T.umbura in H^artum, Part I

0.3 p. 10 t.umbura groups in Greater H^artum area

in __

there were __ groups

the 1960s






"The first of the two groups consists of relatively older men and women who still espouse the ideas and concepts that the Sudani t.umbura has traditionally propagated."

"the second t.umbura group ... consists almost exclusively of younger women".

0.3 pp. 12-13 differences between t.umbura & bore`








from abroad







many groups brought together

groups mutually separate



male & female

females & homosexuals



therapy once

therapy repeated



pp. 12-3 "the spirit does not attack its devotees after their initiation into the cult"

p. 13 "the spirit always remains a potential source of illness"



"the spirit of zar is seen as a single entity that assumes many forms"

"a repertoire of spirits"



"the spirit ... can be seen as representations of the devotees’ collective Self"

"the spirits are the representations of the Other"



"the zar itself is also called t.umbura"

"bore` the term is reserved for ... activity; the spirit is called zar"

2.1.i pp. 55-56 further distinctions between bore` and t.umbura, as viewed by outsiders

p. 55

Bore` : "women ... attend the cult’s ceremonies where they can drink, smoke, dance and gossip away from the watchful gaze of their male relatives. ... the cult’s ... nature ... makes it part of a male and female ... spiritual economy where men’s religious devotions and women’s zar devotions should be seen as interdependent and complementary".

p. 56

T.umbura : "it is classified as a fringe practice, sometimes bad (ka<b) {ka<b ‘cubic’} that is related to magic (<amal) {<amal ‘work’}, the evil spirits (jinn)".

2.1.ii p. 57 some contrasts between t.ombura and burei in Sinnar (to the south of H^artum)

"T.ombura has a smaller clientele than burei zar and is generally regarded with greater trepidation. ... T.ombura is regarded as a more esoteric and demanding form of zar".

Those "who attend the house of t.ombura zar are described as Malakiya ... (largely detribalized peoples from ... Sudan who were taken into slavery ...)".

Those who "go to the house of burei" have retained their specific tribal affiliations, such as "the Sha<igiya and Ja<aliyin people".

2.1.iii p. 60 Sudani tribes versus <arab tribes

"The Sudani are ... the Nuba, the Fartit, the Karra, the Banda, the Nyam-Nyam."

The <arab tribes resident in Sudan "were Sha>iqiyya, Ja<aliyyun, Danaqla, and Baqqara".

2.1.iii pp. 59-60 self-identity of t.umbura people are descendants of slaves

p. 59

"The t.umbura people (nas t.umbura) are Sudani. ... Sudani ... original inhabitants ... of the land (nas as.li)"

p. 60

"internally undifferentiated victimised Sudani community"

pp. 52, 228, 234 musical instruments of zar

2.0 p. 52

"The word t.umbura may come from t.anbur, a name for the six-string bowl-lyre always used in the ceremonies. ... While the ordinary rababas of Northern Sudan have five strings, the t.umbura has six ... . ... The master of the rababa is a male musician ... called sanjak. To perform a song, the sanjak squats on the ground and holds the rababa with his left hand, supporting it with a hand-strap wrapped around his arm. ... On his right hand the sanjak holds an 1,5 to 2 inch long plectrum, called garin [<ar. qarin ‘horn’], made out of the edge of a bull’s horn. ... The garin is placed for weeks in water in order to become soft and is then polished and treated with incense. ... Performing the cult songs in the rababa during the t.umbura ceremonies, the sanjak summons the zar spirit in all its manifestations, thus making possible the orderly fusion of the spirit world with the human world in the bodies of the entranced devotees. The rababa, then, can be seen as the door between the two worlds and is musician as the doorman and master of the path."

6.1 p. 228

"the ordinary devotees play a kind of medium-size hand rattle, the kakakish, and act as a chorus."

6.2 p. 234

"These songs were performed with

the daluka earth-drum,

the small shatam drum, and

the big nugara drum from the South".

