T.umbura in H^artum, Parts II-III


pp. 191-265 Chapters 5-6 = Part II "The T.umbura Spirit"

pp. 194-195, 231 permanence of possessing-spirit’s praesence

5.1 p. 194

"The result of the zar’s attack is that the spirit establishes itself in its host’s body permanently ... . As the zar does not respond to exorcism, the only way to deal with these ... is to come to terms with it through initiation into the zar cult. Within the context of the cult group and under the tutelage of its – usually – female leader, herself a host of the spirit, the patient celebrates a number of ceremonies. There, the zar presents its demands which may include ... luxury items. These are ... given to the spirit’s host who is in a state of trance under the potency of special songs which activate the familiar spirit. Being satisfied, the spirit withdraws and ‘sleeps’, the symptoms of illness disappear ... . Nor for long, however. ... the zar wakes up after an unspecified period of time and ... starts again afflicting its host. Becoming ill, the possessed person can do nothing but celebrate again the necessary and costly rituals ... and satisfy the renewed demands of her tormentor. In other words, there is no permanent cure from the zar."

p. 195

"This brief description of the zar ... comes really from the ethnography of a specific kind of zar, bore’. For this reason, it is at variance with the description given by the t.umbura devotees ... . For them ..., the zar ... should not be seen as representations of ‘other cultures’ or ‘the outside world,’ but as integral aspects of the collective Self of the possessed." {this t.umbura description of deity (zar) as self is a metaphysical understanding (interpretation) of a neo-Platonic / Tantrik / Jungian nature – it is demonstrative of typical Su.fi^ integration with Neo-Platonic metaphysics}

6.1 p. 231

"contrary to zar bore`, in t.umbura the khayt.s represent the Self rather than the Other and, actually, they may do so in a way that borders what could be seen as a generalised form of ancestral veneration."

pp. 193-195 deities of zar generally

5.1 p. 193

"the term zar is of Amharic origins and ... zar adepts themselves use the plural form zayran and talk about seven or more groups or ‘societies’ of spirits. Inhabiting a parallel world [">arwah. al-<awualim al-sufli ..., i.e. ‘the spirits’ underworlds.’ (p. 222, n. 5:6)"], these groups and societies are described ... as counterparts of ethnic groups or societies other than those of members of the zar cult, ... all that is ‘foreign’ to the cultural context of the cult clientele. {cf. possession of Shakers (of European ancestry) by Amerindian spirits (HS, p. 240). "The Shakers experienced a form of spirit possession by which dead non-Christians, especially Native Americans, would enter into the bodies of living Shakers" (RD).} Thus, in ... Northern Sudan, among the spirits

p. 194

that possess the local zar devotees are those of European prostitutes, Ottoman and European officials, West African characters, and cannibal sorcerers from the South. The external appearance and attributes of these spirits are staged in a theatrical manner during the rituals. There, clad in the style or colour of dress and acting out the typical gestures and stereotypical behaviour that that correspond to their spirits, the possessed devotees dance ecstatically induced by special kinds of incense and music associated with their possessing agents."

5.2.i p. 195

"In the maydan during the celebration of a t.umbura ceremony most devotees are possessed by a host of characters or personalities called khayt.s, i.e. threads, which are summoned or ‘brought down’ by the sanjak by means of special songs. Just like in zar bore`, each khayt. has its own appearance, constume, and personality and reacts to different kinds of incense and songs."

HS = Arthur Conan Doyle : The History of Spiritualism. p. 120. http://www.worldspirituality.org/edward-irving.html & http://books.google.com/books?id=HH-sT52-f0QC&pg=PT20&lpg=PT20&dq=shakers+Indians+%22spirit-possession%22&source=bl&ots=bmUx_YpNw1&sig=8vTqF-WolnAToTPmCBDrRZQs5dg&hl=en&ei=gQTWSpnDB-COtgfhvfmYDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBEQ6AEwATgU#v=onepage&q=shakers%20Indians%20%22spirit-possession%22&f=false

RD = http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/oso/public/content/religion/9780195140996/acprof-0195140990-chapter-1.html

5.2.i pp. 197-203 specific h^ayt.-s


descriptions of the h^ayt.-s


"The t.umbura spirit modalities that most present-day groups celebrate are the following ones : Nuba, Banda, Gumuz, Sawakiniyya, Lambunat, Baburat, Bashawat, Khawajat".








