Among the Healers, 5



Praesence of Spirits in Healing


p. 106 a Pentacostal healing

At the same moment as the healing touch is given, the minister gives a sudden involuntary shaking of his body, followed by a huge bodily quiver on the part of the seeker. The seeker sinks backward to the floor, held safely by catcher helpers.”

pp. 108-11 [taken from Cadhain 1945, pp. 20-37; Walsh 1959, pp. 108-12] the visions at Knock in Ireland

p. 108

in 1879 … in Knock in County Mayo, Ireland, a country greatly oppressed by Britain ...

p. 109

in the evening, Thursday, August 21, … Fifteen people … saw a vast light radiating out of the gable end of the church, and in it glowed a brilliant array of holy personages. … . … a blaze of light was pouring out from the saints … -- radiating from them. …

p. 110

The saints were afloat – three dazzling beings ablaze with light, hovering two feet above the ground, with their feet scarcely touching the tops of the tall grass. …

Next day pilgrims started coming, and healings occurred. ...

p. 111

Crowds of people circled around the church in an anti-sunwise (counter-clockwise) direction, the old Celtic direction”.

{Countre-clockwise is also the direction walked for circumambulations of sacred sites in the Bon religion.}

Cadhain 1945 = Liam Ua Cadhain : Cnoc Muire in Picture and Story. Tuam (Eire) : St. Jarlath's College.

Walsh 1959 = Michael Walsh : The Shrine of the Pilgrim People of God. Tuam (Eire) : St. Jarlath's College.

pp. 114-6 [taken from Boddy 1989, pp. 125-237] the Zar spirit-possession cult in Sudan

p. 114

The spirits are good to them in a way unique to Zar, for this is a cult … with access to an entire repertoire of spirit figures … – … Ethiopians; … Hindus; Chinese; … West Africans; Western and Southern Sudanese … .

The priestess beats out a syncopated rhythm on a drum, and other women play clanging brass household utensils. The rhythm intesifies. … In the waning eery light the chant changes, and a woman – now a spirit – performs a strange pantomime with a sword, crouching low, sweeping the flat of the weapon back and forth … . … Another woman struts down the clearing …, with a walking stick held perpendicular to the ground at the end of an outstretched arm … . She is a Mandarin. A portly gray-haired lady

p. 115

wearing a red band with crenellated designs dances through a series of gestures … .

Another chant, and immediately a young woman starts flailing about on the mats … . … She is going down into trance. … The spirit whispers, … and the woman dances … .

In another session a woman … gets up and says in a deep voice, “Unless you put on a ceremony for her, she won't recover.” It is a man spirit speaking about the woman herself.”

Why the spirits possess is because they … desire access to the human {mortal} world and have a job to do there. They love cleanliness and beauty; they desire gold, fine clothing, and delicate perfumes … . When appearing in human form they are always bathed, well dressed,

p. 116

and lovely to behold. They prefer their hosts to eat … expensive foods … . … The spirits are always near, just above their human hosts, influencing their perceptions and what they do. A woman has to learn not to resist a spirit's attempts to enter the human world through her body.”

Boddy 1989 = Janice Boddy : Wombs and Alien Spirits … in Northern Sudan. Madison : U of WI Pr.

pp. 116-7 description of the sensation of being in trance during a Zar performance

p. 116

[quoted from Boddy 1989, p. 350] “When it descends into you, you “go the limit” until the drumming stops … . When the drums are beating, beating, … you hear from far away. …

p. 117

You forget who you are, your village, your family, you know nothing of your life. You see with the eyes of the spirit until the drumming stops.”

pp. 118-9 how an anthropologist acquired the ability for doing spiritual healing

p. 118

[quoted from Willis 1985, pp. 1-2] “It was 1983 … . Before going to Egypt I recall … a strong premonition … . On Friday March 18th in … Alexandria … I became aware of a voice speaking in English with a fluent delivery from a source at once immensely distant and right inside me. The message was to the effect that … I was – this bit was strongly emphasized – guiltless and free. I had come home. … I could sense the life-giving liquid over my whole body {spiritual baptism}, and instantly the psychic pain I had known for so long “switched off.” … Gazing through this watery element {the abode of Undines} in which I seemed to be immersed, I beheld a strange, multidimensional, oval, floating object, glowing with a soft amber color. I could see it with a startling degree of clarity much superior to ordinary vision. …

Was the object some kind of angelic messenger?”