2.0 p. 53 the 4-stage zar process performed on a patient {resembling processes of curing patients possessed by an initially-untamed spirit, in Siberian shamanism}




"This starts with the stage of divination that determines if the person is indeed possessed by the zar spirit. The divination is performed by the shaykha, who is the female group leader. If the result is positive,


the patient proceeds to the second stage, that of therapy, through the use of traditional medicines and incense during a seven-day seclusion in the house of the shaykha. With the disappearance of the symptoms,


the cured person moves on to the third stage of the process, a two-day thanksgiving ceremony, which in due time is followed with


the celebration of the seven-day initiation ceremony. This is the fourth and last stage of the process and ... is under the authority of ... the sanjak. ... Culminating ... in front of the four banners of the cult, the initiation of the cured patient into the cult shields him or her from any further relapses and transforms the possessing agent, which is never exorcised, into a source of blessing."

pp. 12, 63-64, 99 other zar cults (other than bore` & t.umbura)

0.3 p. 12

"zar Sawakni (the zar from the area of Sawakin) and


zar Nyamanyam {cf. /NYAMe/ (‘Friend’), god of the Akan} (the zar of the Azande)"

2.1.iv p. 63

a s`ayh^a of zar Nyamanyam in Murada described : "They (in t.umbura) have the rababa but we have the nugara." [rababa is the "lyre used in the t.umbura cult" (p. 393); nugara is the "big drum"]

p. 64

"the Nyam-Nyam have zar nugara, with Babinga and Nakurma." "Babinga and Nakurma ... are recognized as Azande ancestral spirits." "nuqara ... of the Dega tribe ... was originally from Wau." {Wau (in Equatoria province of Sudan) = consonant Waw (in <ibri^ alphabet).}


"Besides the nugara of the Azande, other zar cults mentioned were those of the Fartit [Fartit peoples include "the Karra, Gula, Feroge, and Surro" (p. 222, n. 5:15)], the Shilluk, and the Dinka

p. 65

peoples and the dinia Nuba cult". [dinia is the "Nuba spirit possession cult" (p. 386)]

3.1.ii p. 99

"in the village of Miri ... in the Nuba hills ... there was another kind of possession cult called dinia." "Zar baladi [the indigenous zar] was called dinia ... . ... In dinia they make ... balila [porridge] ...; they go around the tree three times ... . Then they make effigies ...

p. 100

with mud; ... small effigies. After that the people take all these effigies together with an egg and ... they put the effigies on the ground, first the camel, then the ox, the donkey, the horse, the sheep, the goat, the chicken, the pigeon. {in the diminishing size of the animals} Then they return to the tree and make the patient go round the tree three times. Then they give her a bath and smear her body with the egg from the neck to the toes. Then the patient takes the effigies and throws them to the tree. After all this the people run back to the village. They must not look back."

p. 101

The s`ayh^a "maintained that t.umbura is baladi (indigenous) and jabali, i.e. from the mountain, or more precisely the Nuba hills. ‘These hills’, the shaykha said, are very tall and have ninety-nine peaks; t.umbura comes from the ninety-nine hills.’ "

3.3.v p. 141

"Daluka, that is, zar Sawakni". ["The town of Sawakin, on the Red Sea coast, acquired a nationwide reputation for its proverbial black cats. These, like all black cats in the Muslim world, were believed to be of the jinn family." http://aalsafi.tripod.com/tm/beliefs/supernatural.htm]

p. 222, n. 5:1

"among the Kababish, the cult of zar exists although the term itself is mostly unknown".

pp. 128-129, 271, 301 kujur

3.3.iii p. 128

"the kujur, the baladi [indigenous]"

p. 129

"the kujur in Kadugli."

7.1.i p. 271

"the Nuba kujur" [kujur "Nuba spirit possession cult / religious tradition" (p. 390)]

p. 301, n. 7:4

"the kujur, an almost exclusively Nuba practice, is considered entirely un-Islamic in contradistinction to zar whose position has always been ambivalent."

kujur http://www.nubasurvival.com/Nuba%20Vision/Vol%201%20Issue%203/9%20The%20Kujur.htm {with /KUJUR/ cf. /COnJURe/, a term often used for Afro-American magic}