"The entranced devotees who are possessed by the


khayt. wear a ‘traditional’ loincloth and brandish a spear when dancing."




"the black cannibals from the extreme south of the country.


... hosts are dressed in black and wear a straw loincloth. Around the head they wear a narrow


leather ribbon with ... cowrie shells. The cowries are usually sewn in fours, creating a cross-shape which stands in the middle of the ribbon and covers the forehead. From the right and left temples, three or four series of red, yellow, white and blue beads hang down to the level of the shoulders. A similar arrangement of beads and cowries is worn around the body, cross-covering the chest and the back of the person. ... small bells ... are worn around the ankles ... . Lastly, the Banda attire is completed with a long wooden spear with a metal shaft. An optional trait is the smearing of the face with white ashes".




"tribe of the Blue Nile Province.


... black dwarfs living in the river Nile who are called nas al-bahr, that is people of the river."




"from the ... Red Sea port of Sawakin".




"female slaves ... . ... Lambuna was an old woman from the Beja tribe who had her house deep in the desert ... . She stayed there with her daughters, the Lambunat."




"This is the plural form of babur and means ‘ships.’ "




"their costume includes a red fez". "the plural form of basha (pasha)".




"the ‘white’ Christian foreigner. ... The khayt.’s ceremonial attire is ... pith-helmet, khaki shorts, fly-whisk, ... and sun-glasses".

5.2.ii.a p. 207 "in contrast to what one finds in zar bore`, in the t.umbura of Greater Khartoum one does not come across modalities representing Fallatas (West Africans), H.abashi (Ethiopians), H.alibs (Syrians ...), or Arabs."

p. 224, n. 5:46 non-Sudani spirit-possession cults in Africa

"the Somali sar ...;

the Nigerian bori ...,

the Pokomo cults in Mafia island ...,

... the Hauka movement in Niger".

5.3.i pp. 212-213 specific spirits in the Banda h^ayt.

p. 212

"Babinga and Grindi which are characters mentioned in the songs of the Banda khayt.."

p. 213

"Babinga is a grandfather – cum ancestor – of the Sudani from the land of the Azande ...; and Grindi is and always has been a real hippopotamus living near the Nile in the South."

p. 214 "Lambuna is the wife of Bidawi".

5.3.iii p. 220 colors of flags

s`ayk^ or h^ayt.

color of the flag of that s`ayk^ or the h^ayt.



red, with his name in black

<abd al-Qadir al-Jilani

white and blue



white, with a cross



6.1 pp. 227-232 spirit-summoning songs which were first heard in a dream {cf. "death-songs", first heard their dreams, by North American Indians of the Great Plains}

p. 227

"In the terminology of t.umbura the cult songs ... (sing. jawab), a term that can be generally translated as letter, message, or answer. In the context of t.umbura, the term signifies at the same time the message the devotees send to the spirit inviting it to ‘descend,’ as well as the spirit’s

p. 228

response to its hosts."

"the jawabs come when you are asleep."

p. 232

"the spirit of zar ... is revealed in the form of modalities (khayt.s) which can be approached through special songs (jawabs) that are fused with them, songs which ... were composed, ‘found’, or ‘brought down’ in order for the people to gain access to the spirit."

