wild also appears as opposition in ideologies of European colonialism. Following the first colonial settlement of the Cape in 1652, the Dutch established a castle, a cannon, and a hedge that were explicitly designed to keep out "wild Africans."
As an oppositional concept, the wild is violent and violence is wild. According to the American philosopher John Dewey, not all uses of force should be defined as violence, since force is necessary for such constructive projects as building bridges and maintaining law and order. Violence, by definition, is force gone wrong, the wild force that blows up bridges, breaks laws, and disrupts order. Since the 1980s, fundamentalism has been widely perceived as a wild religion, a "strong religion" of militant opposition to the modern world that spreads terrorism, threatens public order, and challenges state sovereignty.
Second, as good, the wild registers as basic to human projects. In Rousseau's "noble savage" or Locke's "state of nature," for example, the wild is not necessarily oppositional; rather, it is the baseline for the development of society. In the beginning, we were all wild. Valuing the wild, the Romantic philosopher F. W. J. Schelling identified natural religion as "wild religion" in the sense of "a wildly growing religion," like a wildfire, or a wild olive tree contrasted to the tame olive tree of revealed religion. Modern nationalism has often drawn upon the wild by setting aside wilderness areas as national parks. In South Africa, a wild natural heritage, from the Cradle of Humankind to game parks, has been important to nation building. But a wild violent heritage, now marked by public holidays commemorating pain, suffering, and loss, has also been drawn into the nation-building enterprise. As primal energy, the wild can be used in mobilizing a sense of social solidarity.
Postmodern spirituality, as well, has celebrated the energy of the wild. For example, the North American neoshaman Bradford Keeney, who has described himself as a southern African Bushman shaman, advocates trance dancing and ecstatic shaking as "the practice of wild shamanism, wild religion, wild spirituality, and wild transformative performance." Insisting that the sacred is wild and the wild is sacred, Keeney urges, "Become a wild shaman, a wild pagan, a wild Christian, a wild Buddhist, a wild Jew, a wild agnostic, a wild artist, a wild performer, a wild whatever you want to call it."
Third, as ugly, the wild is mixed and messy, anomalous or monstrous, a hybrid of order and chaos. During the Zuma administration, wild religion has been mixed into sexuality, sovereignty, and economy.
Driven by wild impulses, but essential for domestic reproduction, sex has been subjected to various domains of ritualized purity-indigenous, Christian, and modern-which all came into play during 2010 in the public controversy over President Zuma's alleged sexual improprieties. As he was defended by both Christian supporters and African traditionalists, Zuma became the focus of a wild religion of sexuality.
In postapartheid South Africa, where political sovereignty is constructed as modern, democratic, and constitutional, traditional leadership persists. Although kings, chiefs, and other traditional leaders were accommodated by the Constitution of 1996, a wild political religion is evident in theocratic or theosophic claims about the sacred sovereignty of traditional leaders in South Africa.
During the global festival of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which truly was a wild time, South Africa hosted the "religion of football" by building stadiums and infrastructure but also by deploying wild religious resources. While Christian churches composed prayers for the World Cup, the local organizers of cultural events prepared ritual sacrifices of animals in keeping with the practices of indigenous ancestral religion in South Africa. If football was a religion during the 2010 World Cup, it was a wild religion, mixing modern and traditional, global and local, in a South African political economy of the sacred.
Tracking the sacred in South Africa between 1994 and 2010, this book explores the bad (wild space, violence, and terror), the good (heritage and dreams), and the messy (sex, sovereignty, and festival) in South African wild religion. But what, exactly, are we tracking? What is the sacred? In the study of religion, the sacred has been defined as both supremely transcendental and essentially social, as an otherness transcending the ordinary world-Rudolph Otto's "holy," Gerardus van der Leeuw's "power," or Mircea Eliade's "real"-or as an otherness making the social world, following Emile Durkheim's understanding of the sacred as that which is set apart from the ordinary, everyday rhythms of life, but set apart in such a way that it stands at the center of community formation. In between the radical transcendence of the sacred and the social dynamics of the sacred, we find ongoing mediations, at the intersections of personal subjectivity and social collectivities, in which anything can be sacralized through the religious work of intensive interpretation, regular ritualization, and inevitable contestation over ownership of the means, modes, and forces for producing the sacred.
