Jok (Acholi)

Jok is a concept that derives from the Lango people of East Africa. The core of the religion of the Lango is Jok, which is a neutral power that permeates the universe. In fact, Jok is both the creator and sus-tainer of the universe. As the creator, Jok is indifferent to humans. The task of Jok was to bring into being all things that exist and then to sustain them in their proper place. Jok manifests itself in a thousand ways, including as severe sicknesses.
The religion of the Lango is based on the multiple meanings of Jok, also called Juok, Juogi, or Jouk. One can see in the pursuit of Jok the discovery of medicine, the maintenance of the human spirit, the order and harmony of the universe, and the power of human energy when it is directed toward the rituals of reverence for the ancestors.
Jok is the spiritual food of the Lango people. It is fundamentally impersonal, but able to manifest as spirit, lipo. In fact, Jok is associated with all human beings as soul, that is, lipo or cbyen. As such, it might be applied to the nature of the world as spirit or soul that is reinvigorated with all propitiation by human beings.
Reincarnation does not seem to be part of the Lango thinking about Jok, but clearly immortality is important, and the ancestors' reverence is at the source of the idea of eternal life. One supports and sustains ancestral reverence and respect to gain the ability to manifest as present in the world and transcend presentness in a transformative sense.
Therefore, the ajwaka, the medicine people, are the ones who can best bind the people together as community. Jok is at the core of all discussion of disaster, disrespect, disorder, and disintegration of society, and the Lango attribute to Jok all obstacles that stand in the way of community. Jok is everywhere. It is medicine, magic, and belief, and one must always do the proper ceremonies, make the right offerings, and perform the correct rituals to be able to ensure community.
Lango religion has its own cosmology, ways to believe in the transcendent, and ritual practices, and at the center of this religion, Jok organizes all disparate elements. It is good and evil, it is abnormality and normality, and it is birth, death, the big toe, wind, trees, animals, plants, cosmological complexity, funny things, healing, sickness, running, and the Supreme Deity. In effect, Jok exists as the key to understanding all Lango philosophy and religion.



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Further Reading

  • Asante, M. K., and Nwadiora, E. (2007). Spear Masters: An Introduction to African Religion. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
  • Hayley, T. T. S. (1947). The Anatomy of Lango Religion and Groups. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.