6.2 pp. 258-259 transmission of jawab-songs via ‘chain’

p. 258

"the songs ... were the very words of their fathers and grandfathers which came to them as a chain (silisila) or line (silik)."

p. 259

"t.umbura ... toots (us.ul), ... chain-like ancestry (silisila). ... We follow one way (t.ariqa)."


pp. 269-371 Chapters 7-8 = Part III "The T.umbura Process"

[N.B. : Chapter 7 (= 7.1.i-ii) is labeled "The T.umbura Process, I";

Chapter 8 (= 7.1.iii-7.2) is labeled "The T.umbura Process, II"]

7.1.i pp. 272-275 dream-divination, by means of <alaq, of spirit-cause of ailment

p. 272

"The <alaq has been described ... as the corner-stone of t.umbura. It not only reveals whether t.umbura is the hidden cause of the illness; it also discloses the ...

p. 273

modality of the spirit involved, as well as the steps that should be followed to ensure successful therapy. Perhaps the methods has been named after the homonymous Quranic sura ninety-six which was the very first sura revealed to Prophet Muh.ammad." ["<Alaq ... is sometimes translated as embryo" (p. 302, n. 7:7).]

p. 274

"The shaykha sleeps with the <alaq bundle under her pillow for three or seven days. Within this period, one or more spirit modalities will appear in her dream and assume responsibility for the illness saying ... I caught this person. If no modality appears then the illness cannot be attributed to t.umbura ... . Alternatively, if the spirit appears in the shaykha’s dream in the form of the particular modality in which it possesses the patient, it almost invariably asks for the traditional ceremonies to be celebrated and for the patient to become fully initiated into the cult."

p. 275

"sometimes the patient herself will appear in the dream to present her case to the shaykha."

p. 302, n. 7:13

"There are some cases when the patient may have dreams that reveal the modalities that possess her."

7.1.i pp. 276-277 trance-divination, through kas`if, of spirit-cause of ailment

p. 276

"the shaykha ... performs the kashif (lit. uncovering, unveiling ...). ... When the shaykha enters the state of kashif she comes into ecstasy. In this state she is able not only to diagnose which modality, if any, has possessed the patient, but she can also give answers to various problems which are put to her and give valuable advice. Which of the weekdays is assigned to kashif depends on which is the dominant modality that possesses the shaykha. Every spirit modality has a particular day dedicated to it, so accordingly, every shaykha has a specific day of kashif."

p. 277

"in kashif it is the spirit itself that talks – through the shaykha – to the patient".

7.1.ii.c pp. 293-295 specific medicines


for __




1st : "a kind of wood called khashab al-arawaud"

2nd ingredients : grunful (cloves), mistika (Pistachia lenticus), siyada (Papyrus cylindrica)



1st : simsim (sesame) oil

2nd : turab al-mujmar



"<Alali, a kind of root"



ingredients : kafur t.ayyara (camphor), h.armal [= h.argial, i.e., Peganum harmala (p. 305, n. 7:59)], kawal, rijla (wisteria)

7.1.ii.c p. 299 the snake of Banda

the Banda h^ayt. : "The cult officiants argue that the Banda snake comes from the mountain Karkur, which is in the South in the land of the Nyam-Nyam ... . ‘When the snake wants to make its appearance ... it shouts like the lion in the desert. ... In the past the big shaykhas always had in the room of t.umbura balila ["Boiled ungrounded sorghum" (p. 305, n. 7:63)], simsim (sesame) with honey, and ful beans for the snake of Banda. The snake would come ... to eat the balila and the rest and return whence [whither] it had come.’ ...

The snake is ... as long as a man. It will go to the patient and coil itself upon her chest. It will then slither all over her body. After that it will return to its hole; ... the patient ... will recover."

7.1.iii pp. 308-310 thanksgiving caerimony

p. 308

"gadah. is a wooden bowl ... used in the Western Sudan for storing food. ... Bayad. is ... whiteness." "Gadah. al-bayad. ... ‘the bowl of whiteness’ ... is ... a ceremonial offering which must be presented to the zar spirit, ... as a token of gratitude for the complete recovery of the afflicted person; if this does not happen, then the disease will return."

p. 309

"in the past the gadah. al-bayad. was celebrated immediately after the seven-day therapy".

p. 310

metaphors : "the big gate ... is gadah. al-bayad.. The market is t.umbura and the feast is the d.abih.a (the kursi sacrifice)."