Kujur is the name a town in Kordofan http://www.fallingrain.com/world/SU/34/Kujur.html

pp. 100-101, 342-343 mermaids; Faraj Allah al-S.anduli

3.1.ii p. 100

"Faraj Allah al-S.anduli, a quasi-mythical hero believed by all the t.umbura people to have been the first sanjak of the cult. ... his name as al-S.anduli comes from the word s.andal, a type of big sailing boat used in the Red Sea. ... Faraj Allah al-S.anduli was a Banda ["Banda is a distinct people in south-western Dar Fur" (p. 198)]; he was as black as koh.l. One day Faraj Allah was playing his rababa near the seashore when a mermaid

p. 101

came. ... the mermaid ... took some water and splashed his face. ... [Since then,] No one has ever seen Faraj Allah al-S.anduli. He comes out from the sea and plays his t.umbura, H.ajja Fat.na, and then goes into the sea again. He is in the sea with his Banat al-h.ur [mermaids]. He appears and disappears like the crocodile." {According to Philostratos the Elder (Imagines 2. 15), Glaukos of Anthedon became a merman, "by reason of which not even the sea is without music." (G) – A dream about music was recounted to Glaukos (GC, p. 185).}

II.iv.b p. 342

"Sawakin was ... the base of the cult’s quasi-mythical founder, Faraj Allah al-S.anduli".

p. 343

He "came originally from Sawakin where even today there is a rababa called ‘T.abia’ {‘medical’}."

G = http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Glaukos.html

GC = Glinfort & Matthews : Glaukos of Crete. 2004.

pp. 122, 127, 156 beneficial spirit-possession (ecstasy)

3.3.ii p. 122

The s`ayh^a "entered into a state of mild ecstasy called kashif. In that state, the shaykha assumed the voice of her possessing spiritual entity, one of the manifestations of her possessing entity called Banda, and conversed with the client and the other people who were present in the room. ... assuming the personality of Banda she would ask the patient something which the latter, say, would not catch. The shaykha/Banda would then ‘backtrack’ and in her normal voice she would repeat the question saying something like ‘the Banda asked if you ...’ "

pp. 122-3

"If the client ... had come for treatment the conversation was meant to discover the actual identity of his or her possessive agent."

3.3.iii p. 127

The s`ayh^a explained : "When I am in ecstasy [nazal] I can understand if the disease of the patient comes from the <ayn, sih.r or <amal. Then I give him the correct incense. ... I examine these things through Bandawi. ... This ... <amal is ... when ... someone ... goes to the faqi to make magic ... . When the Bandawi tells me that here is magic involved I can just talk and dissolve it, be it <irug (magic with roots) or waraga (lit. paper; writing spells on a piece of paper that is later concealed in the house of the victim)."

3.3.v pp. 141, 143 separation of the gendres during religious services of the ‘Red Wind’

p. 141

"in the past ... t.umbura was not called zar at all; it was simply t.umbura; zar did not exist. ... with t.umbura there is respect, ... because t.umbura ... men are separated from women. When zar came here men and women sat together. The people of zar sit separately. The people of t.umbura sit separately."

p. 143

"the very name, zar, came later while the other name for the spirit, rih. al-ah.mar, had always been there."

4.1 p. 149 the devotees

"T.umbura has both female and male devotees called banat al-<idda and awlad al-<idda, i.e. daughters and sons of the ‘instruments’, respectively."

4.2.i.a pp. 151-152 primary female cult-officiant

p. 151

"Every individual cult group has a female leader called shaykha."

p. 152

"All shaykhas claim a detailed knowledge of the medicines (dawa>, colloq. dawa) and ways of treatment (<ilaj) appropriate for a variety of symptoms; they ... can allegedly cure ‘ninety-nine diseases’ (amrad., sg. marad.)."

(4.2.i) p. 166 subordinate female cult-officiants


"Literally, jalisa means lady companion. ... The jalisa helps the shaykha with the care of the patients and the administration of the necessary medicines. ... When a shaykha retires, a willing jalisa may take her position if she has proven herself competent".


"The wagiba ... was considered to be the helper of the jalisa."


"The gerayya : Literally, it means ‘one who runs.’ The gerayya is usually a young woman or even a girl who informs all the group members of an upcoming ceremony".


"Habboba al-kanun : It means the grandmother of the stove. She is the cook of the group. Usually an old woman, she is responsible for preparing the ceremonial dishes".