{Was it a mother ship for miniature flying saucers?}

[extracted from Willis 1989, pp. 11-12; 1992, pp. 14-15] “A few months after the Alexandria experience I became aware that I had healing powers. …

p. 119

I had enrolled … on a course given by the late Bruce Macmanaway, a renowned natural healer. Listening to Bruce talk of his conversations with spirits I was immediately reminded of my work … with traditional healers in rural Africa and the way they had explained things to me. … Bruce invited me to “treat” one of his patients, a middle-aged woman … . I placed by hands on her shoulders … the woman … saying she felt “deep heat” in her upper body and then declared that her pain was gone. …

I made further tests to see … this … result … replicated, and then I healed … arthritis, sinusitis, eczema, asthma, … sciatica, … rheumatoid arthritis, and accidental injuries … . … In almost all successful cases my patients spontaneously reported unusual sensations of bodily heat … during the hands-on phase of treatment.”

When I heal it feels as if my mind has been pushed out of gear … and is running in neutral while someone else takes over the steering wheel.”


Willis 1989 = Roy Willis : “A Healer's Personal Experience”. NEW PARADIGMS NEWSLETTER, 7 (June).

Willis 1992 = Roy Willis : “Encounter with Healing”. INTERNAT J OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY HEALING (April).

pp. 120-1 induction of Willis into the nulu healing dance in northern Zambia

p. 120

Willis … In 1990 … visited the Lungu of northeastern Zambia, a Bantu-speaking people … . He heard … of their ngulu heaing sessions, and … that certain medicine people, usually women, beat drums to persuade mysterious spirits called ngulu to reveal themselves to their patients, and when they did the patients would be healed. These ngulu spirits … were alien powers who were not concerned with any particular person's family and history. …

p. 121

Ngulu had become a secret cult … . … In 1996 Willis went for a second visit among the Lungu with a stronger determination to reconnect with the spiritual aspects of healing, this time by dint of completely lending himself to the African way of healing and practicing it … . … The rituals featured beginning rites to invite the spirit; then tranced healing events that were held … in the forest …; and lastly, ending rites, the dismissal of the spirit. … Many people took part, and a number of them went into trance along with the patient.”

pp. 121-2 [quoted from Willis et al 1999, pp. 94-6] description of the nulu healing dance

p. 121

at the house of the principal medicine woman … We made offerings to the spirit, and at that, the medicine woman sank to the ground, … uttering strange cries … . … Suddenly she … went out with her people … to the forest clearing …, along with three men drummers, who immediately started to play. The medicine woman …

p. 122

placed the sick woman sitting upright …, then laid a cloth right over her head and body, covering her. … Chanting broke out among the crowd, while the drumers built up their insistent … beat, working … to magnify the throbbing summons to the powerful ngulu spirits, drawing them to this special cleared space in the night. … . … under the cloth … movements became convulsive, the cloth fell away … . We saw her … face raised … . Those around her stooped to listen …, in order to learn the name of the spirit entity stirring in this woman. “Mbita!” someone cried, triumphantly repeating the newly uttered name of the patient's ngulu spirit, together with four other names. A moment later the spirit-filled body of the patient … rose to its feet … . And now, … moving with the continuing rhythm of the drums, the spirit danced before us all … . It was the spirit dancing … . Now the whole group was dancing … . … To end the session the medicine woman went to the patient and twisted the hair on top of her head to bring her around from her trance. The patient had no recollection of her altered-state experience.”

Willis et al 1999 = Willis; Chisanga; Sikazwe; Nanyangwe : Some Spirits Heal, Others Only Dance. Oxford : Berg.

p. 123 [quoted from Willis et al 1999, p. 122] metaphysical reflections resultant from the caerimony

Now I felt in a spaced-out state. … I knew that we are all related, different versions of each other, but there were no fixed boundaries to selfhood; there was a permeability and flexibility between self and other, an infinite flexibility … . I experienced the dissolution of … the coordinates of ordinary selfhood … – all these … vanished. …

Interestingly, I could “see” myself more clearly than in ordinary reality, when self-perception is typically more fragmentary, tied to one or another fleeting … role. Then …, I saw myself whole … . … I discovered … access to those transpersonal entities or forces commonly called “spirits.””

pp. 123-4 spiritual communion {communism of the spirit-world}

p. 123

the visionary state communitas … seems connected with spirit presence, and, moreover, it is becoming clear that spirits are easily called forth in communitas. …

p. 124

This was communion … . The Lungu of northern Zambia … danced in blessed communion with the spirit-filled patient woman.”