"In another metaphor employed by many t.umbura devotees ... tas.bira, a term that literally indicates the dish served before the main course (hors-d’oeuvre) ... is the name given to the nus.s. kursi ceremony (half kursi), ... which is done when the novice cannot afford to celebrate the" full caerimony at Sennar. ["in gadah. al-bayad. you must have half the quantity you have in the ceremony of kursi." (p. 366, n. 8:13)]

7.1.iii.a pp. 315-319 marriage of a human to a deity

p. 315

"Just as it opens the wedding festivities, the laylat al-h.inna opens the celebration of all t.umbura ceremonies including the gadah. al-bayad. on Thursday evening. The ritual, which according to the cult devotees transforms the ex-patient – irrespective of gender – into the bride (<arusa) of the spirit {likewise in ISKON (International Society for Kr.s.n.a Consciousness) devotees become – irrespective of gendre – brides of that spirit}, takes place ... near the tray with the gadah. al-bayad. articles. ...

p. 316

While the thick aromatic smoke of the burning incense fills the room, the shaykha mixes with water the red-brown {cf. [Skt.] /ARUS.A/ ‘reddish’ with (via "blushing bride") [<ar.] /<ARUSA/ ‘bride’} h.inna powder that has been brought in a white plate. She then sticks in the mixture the seven candles ... and lights them up in a scene that is strongly reminiscent ... of wedding ceremonies. ... Then, h.inna is put on the <idda – the t.umbura items such as drums, flags, etc. ... – and on the hands and feet of the novice ... . In the end, the shaykha puts the jirtiq bracelet around the novice’s right wrist. {The bracelet is also given to initiates in West African religious societies, including to those of the diaspora in Bahi`a, in Cuba, and in Haiti.} ... Being thus transformed into its bride, the novice can meet the spirit in the afternoon of the next day and normalise her relationship with it".

p. 319

In "the kursi initiation ceremony ... the laylat al-h.inna rite of the gadah. al-bayad. was repeated ... as well, and ... the novice was called for one more time the bride (<arusa) of the spirit." {Thus, the wedding caerimony for marriage of a human to a deity, having been commenced in gadah. al-bayad., is completed in kursi.}

7.1.iii.b pp. 321-322 the tat.riq homily

p. 321

"Gadah.s (wooden bowls) with <as.ida [‘porridge’] or luqma were prepared ... . Plates with rob (sour milk), samna (clarified animal fat), suksukaniyya (boiled sorghum), and shariyya (thin pasta with sugar and tomato sauce) were also prepared. ... The guardians of the rababa (h.arasan), two sticks about one metre long decorated with small colourful beads which are supposed to protect the instrument from evil, were also brought out, together with the Y-shaped sha<ba sticks of shaykh <Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani ... . ... Holding the sha<ba stick with his right hand, the brigdar started reciting the tat.riq homily ... . Without the sha<ba the brigdar cannot speak. According to tradition, in the past the tat.riq was recited by the mut.t.ariq."

p. 322

"The word tat.riq can be translated as rhythm ... . It comes from the root t.araqa which ... means ... to follow a rhythm, to take or follow a road."

7.1.iii.f pp. 330-331 arraying of the god’s human bride

p. 330

"the brigdar placed the gadah. with the <as.ida upon the head of the bride who, covered with a white tob [classical <ar. /tawb/ (p. 396)], sat ... . ... Then he put the gadah. on the bride’s knees and the shaykha went under the tob and gave her three mouthfuls to eat. After that ... the pigeons ... were brought, the shaykha ... took one of them, rubbed it on the bride’s head in order ‘to clean it’ and set it free. As ... ‘the pigeon will fly eastwards taking the illness away; whoever catches it will be lucky.’ ...