Take hair. Ordinary hair on people's heads has been rendered sacred, not only by people with hair, but also by social scientists who have linked "magical hair" with "social hair," exploring the religious, social, and psychological dynamics of what Anthony Synnott called "the four modes of hair change (length, style, colour and additions)."
The American comedian Chris Rock has made a documentary, Good Hair, raising all of these issues in the study of the sacred. While focusing on African American hairstyling, the film provides ample evidence of the intensive interpretation of all the modes of hair change. It thoroughly discusses the multiple meanings of natural hair, the styling and coloring of hair, and perhaps most importantly the additions to hair, the weaves, which dominate hair styling but also evoke the sacred, in Durkheimian terms, because these hair additions are set apart from ordinary contact, forbidden and tabooed, and cannot be touched, not even in the intimacy of sexual relations, as a number of male informants complain. With the development of "interlinked wigs, woven into the hair," as Synnott observed, "body contact sports are out." The sacred, therefore, is not merely meaningful; it is powerful in ritualized practices of avoidance, contact, and exchange.
All of the modes of hair change are on display at the annual Bronner Bros. International Hair Show in Atlanta, where the film shows hairstylists competing in a ritual drama in which four finalists demonstrate their skills. Kevin Kirk, who heads the hair-styling crew of one of the finalists, brings a specifically evangelical Christian approach to this ritual by calling his hairstylists together before the event into a circle of prayer. "We're going to make some sacrifices," Kirk announces, calling upon his hair-styling team not only to pray for victory but also to undertake a fast that will purify them to be worthy of such an extraordinary blessing. When a member of the team objects to going without food, Kirk retorts: "You're not a Christian?" Preparing for the hair-styling event, for Kirk, requires entering the sacred through sacrifice, engaging in a transaction in which sacrificial giving is expected to result in transcendental receiving. As Kirk later explains, he knows that his team will win, not only because of their prayers, but also through "the vision that God gave me."
Sacrificial exchange, as a quick trip to India shows, is essential for producing the raw materials that go into the rituals of hairstyling. At the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, we learn that ten million devotees each year sacrifice their hair, participating in the ritual of tonsure, in exchange for divine blessing. "God likes hair," one participant observes. Devotees offer their hair to God with prayers, requests, and vows. As Chris Rock explains, the ultimate meaning of this Hindu ritual of haircutting is the sacrifice of vanity, because "removing hair is considered an act of self-sacrifice." Ironically, this ritual of hair sacrifice serves the vanity of hairstyling. Collecting, selling, and distributing this sacrificial hair is a global business, with active markets in Asia, Europe, and America. God may like hair, but, as one entrepreneur exclaims, "Hair is gold." Sacred hair and profane commerce are thoroughly interwoven in the international hair exchange.
Worship and commerce, however, have always been related in the production of the sacred. Chris Rock's film develops the ironic juxtaposition of African American Christians weaving into their heads hair from Hindu temples that has been "prayed upon" by Hindu priests. A quasi-religious secret society, a weave culture, a weave world, has developed on the basis of an aesthetic that is simultaneously religious and commercial. Weaves account for up to 70 percent of the $9 billion-a-year black hair care industry that depends upon a global trade in human hair from India that transcends race, class, gender, and national borders. Testing this religio-commercial aesthetic, Chris Rock tries to market genuine African American hair, "cut off at a Baptist temple," but with no success.
The Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, whose industry in human hair Chris Rock describes in his film, has received some attention in the news media as well; one 2008 article describes the temple's priestly monopoly over the transactions of auctioning, preparing, and exporting the sacred hair, which is cut by six hundred barbers and obtained from the sacrifices of the pilgrims who come there-some fifty thousand people per day. The entire process of hair exchange is imbued with the sacred. "It is a holy business," one prominent hair exporter declares. Most of the temple hair goes to China to be used in the production of keratin rather than to Europe and America for wigs and weaves. However, according to this exporter, wherever in the world the hair goes, the entire value chain-from sacrificial offering in a Hindu temple to ritualized consumption in Asia, Europe, or America-is a holy business spreading "happy hair" around the world.
The meaning, power, and ownership of the sacred are inevitably contested. When Orthodox rabbis in Israel learned that hair used in women's wigs came from Hindu temples, they ruled that any use of such hair was idolatry. Since covering their own hair with wigs was an important practice for Orthodox Jewish women, this ruling against idolatrous hair had both a religious and a commercial impact. Recasting the holy business in Hindu hair as false worship, the rabbis insisted that women had an obligation to avoid such hair at the risk of incurring ritual defilement.