(4.2.ii) pp. 167-168, 173-174 sanjak-s, the primary male cult-leaders {aequivalent to bishops}

4.2.ii.a p. 167

"The sanjak is the highest officiant of the male hierarchy ... . ... the Ottoman flag was always called sanjaq. {for another instance of the term for ‘flag’ being used to designate an officer, cf. the use of [<ibri^] /degel/ ‘flag’ as [<arabi^] /Dajjal/} As the devotees say, the rababa is the door through which the spirit enters the world. The key of that door {cf. the papal key of St. Petros} is the songs and is in the hands of the sanjak, their father who leads them in the way of the spirit. For that reason, the sanjak is called ‘lord of the old truth’ (sayyid al-h.aqq al-qadim). ... Thus the sanjak installs the shaykhas

p. 168

and all the other officiants ..., and is ultimately responsible for their ... ceremonial orthodoxy. In this capacity ..., the sanjak is called dalil, which means guide."

4.2.ii.a.b p. 173

"The old-time sanjaks ... were masters of the magical roots (<irug) which they used for protecting their interests ... . ... These roots ... were collected in the South and in the region around the town of Roseires, in the Blue Nile province. The old sanjaks knew if someone wanted to harm them through magic by his very appearance and asked the person from the outset what the problem was in order to avoid further trouble." {"appearance" would perhaps signify "aura"; another way of knowing would be through hearing statements by spirit-voices (of helper-spirits) emanating from the body of the person designing the harm (audible while that person is close enough by)}

4.2.ii.a.cp. 174

how the sanjak is " ‘called’ by the spirit" : "This call takes the form of affliction. The person selected by the spirit becomes severely ill for a prolonged period of time, subsequently being cured by t.umbura officiants. The affliction and cure are seen as the sign of his election. The phenomenon thus follows the lines of shamanism, where the initial affliction of the shaman serves as proof of his election."


"installation of the new sanjak" : "The sanjak-to-be is seated on a chair wearing a white jallabiyya and <imma, the traditional white turban-like head-dress. Crossed over his chest are two shawls, a green one for shaykh <Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, and a red one for Bilal. All the other sanjaks stand on either side of him. Behind them stand the lower male ranks of brigdar and sawatary ... . At the back are the male and female devotees on the right and the left respectively. ... Behind the selected sanjak is the rababa. In front of the assembly are the banners of t.umbura. ... The dalil or sanjak of the house where the installation is celebrated brings seven dishes of sweets. He gives the new sanjak one sweet from every dish to eat. He then does the same with the male devotees, according to their rank. The female devotees are served by the ummiyya or the jalisa." {the holy communion of sweets is also S`ikh}

4.2.a.a p. 170 a song of t.umbura

"kangia-kangia, sparkle, ... taught to you in rut.ana; ... go together, the green bird, the stick of bamboo."

"Kangia-kangia means sparkle in rut.ana ... a non-Arabic idiom. ... Green bird (al-t.ayr al-khud.ari or al-t.ayr al-khad.ra) symbolizes the beautiful black woman."

4.2.b pp. 180-181 brig-dar (middle-ranking male cult-officiant)

p. 180

"The word brigdar comes from the term baraq dar, that is a ‘standard bearer’ ... . ["Bayraq means flag" (p. 189, n. 4:38) {– cf. /baraq/ ‘lightning’ : Siberian and North American Indian shamans are often said to control lightning}] The brigdar is the assistant of the sanjak. ...

p. 181

The brigdar is responsible for taking the t.umbura banners (bawariq) out of the maydan ["inner courtyard" (p. 392)] ... . ... Additionally, the brigdar plays the nugara drum and helps the sanjak in singing."

how the brigdar is made : "A kind of informal apprenticeship starts and the sanjak teaches the brigdar-to-be ... . ... After the initial period of training ..., the apprentice is installed in his position. ... During the installation ceremony the new brigdar wears a white jallabiya. After the sacrifice he is dabbed with the blood of the animal on his forehead, temples, throat, palms, and feet. {cf. Mithraic taurobolion} After the anointment, the dalil or the older sanjak comes and crosses two shawls across his chest, a red one for sayyid or sidi Bilal from left to right and a green one for shaykh <Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani from right to left."

4.2.c pp. 184-185 lower-ranking male cult-officiants

p. 184

"The sawatari held the flag of Bilal during the installation ceremonies for the cult officiant, the recitation of the tat.riq, and the performance of zaffa (ritual procession)."

p. 185

"The mut.t.ariq : ... the person who recites the tat.riq."

G. P. Makris : Changing Masters : Spirit Possession ... in the Sudan. Northwestern U Pr, Evanston, 2000. pp. 21-189 = Part I "The T.umbura People"

{with /T.UMBURa/ cf. [Samskr.ta] /TUMBURu/, a gandharva}