{[spirit-possession of a Bemba woman in Zambia (BRPB 1.2.B.4.3) :] “The woman begins to yawn. She is struck with dizziness. She starts mumbling, sings a little, acting as though mad and goes into convulsions. Then, she begins prophecy.

BRPB = Edouard Labrecque (transl. by Patrick Boyd) : Beliefs and Religious

Practices of the Bemba … . Language Centre Ilondola, Chinsali, 1982. }

pp. 125-6 [quoted from Rainey 1947, pp. 275-7] vocation of Umigluk as shaman in northern Alaska

p. 125

Umigluk … heard a sound like paddles … . He looked up and saw a boat high in the air, circling around and around as if it were

descending from the moon. … Soon a man at the steerer's seat stood up in the boat. Umigluk recognized him as … a shaman who had died some time before. … This man had died in a vision because, while the vision was in progress, the villagers

{If he died during during projection of the astral body, while the silver cord was tethering the two bodies, then the silver cord when loosed from the material body, may have formed itself (similarly as a clay pot may be formed of a coiled length of clay) into canoe, which must (like its substance the cord) must be composed of silver, as “When the moon is waning and looks like a silver boat” (RFL, p. 202).}

had been banging about with buckets … . …

{With these buckets, cf. the pail of Hjuki & Bil (Jack and Jill), who are the waxing and waning of moon.}

At the time of his death the people saw the same sky boat arrive to take his body and spirit. …

Another shaman rose in the boat … . … He seemed to have one big eye instead of two, with a protruding brow and the eye in the middle of the big brow.

{[Irish myth] A voyager in a “silver boat” was Elathan, the one of the Fomoire for whom war was waged by king Balor who had a single eye in the centre of his forehead.}

When he danced, the copper ornaments on his mittens rattled. At the sound, a white ermine came up from inside the boat onto its edge and went down into it again. A brown ermine followed. …

{The Lithuanian word for 'ermine' is (S/E) /S^eRMuoNelis/, which may be cognate with Skt /S`aRMaN/. Of the “__- s`arman” brethren (according to PP “Bhumi Khan.d.a”), Soma-s`arman died “when loud sounds of the demons entered his ears” (similarly as the shaman seen by Umigluk in the boat had died from banging noise).}

Here the vision ended. Umigluk … took his path home … . Late that night, he awoke and started up naked to leave the tent. His wife … made him put on clothes. The man was like a crazy person and kept wandering away. …

p. 126

Shortly afterward the people came together in the main underground igloo to play their drums. During the drumming Umigluk's spirit left him. All went black. Then the spirit of … the one-eyed shaman with the mittens, entered Umigluk's body, beating the drum instead of him and singing instead of him. The shaman within him taught him eight power songs … . … Still with the power in him, Umigluk taught the people … to carve masks … with the protruding brow and single round eye.

When it came to the October feast of the whale's tail, the eight In~upiat sat ina row in a boat, finely dressed with decorated mittens, and they sang and danced … .

{This is similar to the Twana Lushootseed (of the Puget Sound) caerimonial boat-and-crew for theatrically voyaging to the abode for souls of the dead.}

He taught them how to let their spirits go out from their bodies and come back into their bodies as if they were pulling themselves backward into their underground igloos.

{projection of the astral body}

The songs gave them … power to heal the sick, to eliminate mortal wounds, bring animals to the hunter, change the weather, and speak with the dead.”

Rainey 1947 = Froelich G. Rainey : “The Whale Hunters of Tigara”. ANTHROPOLOGICAL PAPERS OF THE AMER MUS OF NATURAL HISTORY 41, No. 2:231-83.

RFL = Lu`cia Sa` : Rain Forest Literatures : Amazonian texts. U of MN Pr, Minneapolis, 2004.