... a plate ... contained a silver ring (dibla) {dbelah ‘pressed figs’ (Strong’s 1690), traditionally strung together in a ring} about an inch in diameter that was attached to a string of red {cf. the "scarlet thread" (Yho^s^u<a 2:18, 21) which protected the house of the zonah (loose woman) in yRIH.O^ (from [<ar.] /rah^w/, /RIH^W/ ‘slack (of rope or cord)’). As to Yrih.o^, "they compassed the city seven times" (Yho^s^u<a 6:15), much as folk run around (SO&S, p. 73) a faery RING nine times. The expression "rowan tree and red thread" is an allusion to the belief that a rowan tree (styled by the Norse the "wife of To`rr") is able to set free (F, p. 163) a human trapped in a faery ring.} ... .

p. 331

... the ... shaykha ... -- the shaykha of the house – helped the bride to put the dibla around her neck. She is supposed to wear it for the rest of her life. As shaykha ... explained, the dibla is for al-banat al-hawanim, i.e. the girls who, together with angels, follow shaykh <Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani when he descends to this world. When the novice is still ill the girls come into her head and ‘hit’ {cf. "the evil alu^(-demon) who afflicts (lit., hits) a man as in a dream" (D&DR, p. 51, translating CT 16, pl. 27, lines 32-33)} her (biya<amalu d.arba), but after the slaughtering of the pigeons {cf. the Manda< /pih.ta/ ‘doves’ flesh’ as holy-communion wafer} they come to get the dibla. ["besides the dibla there are three other rings which the bride must wear on her right hand in the gadah. al-bayad.. These are for al-banat al-hawanim, shaykh <Abd al-Qadir Al-Jilani, and Bilal respectively. The first one is a simple ring to which three small chains are attached. The two others ... have the names of the two ... inscribed on the upper part" (p. 369, n. 8:46).]

As soon as the bride put the dibla on, the shaykha ..., holding her by the hands, made her stand with three small jumps. That was done for the illness to fly away. ... In the meantime, shaykha ... was spraying thee bride ... . ... After that the rest of the group ate the <as.ida. When they finished they cleaned their hands on the body of the bride in order for God to give her health."

SO&S = Astra Cielo (1918). Signs, Omens and Superstitions. George Sully & Co., NY.

F = Robin Gwyndaf (1991). "Fairylore: Memorates and Legends from Welsh Oral Tradition", The Good People: New Fairylore Essays. U Pr of KY, Lexington.

D&DR = S[ally] A. L. Butler : Mesopotamian Conceptions of Dreams and Dream Rituals. Ugarit-Verlag, Münster, 1998.

CT = Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum (vol. 16 = 1903).

7.1.iv p. 336 timetable for events of kursi (initiation caerimony)




"application of the h.inna"


"sacrifice of the sheep"


i. "ritual opening of the sacrificial sheep’s head"


ii. "mayz ritual fir the Banda modality"; "ritual sacrifice of the goat" ["the sacrifice of a black goat for the Banda on Saturday" (p. 370, n. 8:85)]


i. "ritual opening of the sacrificial goat’s head"


ii. "mayz ritual fir the Khawajat modality" ["The Khawajat mayz ... devotees wear European suits" (p. 370, n. 8:85)]


iii. "sacrifice of the turkey"


"ritual bath in the river"

7.1.iv.b.i pp. 340-343 zaffa (ritual procession)



zaffa songs



Abu Hashim al-Mirghani ["the form h.aqiqa ... is used in the teachings of the S[.]ufi Orders, especially the Mirghaniyya" (7.1.iii.e.i p. 328); " ‘H.aqiqa ... is defined as a direct vision of the Divine’ ... and according to a Mirghaniyya manual this Divine Truth cannot be approached except through the order." (p. 368, n. 8:43)]



Bilal [l. 14 "the spear ..., bila"]



<Abd al-Qadir












Banat al-h.ur





"the banat al-h.ur and the mala>ikat of lines 26 and 27 are [respectively] mermaids and river angels that allegedly live in the Nile and are somehow associated with the Gumuz modality of the spirit, also known as the river people."

