Self-Possessed, 4.1.5-4.1.10




pp. 122-127

p. 122 Himacala Prades`a & sTod-Bod

in Himachal Pradesh nearly all village temples in the Kulu district have mediums who are possessed by the main temple deity. [Berti 1999, pp. 61-97] …

This is equally the case in Tibet … : “Even more than the local [b]lama … the dpa> bo [“spirit medium, lit. “hero””] acted in the centre of the religious life of the village.” (Berglie 1976, p. 86)

Berti 1999 = Daniela Berti : “La re'solution d'un villageois dans la Valle'e de Kullu (Himachal Pradesh)”. In :- Jackie Assayag & Gilles Tarabout (edd.) : La possession en Asie du Sud. COLLECTION PURUS.ARTHA 21. Paris. pp. 61-97.

Berglie 1976 = Per-Arne Berglie : “Some Tibetan 'Spirit-Mediums' in Nepal”. KAILASH 4.1:85-108.

pp. 123-4 in the Nubra region of Ladakh

p. 123

a Buddhist monk …, who also served as a priest …, … was possessed by a local lha called Chamshing, a protector deity (dharmapala) … . [Spirit-]Possession occupies a high profile in Ladakh … because, after the Chinese {Maoist} occupation of Tibet and the subsequent destruction of the temple images in which the deities were embodied, the Tibetan Buddhist {Vajra-yana} deities themselves “fled to Ladakh to seek their residence in people's bodies.” According to … divination, “seven-five lhas would come to reside in Nubra …, exiled from their former homes.” [Srinavas 1998, p. 134] …

The [spirit-]possessed individual is known as luyar, or vessel for the lha. Malevolent possession is caused by …

p. 124

an evil female spirit. Srinivas identifies four types of ritual practitioners who treat this type of spirit possession :

the [b]lama, who “... can help a man's spirit reach heaven”;

the onbo, who “removes evil and assists in securing earthly … benefits”;

the lhaba, who “sees the spirit of a man and its imaginings as if in a mirror”; and

the larje, who “takes care of the body.” [Srinivas 1998, p. 132]

Oracular or “positive” possession, however, …

leads to a kind of madness characterized by … by spiritual crisis.

{as is usual in the Siberian and other vocations to shamanhood}

An individual subject to this type of possession undergoes an initiatory life-crisis ritual called lhapchok, in which the newfound status of oracle becomes formally recognized. The oracle … now undergoes a period of training including exorcism

and sucking out poison”.

{cf. Amerindian and other sucking-cure shamans}

Srinivas 1998 = Smriti Srinivas : The Mouths of People, the Voice of God. Oxford U Pr.

pp. 124-5, 162-3 in Nepal

p. 124

Among … the Tamang shamans of central Nepal, … shamans (bombo < Tib. bon-po) represent what Ho:fer calls “accomodated heterodoxy,” a term that reflects … the designation bombo because of their apparent similarity to the priesthood of the Bo:n. [Ho:fer 1994, p. 20] …

A bombo quivers inside the body (si'nsin-kho`lkhol) … . The bombo experiences a shamanic trembling or quaking (chye`kpa) that indicates he has been “seized by the god” (lajye cunba). When this occurs, the deity, usually a goddess (ma`i, Nepali mai, maiju) or virgin (Nepali kanya, kumari), descends

p. 125

onto one's back or into one's body (Tamang : gori yu`ba; Nepali : sir / kum carhnu [“mounting one's head/shoulders”]; angma carhnu [“to mount the back”]). …

{This carrying of a divinity upon one's back is also known in >uwaysi S.ufi circles (in the legendary accounts of imaginal saints – IM). This literature originated in the Tajik / rTa-gzig region which was the homeland of the Bon.}

In the state of gori yu`ba, the bombo attains … with the deity, “an interpenetration, rather than a fusion of identities.