S/E” = “Stoat / Ermine (Mustela ermina)”

PP = Padma Puran.a

pp. 126-7 [Turner 1996, pp. 204-7] shamanic power in northern Alaska

p. 126

shaman power still exists in northern Alaska, along with its curious “time-out,” blanking out feature. …

p. 127

They were the irruptions of shamanic power just as the ancient In~upiat knew them, typically lasting four days. In early times the breaks began with a meeting with something fearful, a spirit of the dead or a dangerous animal, some entity who first afflicted the budding shaman, then changed and became a helper.”

pp. 128-9 the soul

p. 128

The break is a matter of the deepest being, a matter of that “thing” beyond value, the soul. The break comes, and afterwards there follows the entry of a beneficent spirit with overwhelming power … . … The soul exists in reality, sensitive, and it can be brought to attention as if it were … struck … – and it rings {peals}

p. 129

out. Then one knows one has a soul. … It is one's consciousness that is changed; it is set at large, “with no fixed boundaries.””

p. 129 Larry Peters

Larry Peters … persisted in his research and practice … until he received in good measure the shamanic trance himself … . … Later, he linked up with Michael Harner and has done much good by helping the revival of the ancient shamanic skills of the Tuva people”.

pp. 130-2 [adapted from Peters 1998, pp. 79-110] autobiographical account of how Bhirendra achieved a shamanic vocation in Nepal

p. 130

When I was 13, … I started shaking violently … and I ran off into the forest, naked … . During those … days I … was given … spirits … who wore pointed hats over

their white hair and were only three feet tall. Their wives had black hair,

{White for males and black for females, is the garb of the Wahhabi.}

long breasts, and were very fat. … One … showed me how to have power. He told … to feed me earthworms. … I reached out for the worms, but every time I did so one of the wives whipped my hands. She carried a golden sword and … she cried, “Let's cut off his head.” … He said to me privately, “... Take the food on the back of your hand.” I did so … . …

Finally the villagers came looking for me, shouting … . … They took me home … . … That night I started shaking again, but this time I looked around for a drum and took one … . I found myself outside. Some kind of path opened before me … – the gods made a path for me. …

I found myself where three rivers cross,

{This is Triven.i, known as a place of praeternatural pilgrimage entred via yaugik dhyana (trance).}

in a cemetery. … Out came a horde of demons with long crooked fangs, and others with no heads at all and eyes in the middle of their chests. Some them carried death flags,

p. 131

and still others brought decaying corpses along with them. … They chased me and leapt on me and started eating me. … I drew out my grandfather's magical dagger … and there came out a long spark of light. Immediately … It was daytime … . The demons were gone. …

I had no choice in being a shaman. I was chosen {by the deities}. If I [ha]d refused, I [woul]d have gone completely mad … . … I was cured by becoming a shaman. … I played the drum and shook. The more I shook the more the gods talked through me and the more visions I had. … Then I was able to bring my [tutelary] spirit easily. I could feel him riding on my shoulders. … I learned the ritual to open the top of my head and let my spirit go out on a journey accompanied by my protecting spirit, in order to seek lost souls separated from their bodies.”

the people went to the cemetery and erected a temporary shelter on stilts, like a rice granary {which is built on stilts in order to spare it from invasion by mice}, and they decorated it with hundreds of soul flowers.

Leading up to the shelter was a nine-rung ladder, each rung named for a different level of heaven.

{The system of 9 heavens is prae-eminently Taoist; Taoist likewise is the ladder for climbing to the heavens.}

I wore a white robe and a peacock feather headdress. I and my guru climbed the nine steps and entered …, and there … we played our drums together, playing and singing to call the gods to possess us. … I had visions of ghosts and spirits. On the seventh day I saw myself walking into a beautiful garden with flowers of many colors. A pond lay there

p. 132

and golden glimmery trees … . Next to the pond rose a very tall building that reached up into the sky. It had a golden staircase … leading to the top. I climbed … and saw at the top

Ghesar Gyalpo himself, the supreme god of the shamans,

{This is Zaratustrian god Geser (mentioned in the Zend-Avesta).}

sitting on a white throne covered with soul flowers. He was dressed in white and his face

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face … .” (Apokalupsis of Ioannes 20:11)

was all white. He had long hair and a white crown.

He gave me milk to drink”.

{This is the Molokan (from Ukraine) eucharist.}

Peters 1998 = Larry Peters : Tamang Shamans. New Delhi : Nirala.

Apokalupsis of Ioannes 20:11

pp. 134-7 [quoted from Turner 1967, pp. 143-5] how he became a diviner

p. 134

I was caught by a very heavy sickness in the body and

I found it hard to breathe.