In response to this Jewish ban on Hindu hair, Indian entrepreneurs devised an ingenious argument that recast its sacred character. According to one prominent exporter, the hair's sacred significance was not ritual but ethical. Its sacred aura was derived not through ritual sacrifice to the temple deity but through the ethical virtue of humility. "What is ritualistic about humbling yourself in the most basic way?" this exporter asked. "In India, shaving your head equals shedding all vanity and becoming modest." The ethical virtue of modesty, therefore, which was at the heart of the Orthodox Jewish injunction for women to adopt head coverings (such as wigs made out of hair from India), was asserted by this entrepreneur to be the common sacred ground on which Jews and Hindus could meet and do business.
This shift from the ritual to the ethical in locating the sacred has often been identified as peculiarly Protestant. Castigating Roman Catholic ritual as idolatry, early Protestant reformers sought to dematerialize the sacred by erasing all traces of the idolatrous worship of objects; as Luther argued, one could access the sacred only by hearing, with eyes closed. In his conclusion to the film Good Hair, the comedian Chris Rock adopts this Protestant perspective on the sacred by distilling from his entire exploration of the ritual world of hair-African American, Hindu, and global-one message that he wants to give to his own daughters: "The stuff on top of their heads is nowhere near as important as what is inside their heads."
From a comedian, therefore, we learn that hair is sacred because it is a focus for extraordinary attention, the locus of ritual sacrifice, the nexus of ritualized exchanges, and the matrix of religious contestation.
First, as Jonathan Z. Smith has argued, the sacred is produced through ritualization that is essentially a way of paying attention, in meticulous detail, coordinating every movement, gesture, and posture into a perfect pattern of action that factors out all of the accidents of daily life. Ritual attends to incongruity, such as the gap between bad hair, which is perceived as chaotic, disorderly, and perhaps even defiling, and good hair, which conforms to ritual rules of order. In this respect, classic scholarship on religious hair, which has tried to establish a basic lexicon of hair significance, such as Edmund Leach's correlation of long hair with unrestricted sexuality, short hair with restricted sexuality, and shaven hair with celibacy, can be easily challenged by counterexamples of shaven-headed religious people, such as South African president Jacob Zuma, an adherent of both Zulu ancestral tradition and evangelical Christianity, who seems to display an unrestricted sexuality. The sacred is not a stable lexicon with universal correlations; it is produced through intensive, ongoing, and extraordinary attention, through processes of interpretation, attending to minute detail, which are always overdetermined in their proliferation of meanings.
Second, as a recurring mode of producing the sacred, sacrifice, a word whose etymology is rooted in "to make sacred," plays a prominent role in our understanding of the meaning and the power of the sacred. In Good Hair, we see sacrifice as evangelical Christian fasting and as devotional Hindu haircutting. In the earliest and perhaps most enduring theory of ritual sacrifice, Do ut des (I give so you give), sacrificial ritual is an exchange between humans and deities, giving something ordinary for extraordinary returns. Unfortunately, the evangelical Christians lose the hair-styling competition. As we learn in Good Hair, however, the sacrifices of evangelical Christian hairstylists and devotional Hindu haircutters are wrapped up in a global industry in which ordinary hair does in fact produce extraordinary financial returns for entrepreneurs.
Third, as a nexus of ritualized exchanges, sacred hair circulates through global transactions that merge religion and economics. In the global hair market, the sacred is produced in a context that anthropologists Jean and John Comaroff have identified as the prevailing milieu in late modernity, millennial capitalism, a kind of global cargo cult in which abundant wealth is expected from extraordinary sources. But we also find what the perverse Durkheimian Georges Bataille called expenditure, the engine of a general economy in which sacrificial destruction, loss, or waste of resources in ritual display or public spectacle must be as great as possible to certify the sacred.