Informants likened this relationship between the bombo and the superhuman to that between husband and wife.” (Ho:fer 1994, pp. 26-7, 72-4)

{Spiritual marriage betwixt a shaman and that shaman's spirit-guide of opposite gendre is an occasional feature of Siberian shamanry.}

p. 162-3, n. 4:76

in central Nepal … Gaborieau (1975a) … recorded statements … uttered by members of a class of spirits of the dead, those who suffered accidental death, called bayu” {VAYU = [Roman] VEIoVis, offerings to whom were on behalf of the dead (Festus 91.24)}.

p. 163, n. 4:78

In western Nepal, Gaborieau (1975b:158 ff) has noticed that the word avatar is normally employed for the possession of a deity by a medium {or rather, the possession of a medium by a deity}. The possession is instigated by a tantric master who calls the deities into the body of the medium.”

Ho:fer 1994 = Andra`s Ho:fer : A Recitation of the Tamang Shaman in Nepal. Bonn : VGH Wissenschaftsverlag.

IM = Julian Baldrick : Imaginary Muslims : the Uwaysi Sufis of Central Asia. NY U Pr, 1993.

Gaborieau 1975a = Marc Gaborieau : “Les bayu du Nepal Central”. COLLECTION PURUS.ARTHA 1:67-90.

Gaborieau 1975b = Marc Gaborieau : “Le transe rituelle dans l'Himalaya Central”. COLLECTION PURUS.ARTHA 2:147-72.

pp. 126-7 Bodish spirit-mediumship in Nepal

p. 126

Berglie has observed possession among spirit-mediums (dpa>-bo) in Nepal. [Berglie 1982a] … First the “consciousness” (rnam shes) was sent away … . It is important that the medium's body be completely empty of his or her rnam shes;

to be “half god, half man” was an untrustworthy state.

{This would imply that Iesous Khristos, in being “very god and very man”, is notoriously untrustworthy.}

This rnam shes was then placed under the care of … a protective deity called mkha> >gro Ye shes mtsho rgyal [a d.akini],while any one of a number of other deities protected and controlled the proceedings. The possessing deities then enter the body of the dpa>-bo through one of the main channels (Tib. rtsa, Skt. nad.i) of the subtle body … . During the ritual,

mirrors are placed on a nearby altar, because it is in these that the deities are thought to reside during the se'ance … . …

[p. 164, n. 4:94 : “the dpa>-bo call the mirror gling (“world” {or 'island' : cf. island of Veiovis in the river Tiberis}); cf. Berglie 1976:94). See Bellezza 2005:23-28 for … a number of Tibetan words for this magical mirror.”]

[quoted from Berglie 1982b, p. 164 :] When all the gods summoned have arrived, possession took place by the god most suited to carry out the task … .

[“one of the informants”] said that he saw all the colours of the rainbow in the

{It may be praesumed that the Rainbow-Bridge of Norse mythology is figurative of this “rainbow” “of many colours”. The Bodish >ja>-lus ('rainbow-body') transfiguration may be another connection.}

p. 127

mirrors and that all became very bright when the gods arrived. When the god was to take possession of him, his body felt enlarged and as if filled with air.

[“another informant”] said that when his rnam shes was going to leave his body, he saw a glowing fire of many colours. This fire grew bigger and and finally entered his body … . After that, everything became black and he remembered nothing further. At the end of the possession all this happened in the reverse order.”

Another noteworthy study … is Angela Dietrich's Tantric Healing in Kathmandu Valley [Delhi : Bk Faith India, 1998]. This valuable resource extensively records vocabulary of healing and spirit beings”. [p. 164, n. 4:97 : “Dietrich 1998, esp. pp. 39 ff. for demonologies, pp. 160 ff. for healing practices.”]

p. 164, n. 4:98

See also Merz 1996, which describes the goddess Harati in the Kathmandu Valley … . Harati confers on her devotees oracular possession …, but also heals.”