{“men killed … by the smoke” (AoI 9:18). [smoke-asphyxiation]}

It was like being pricked by needles in my chest … . …

{“clothed in sackcloth.” (AoI 11:3)}

My ears felt completely blocked up. …

p. 135

And I dreamed of my mother.

{“And she brought forth a man child” (AoI 12:5).}

My relatives went to a diviner to see what was wrong. …

{“If any man hath an ear, let him ear.” (AoI 13:9)}

The diviner said, “... you're suffering from the sickness of Kayong-u. It's the sickness that comes before the call to be a doctor and diviner.

{“harping with their harps”(AoI 14:2). [Kayon-u is the name of a musical instrument.]}

Those four spirits in your dreams have come out of the grave

{The Son of Man“thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.” (AoI 14:16) [= Grim Reaper]}

to catch you and enter you, because they want you to become a diviner and treat people's illnesses. ...” …

{“seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up” (AoI 15:1).}

So the drum ritual for making a doctor began.

{“And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God” (AoI 15:3).}

All night long the senior doctors washed me with medicine.

{“And the __ angel poured out his vial upon the __” (Aol 16:3, 4, 8, 10, 12).}

I kept shuddering convulsively to the ... rhythm;

{“there was a great earthquake, … so mighty an earthquake” (AoI 16:18).}

the spirits were doing whatever they liked with me. … .

{“So he carried me away in the spirit” (AoI 17:3).}

seated me before a ritual fire of green wood.

{And the ten horns … shall burn her with fire (AoI 17:16).}

the old doctor …, a hunter-diviner, came ... holding a red rooster by its legs and at the top of its head. …

{“And he cried mightily … saying …, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (AoI 18:2).}

The Kayong-u spirit also wakes up people it has caught. It makes them breathe hoarsely … .

{“and the voice … shall be heard no more at all” (AoI 18:23).}

The same thing happens when an initiated diviner

{“he … was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness doth … (AoI 19:11)

is about to shake the basket full of divining objects :

many crowns” (AoI 19:12).}

the person's voice changes and the person … speaks hoarsely … . Diviners sometimes make a deep wheezing noise in the course of ordinary conversation. …

{“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings” (AoI 19:6)}

It's the voice of the Kayong-u spirit … . …

{“called The Word of God” (AoI 19:13).}

They took … a pole … from the tree of the ancestor's tears.

{“and he shall rule them with a rod” (AoI 19:15).}

My dead rooster was up there in contact …

{“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God;

p. 136

with the spirits.

All was opened … .

and the books were opened” (AoI 20:12).}

The openings of my body that had been stopped up, my nostrils, ears, and eyes, were released … . … .

{And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (AoI 21:4).}

Soon the path forked. … They didn't take either of the forks but went straight on … . …

{“In the midst of the street of it, and on either side …,

they found a kwapipu tree …,

was there the tree of life,

a sign of misfortune to begin with

which bare … fruits [cf. the fruit in the Garden of <eden, which brought misfortune to the first mortal human couple] … :

followed by success.”

and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (AoI 22 :2)}

p. 137

I had to venture alone into the graveyard, full of ghosts and far from the firelight.”

{“they need no candle” (AoI 22:5).}

Turner 1967 = Victor Turner : The Forest of Symbols : aspects of Ndembu ritual. Ithaca (NY) : Cornell U Pr.

AoI 9:18 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 9:18

AoI 11:3 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 11:3

AoI 12:5 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 12:5

AoI 13:9 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 13:9

AoI 14:16 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 14:16

AoI 15:1 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 15:1

AoI 15:3 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 15:3

AoI 16:18 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 16:18

AoI 17:3 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 17:3

AoI 17:16 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 17:16

AoI 18:2 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 18:2

AoI 18:23 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 18:23

AoI 19:12 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 19:12

AoI 19:6 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 19:6

AoI 19:13 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 19:13

AoI 19:15 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 19:15

AoI 20:12 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 20:12

AoI 21:4 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 21:4

AoI 22:2 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 22:2

AoI 22:2 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 22:2

AoI 22:5 = Apokalupsis of Ioannes 22:5


Edith Turner : Among the Healers : stories of spiritual and ritual healing around the world. Praeger Publ (an imprint of Greenwood Publ Grp), Westport (CT), 2006.