Finally, as a result of intensive interpretation and regular ritualization, we are left with an abundant surplus of the sacred that is available for competing claims to ownership. Like hair, the sacred is everywhere, immediately available for meaningful interpretation and participatory ritualization but inevitably owned and operated by someone. Who owns the sacred? In October 2009, Chris Rock was sued for appropriating the intellectual property of a filmmaker who had also made a documentary about African American hair styling, My Nappy Roots: A Journey through Black Hair-itage. "Let's go to India," Rock allegedly said, when he saw the film. Although Chris Rock eventually won his case, the competing claims in the dispute remind us that the ownership of intellectual property, even sacred property, is now settled in courts rather than in temples. As an appendix to his classic article "Magical Hair," Edmund Leach cites the proceedings of a court case in India from January 1957 dealing with competing claims on the hair offered by devotees at the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, the same temple featured in Chris Rock's Good Hair. The secular court ruled against competing barbers by finding that only temple-authorized haircutters "were entitled exclusively to shave the heads of the pilgrim-votaries who wished to offer the hair of their heads to the deity in discharge of their vows" and that "the temple was entitled to control shaving of the heads of pilgrim-votaries and collect the hair which was endowed to the deity." Certifying an exclusive claim on sacred hair, this case established a legal monopoly on the sacred that eventually enabled the development of a global industry, which in turn inspired a film by an African American comedian that was ostensibly about hair but really about the permutations of the sacred.
Sacred South Africa
Ostensibly about South Africa, this book is really about the dynamics of the sacred. Chapters track the sacred through the permutations of wild religion-bad, good, and ugly.
We begin with a wild tour of Cape Town, South Africa's first city, the "Mother City." Chapter 2, "Mapping the Sacred," raises all the themes that are developed in this book. Religious meanings of the city have been advanced not only by leaders and followers of churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, and indigenous African communities but also by European colonizers and apartheid ideologues, democratic visionaries and postapartheid nationalists, gangsters, and vigilantes. This wild tour of Cape Town explores four contradictions-colonial (and apartheid) projects designed to exclude "wild Africans" have incorporated Africans as labor; indigenous African orientations that distinguish between home space and wild space, the dangerous space of antisocial forces, have resulted in migrating and hybrid forms of the sacred in the city; moving between centers and peripheries, Christians and Muslims have invested the city with different religious meanings; and scarcity of space is transformed through sacred symbols, myths, and rituals into a surplus of signification that is contested in the city. Accordingly, Cape Town appears as a microcosm for wild religion.
South Africa's violent history was addressed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was identified by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a national ritual of contrition, confession, and forgiveness. Reviewing the problem of definition, chapter 3, "Violence," shows how violent force, whether harming persons and property or violating humanity, is not necessarily independent of religious positions that extend or limit its scope. Three forms of violence-ritual killing, institutionalized violence, and armed religion-are not merely justified (or opposed) by religion but actually animated by religion.
Religious fundamentalism, often regarded as the wildest religion of the modern world, is wild to the extent that it threatens the rationality of law and the stability of order in modern states. Chapter 4, "Fundamentalisms," reviews the ways in which religious fundamentalism has appeared in South Africa, beginning in the mid-1970s, when Christian fundamentalists, the Jesus People of Johannesburg, were perceived as threatening because they were less intolerant, racist, and militaristic than the apartheid regime. Since 1994, religious fundamentalisms have opposed the new democratic dispensation, most evidently in American-inspired Christian Reconstructionism and in the Iranian-inspired Muslim Qibla movement, but the fundamental polarizations of the first decade of the twenty-first century, locally and globally, from the vantage point of South Africa, have seemed to be made in America.
Turning from regarding the wild as bad to valorizing the wild as good, moving from excluding the wild to incorporating wild religious resources in nation building, education, heritage projects, and New Age spirituality, the next two chapters consider wild religion as a good thing. Against the background of educational initiatives that culminated in the National Policy on Religion and Education of 2003, chapter 5, "Heritage," shows how South Africa has tried to domesticate religion in schools and unleash religion at national heritage sites. At Freedom Park, a presidential legacy project of Thabo Mbeki, the unleashing of indigenous African religion involved constructing a central shrine to draw the visits of all South Africans and sending out emissaries from the park to perform traditional healing and cleansing rituals. As a wild space, overlooking the monumental fascist architecture of the Voortrekker Monument, Freedom Park incorporated the wild religious resources of indigenous healing, cleansing, reverence for ancestors, and community formation.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, North American enthusiasts for New Age spirituality, including South African expatriates, have dreamed of reconnecting with the wild religion of Africa. Chapter 6, "Dreamscapes," examines the ways in which such dreams have spun out of control, resulting in wild extrasensory encounters with Africa as well as wild encounters with aliens from outer space. All of this wild religious experience, however, has been organized through global networks of neoshamanism, which have been cultivating techniques of ecstasy by transacting with South Africa. In this exchange, the shaman, the quintessential religious wild man, has held the key to coming home to Africa.