Berglie 1982a = Per-Arne Berglie : “Se'ances with Tibetan Spirit-Mediums in Nepal”. In :- Nils G. Holm (ed.) : Religious Ecstasy. Stockholm : Almqvist & Wiksell. pp. 151-66.

Bellezza 2005 = John Vincent Bellezza : Spirit-Mediums … in Upper Tibet : calling down the gods. Leiden : Brill.

Berglie 1982b = Per-Arne Berglie : “Some Tibetan ro langs Stories”. INDOLOGICA TAURINENSIA 10:37-44.

Merz 1996 = Brigette Merz : “The Cult of the Goddess Harati in Nepal”. In :- A. Michaels, C. Vodelsanger, and A. Wilke (edd.) : Wild Goddesses in India and Nepal. Bern : Peter Lang.



Tamil & Simhala

pp. 127-133

pp. 127-8 avecam; pukutal

p. 127

In Tamil and Simhala, avecam (< Skt. aves`am) is perhaps the most common word for spirit or deity possession. … The definitions of avecam in J. P. Fabricius's Tamil-English dictionary [Fabricius 1897, pp. 61-2] are : “… the entrance of a demon into a person for the purposes of uttering oracles; … the … madness of a possessed person; … the grimaces of a person in …

p. 128

religious frenzy.”

The Tamil verb pukutal (to enter) is used in Tamil poetry where a\vis`\ is found in Sanskrit”.

Fabricius 1897 : J. P. Fabricius : Tamil and English Dictionary.

pp. 128-30 arul & m-arulu

p. 128

[quoted from Handelman & Shulman 2004, p. 40] “In village ritual contexts, arul. may simply mean “[spirit-]possession” … or the experience of the deity's true (nija, aghora) form.”

Hiltebeitel records the Tamil substantive marul.u (delusion, bewilderment), used for As`vatthaman's murderous [spirit-]possession of the young Pan~capan.d.avas in the folk Draupadi ritual.” (Hiltebeitel 1991, p. 344)

Eveline Meyer, who observed [spirit-]possession in the cult of the goddess Ankalaparamecuvari in Tamilnadu ...

p. 129

notes the word marul., “used to describe the power and frenzy which takes hold of the pucari [“Ta. {for Skt.} pujari”].” [Meyer 1986, p. 110 n. 2]

Nabokov, too, records the phrase marul ot.utal (running in a state of … frenzy), which she defines more strictly than Meyer as ceremonial flight after … a chicken … is … to send a pey (spirit) fleeing.”

Handelman & Shulman 2004 = Don Handelman & David Shulman : God Inside Out : S`iva's Game of Dice. Oxford U Pr.

Hiltebeitel 1991 = Alf Hiltebeitel : THE CULT OF DRAUPADI. Vol. 2 : On Hindu Ritual and the Goddess. U of Chicago Pr.

Meyer 1986 = Eveline Meyer : Ankalaparamecuvari : a goddess of Tamilnadu. BEITRA:GE ZUR SU:DASIENFORSCHUNG, UNIVERSITA:T HEIDELBERG, no. 107. Wiesbaden : Franz Steiner.

pp. 129-30 for bone-crunching

p. 129

Another form of possession is “dancing the god,” because of certain patterned … dancing during deity possession. [Klimkeit 1976] The Tamil term is (god-dancing), while the Malayalam cognate is … teyyam (divine … frenzy; Ta. tey, Ma. teyyam < Skt. daivam).”

p. 130

[myth accounting for rite (on the festival Maha-s`iva-ratri) of chewing human bones :] “Shiva … granted [to an asura] a boon of immortality. The asura then went on a rampage … . The sadhus complained to Parvati. … Parvati came to Earth as Angala Parames[`]vari Amman. She chased the asura who took refuge in a graveyard. To escape her …, the asura entered a corpse. … Angala Parames[`]vari Amman dug up every corpse in the graveyard. She ate up the flesh and chewed the bones … and danced the ananda tandav.”