7.1.iv.c pp. 351-354 opening of the head

p. 351

"the novice covered with a white tob ... sat in front of the sanjak. ... One of the bowls contained the boiled head of the animal and its hip bones, while the other contained its genitals, the upper part of the chest, and the bones of the neck.

p. 352

... the sanjak ... and the brigdar ... put the bowl that contained the head of the animal on top of the bride’s head ... . The bowl was uncovered and the brigdar opened the animal’s mouth. Then he poured some milk into it {"Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk."} and cut a few pieces from the tongue ... . ... Then the gadah. was removed from the bride’s head and was placed momentarily on her knees".

p. 354

"the bride was given pieces of the animal’s tongue to eat, a practice that is not mentioned by any scholar working on zar bore`."

7.1.iv.d pp. 355-357 visit to the river

p. 355

"In the past, the visit to the river was done with the sanjak at the head of the procession performing the songs ... . ... Still, ... the festive character of the occasion is retained with the sanjak ... and everyone else singing at the top of his or her voice and playing the kakakish rattles."

p. 356

"The jalisa led the novice into the river ... and presented her to the sanjak and the brigdar. ... the sanjak washed the bride’s face with water three times. {cf. how the Spirit of God "hovered over the Face of the Waters" (B-re>s^it 1:2)?} Then the brigdar gave him [the sanjak] one of the two live white chickens that he [the brigdar] was holding. The sanjak submerged the bird into the water three times {cf. the dove which appeared at the baptism of Iesous (Euangelion of Loukas 3:22)?} and then stroked with it the novice’s chest. back, and shoulders three times. The same was repeated with the second bird." ["Tapper and Tapper (1987:80) cite ... a poem that describes how a white bird came floating and stroked the back of Amin, Muh.ammad’s mother, when she was giving birth to the Prophet. When this verse of the poem is recited the women participants in Mevlud are sprinkled by the cantor with rosewater and stroke each others[’] backs." (p. 371, n. 8:89) – cf. also the Hawai>ian birth of the sea-wave chicken on the back :-

l. 1532 "Born the booming of the sea, the breaking of foam

l. 1533 Born the roaring, advancing, and receding of waves ...

l. 1542 Born is the cock on the back ...

l. 1544 Dead is the current sweeping in from the navel of the earth : that was a ... wave" (K, p. 109).]

p. 357

"the t.umbura novice appears to occupy a position that is structurally equivalent to the positions of a woman in childbed" :-


t.umbura ritual bath

post-parturition rite (Trimingham, 1983:180-1)


"visiting the river four days after the ... spirits and its host consummated their marriage"

"visiting the river forty days after the birth of the child"


"invoking the river spirits"

"invoking the river spirits"


"disposing of remains of sacrifice" [into river (p. 356)]

"disposing of remains of childbirth"


"washing of bride’s face"

"washing of mother’s and baby’s faces"


"eating of balila"

"eating of balila"

Tapper and Tapper (1987) = N. Tapper & R. Tapper : "The Birth of the Prophet : ritual ... in Turkish Islam". MAN (n.s.) vol. 22, pp. 69-92

K = Martha Warren Beckwith : The Kumulipo. U of Chicago Pr, 1951. http://books.google.com/books?id=7Ir_cgqw_9QC&pg=PA109&lpg=PA109&dq=

Trimingham (1983) = J. S. Trimingham : Islam in the Sudan. Oxford U Pr.

7.2 p. 364 Luliyya

"During an interval of a t.umbura ceremony ... some women started singing the song of Luliyya, an Ethiopian prostitute bore` spirit. ... The highest point came when shaykha ... herself appeared clad in a red dress and started dancing ecstatically licking her fingers and making provocative movements." [Luliyya possessed a 13-year old adolescent girl [so as to express disapproval "of her visit to the hospital" in Omdurman (7.1.iii p. 313)].]


G. P. Makris : Changing Masters : Spirit Possession ... in the Sudan. Northwestern U Pr, Evanston, 2000. pp. 191-265 = Part II "The T.umbura Spirit"; pp. 267-381 = Part III "The T.umbura Process"

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