Entering the wild religion of the Zuma era, the next three chapters explore wild sex, sovereignty, and economy. Beginning with indigenous Zulu practices of ritual purity, which have been deployed in local land claims, national politics, and global tourism, chapter 7, "Purity," enters the public controversy in January 2010 over the revelation that President Jacob Zuma had fathered a child with a woman outside his traditional polygamous marriage. As the media tried to count wives, fiancΘes, girlfriends, and children, President Zuma asserted his legitimacy in religious terms, both Zulu traditional and evangelical Christian, but also claimed rights under modern constitutionalism. Reviewing the history of Zulu traditional, Christian missionary, and modern anthropological constructions of sexual purity, this chapter uncovers the historical dialectic of purity and impropriety. The anthropologist Isaac Schapera, who found that Christian missionary campaigns for sexual purity were counterproductive, since they actually resulted in an increase of illegitimate births, argued that traditional mocking songs, featuring obscene lyrics, had been the most effective African social sanction against sexual impropriety. Yet President Zuma, on suffering mockery in local and international media, did not seem to change his behavior; instead, he sued journalists and championed restrictions on the press. Focusing on sex, this chapter introduces the new mix of indigenous traditionalism, evangelical Christianity, and modern constitutionalism emerging during the Zuma administration.
At the intersection of democratic politics and traditional sovereignty, chapter 8, "Power," explores the religion of Mathole Motshekga, who became the ANC's chief whip in Parliament in 2009. As founder and director of the Kara Heritage Institute, Motshekga has long advocated a return to indigenous African religion, which he has identified as the Hermetic mysteries of ancient Egypt. In Theosophical texts, as well as his memories of a past life in ancient Egypt, Motshekga has found a secret brotherhood, the Bonabakulu Abasekhemu, the Ancient Ones of Khem, that has preserved the original Egyptian wisdom traditions throughout Africa. While expounding this African theosophy through media, public events, and now Parliament, Motshekga has also defended the divine right of indigenous African royalty, calling for the restoration of the theocracy of traditional leadership in a democratic South Africa. How can democracy, the rule of the people, be reconciled with the divine sovereignty of theocracy? By mixing theosophy, theocracy, and democracy into a kind of African civil religion, Mathole Motshekga is emblematic of the wild religion ushered into the political arena during the Zuma era.
Hitting a high note, or at least a loud note with the blaring of vuvuzelas, chapter 9, "World Cup," celebrates the wild religion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Although the "religion of football" may very well be global, the wild religion of the FIFA World Cup was distinctively local in South Africa. Christian churches composed prayers; interfaith organizations planned events; collective rituals emerged in fan walks and Football Fridays; and the vuvuzela, the central aural icon of the festival, took on multiple and contested meanings as the Nazareth Baptist Church, founded in 1910 by the Zulu prophet Isaiah Shembe, asserted a legal right to it as their own sacred horn and as Tinyiko Maluleke, president of the South African Council of Churches, called it a "missile-shaped weapon" that would awaken the rest of the world to Africa. Certainly, the World Cup was saturated with religious significance. Inviting Georges Bataille to the festival, this chapter considers the event as an instance of sacrificial expenditure, incurring spectacular loss in the interest of certifying meaning in a general economy. However, even Bataille would be surprised to see that the local organizers of cultural events for the World Cup began with sacrifice, the ritual slaughter of an animal, as the crucial religious act to sanctify the global religion of football. As ritual sacrifice and sacrificial expenditure, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was wild religion, mixing indigenous African, South African national, and global economies of the sacred.
The book's final chapter, "Staying Wild," considers some of the ways in which religion has always been wild and no doubt will always remain wild in South Africa. To review recurring themes in the book, we conclude by discussing indigenous religious transactions with colonialism, Christianity, and the West. In some cases, devout Christians and African traditionalists have attempted to block transactions in the interest of preserving their sense of religious integrity. However, the impetus for transacting is overwhelming in the midst of the wild religious forces of sexuality, sovereignty, and festival in contemporary South Africa. Refusing to be overwhelmed, resisting the luxury of despair, we end with hope, for no good reason except that hope is also a feature of wild religion in South Africa.