Klimkeit 1976 = Hans-Joachim Klimkeit : “Die 'Teufelsta:nz' von Su:dindien'”. ANTHROPOS 71:555-78.

p. 130 spirit-possession in Od.ivis`a

A … study of goddess worship in … Orissa was conducted by Lynn Foulston. She … notes … the honor and status accorded to those who enter into [spirit-]possession (mostly women, but also, on occasion, male temple officiants) and the imperative for the deity to possess the devotee. In Khurdapur, near Bhubanes[`]war in Orissa “... the goddess [“Santos.i Ma”] must respond the the pujari if he approaches her correctly.”” (Foulston 2002, p. 143)

Foulston 2002 = Lynn Foulston : At the Feet of the Goddess … in Local Hindu Religion. Brighton : Sussex U Pr.

pp. 130-1 the 3 categories of trance (including that caused by pey [preta]); puvat.aikkari

p. 130

the Hindu Tamils of Penang recognize three categories of trance :

sami ati (the possession of pujari by a goddess or warrior deity);

pey pirichu (lit. “having a ghost”; possession by ghosts …); and

arul (the trance of divine grace experienced by those who fulfil vows during religious festivals).” (Collins 1997, p. 111)

p. 131

pey “is the spirit of a man who took his life because he was prevented to wed, or because his marriage did not work out, and who hence 'catches' other men's wives.”” (Nabokov 2000, pp. 126-7)

Nabokov writes [2000, pp. 128-37, 159] extensively of the puvat.aikkari (woman who wears flowers). These are good spirits, who may be … invited to enter certain [spirit-]mediums during puvat.aikkari pujas, held to bless weddings, harvests, plantings, and other auspicious occasions.”

Collins 1997 = Elizabeth Fuller Collins : Pierced by Murugan's Lance. Dekalb (IL) : Northern IL U Pr.

Nabokov 2000 : Isabelle Nabokov : Religion Against the Self : .. Tamil rituals. Oxford U Pr.

pp. 131-2 spirit-possession by Murugan

p. 131

The word that Kapadia found used for [spirit-]possession among the … non-brahman castes she studied was pud.iccikirad.u. …

Kapadia means [2000, p. 198] that men can become Ardhanaris`vara, … who is half-man and half-woman, while women cannot assume this state.”

{Human males are “complete” in the sense that they have both X and Y chromosomes; women cannot assume this state, having only X chromosomes.}

p. 132

Contemporary “experience of possession of {by, not “of”} Murugan … is similar to that expressed in the Akananuru, a collection of Tamil poems dating from the first to third century C.E. George Hart notes [Hart 1975, p. 28] that even at that time Murugan was a deity popularly invoked for [spirit-]possession.”

Kapadia 2000 = Karin Kapadia : “Pierced by Love : Tamil possession”. In :- Julia Leslie & Mary McGee (edd.) : Invented Identities … in India. Oxford U Pr. pp. 181-202.

Hart 1975 = George L. Hart : The Poems of Ancient Tamil. Berkeley & Los Angeles : U of CA Pr.

pp. 132-3 in Simhala : possession by Kal.i; s`akti-possession; spirit-possession of women

p. 132

[quoted from Lawrence 2003, p. 101] “In eastern S[`]ri Lanka, … institutionalized [spirit-]possession is incorporated into the structure of puja ritual at temples for all local goddesses.”

rituals for Kal.i … feature [spirit-]possession, … ash pumpkins …, body piercing (especially of the cheeks with silver needles …, or the back with multiple fishhooks). At the time of Kal.i's annual festival in June, thousands of men, women, and children walk across burning coals, led by a charismatic “uttering oracle” (vakku solluratu), a possessed woman speaking with Kal.i's voice.”

[quoted from Lawrence 2003, p. 115] “Oracles describe s`akti possession as a painful sacrifice of the body, reporting feelings of unbearable heat and a trembling like the 'shivering when one suffers from fever.'”

p. 133

Perhaps the most richly detailed depiction of [spirit-]possession in early Tamil texts is in the well-known fifth-century epic drama Cilappatikaram. At the end of the drama the oracular possession of a brahman woman named Tevantikai by the god is described.”

Lawrence 2003 = Patricia Lawrence : “Kal.i … : the tasks of a goddess ...”. In :- Rachel Fell McDermott & Jeffrey J. Kripal (edd.) : Encountering Kali. Berkeley : U of CA Pr. pp. 100-23.

p. 165, n. 4:133 spirit-possession of monks in Kambhoja

In Cambodia many monks, in addition to laity, undergo possession in which they attempt to convert wayward spirits to Buddhism. …

{This is a misguided effort : actually the wayward Buddhists are in need of being converted (by the spirits) to the Sanatana Dharma.}

Trance is unacceptable for a monk ...” ([Bertrand 2004,] p. 163).

{If trance be unacceptable, would this imply that Simhalese monks must necessarily be excluded from all the higher heavens, which (according to the Abhidharma) are accessible only by means of trances?}

Thus many of these monks “chose to [“temporarily”] defrock ...” (ibid.).”

Bertrand 2004 = Didier Bertrand : “A Medium Possession … with Cambodian Buddhism : the Gru Parami”. In :- John Marston & Elizabeth Guthrie (edd.) : History, Buddhism, and New Religious Movements in Cambodia. Honolulu : U of HI Pr. pp. 150-69.



Yaka:dura of Simhala

pp. 133-136

pp. 133-4 varieties of Simhalese exorcists

p. 133

S[`]ri Lankan exorcists … are called a:dura (Wirz : edura) or …, though the more proper rendering is yaka:dura {with Skt. /yaka-/ ('who') praefixed?}. Scott defines [1994, p. 279] a:dura as a “practitioner of the arts of controlling the malign figures called yakku” (Skt. yaks.a) … . Another ritual specialist called bandhanaya (Wirz) addresses afflictions caused by planetary influences (grahacaraya) and ... confines and disarms demons … based largely on astrological remedies [Wirz 1954, pp. 14 sq]. … Vogt classifies [1999, p. 11, Table 2] … yaka:dura, who are versed in bhutavidya … and employ tovil or yaktovil, a wide range of healing rituals that …

p. 134

may include masked dances, drumming, puja, didactic songs, and theatrical scenes, some of which are comical …; … s`astrakaraya, a group that includes astrologers and fortune tellers”.

Scott 1994 = David Scott : Formations of Ritual : … the Sinhala Yaktovil. Minneapolis : U of MI Pr.

Wirz 1954 = Paul Wirz : Exorcism and the Art of Healing in Ceylon. Leiden : Brill.

Vogt 1999 = Beatrice Vogt (transl. by Michael H. Kohn) : Skill and Trust : the Tovil healing ritual. Amsterdam : VU University Pr.




pp. 136-138

pp. 136-7 sense of power entring one's body (during religious festivity), without diminution of consciousness

p. 136

goddess Kal.i “will enter the actor's body and consciousness as a great inner heat” [Caldwell 1996, p. 202] and “We fix the picture of Bhagavati in our mind, and her supernatural power (caitanyam) enters our body.”

the tradition of spirit-possessed dancers and priests in Kerala dates back two millennia” (citing Freeman 2001, pp. 187, 384 n. 1).

[quoted from Freeman 1993, p. 113 n. 7 :] “the onset of possession (aves`am) is described as “coming to” (varuka), “joining” (kut.uka),

p. 137

or “mounting” (keruka) of the body (meyyal). In this state the host is said to be “illuminated” (vel.iccappet.uka), … “in-dwelt” (urayuka), to be “internally moved” (il.ukuka), and possessed of “spiritual vision” (dars`anam).”

the performance of teyyam “entails no loss of consciousness ..., but … instead one's own body and mind aretaken over and animated by a higher and more powerful (… concentrated) form of consciousness.”” (Freeman 1993, p. 131)

Caldwell 1996 = Sarah Caldwell : “Bhagavati : Ball of Fire”. In :- John Stratton Hawley & Donna Wulff (edd.) : Devi : goddess of India. U of CA Pr. pp. 195-226.

Freeman 2001 = Rich Freeman : “Deification of Vali in the Teyyam Worship of Malabar”. In :- Paula Richman (ed.) : Questioning Ramayanas. U of CA Pr. pp. 187-220.

Freeman 1993 = J. Richardson Freeman : “Performing Possession … in the Teyyam Complex of Northern Kerala”. In :- H. Bru:ckner, L. Lutze, and A. Malik (edd.) : Flags of Flame. New Delhi : Manohar. pp. 109-38.

p. 137 other terminology of spirit-possession

in Malayalam “is a jumping, hopping dance undertaken in a fit of possession … or madness.”” (Caldwell 1996, p. 207)

the general term in Malayalam for spirit possession is komaram; unwanted possession is rendered pey pit.ikkatu …; and in a festival context a beneficent visitation is called cami mel varavattu (the god descends).” (Blackburn 1988, pp. 229-30, nn. 22-7)

Blackburn 1988 = Stuart H. Blackburn : Singing of Birth and Death. Philadelphia : U of PA Pr.



Tulu & Irula

pp. 138-139

p. 138 “in Tulunad in South Kanara District of Karnataka”

The spirits invoked in the performance of the Siri epic are benevolent, … given “... the bodily contortions and facial grimaces of the possessed young women.”” (Claus 1979, p. 38)

{These “bodily contortions and facial grimaces” may be performed by the spirits in possession of those women's bodies in order to lend a sense of authenticity to the theatrical performances wherein they are participating for the entertainment of their mortal humans admirers.}

Claus reports [1984, pp. 62 sq] the common expressions are bhuta pattun.d.u (the spirit caught) and mayt.u battun.d.u (came into the body), and

Bru:ckner reports [1987, p. 26] nud.ikat.t.u (oracular speech).”

Claus 1979 = Peter J. Claus : “Spirit Possession and Spirit Mediumship from the Perspective of Tulu Oral Traditions”. CULTURE, MEDICINE AND PSYCHIATRY 3:29-52.

Claus 1984 = Peter J. Claus : “Ethnology of Spirit Possession”. CONTRIBUTIONS TO ASIAN STUDIES 18:60-72.

Bru:ckner 1987 = Heidrun Bru:ckner : “Bhuta-Worship in Coastal Karnataka”. STUDIEN ZUR INDOLOGIE UND IRANISTIK 13/14:17-37.

pp. 138-9 “Irula of the Nilgiris {'Blue Mountains'} in southern Karnataka”

p. 138

Jaya [induced spirit-possession] is performed when the Irulas need divine guidance and help to solve a personal or public problem … . The process is called joga ugadu (inviting god [“to descend and possess”]) or jaya. … the deity then enters the heart [iruvatte] of the possessed person [“termed jayakara”], which trembles gi:di ... {'giddily'} in an increased

p. 139

heartbeat rate, and it changes [mari] his mind [ge n.a] so that it can speak through the possessed person.” … The possession trance is induced by drumming, swaying, and singing a “deity-inviting song” (dua uga pat.t.u) in which the deity is addressed as “one who comes riding a black bee or dragonfly (dumbiyane).” (Zvelebil 1988, pp. 145-6; 2000, p. 185)

Zvelebil 1988 = Kamil Zvelebil : The Irulas of the Blue Mountains. MAXWELL SCHOOL OF CITIZENSHIP & PUBLIC AFFAIRS, FOREIGN & COMPARATIVE STUDIES/SOUTH ASIAN SERIES, No. 13. Syracuse U Pr.

Zvelebil 2000 = Kamil Zvelebil : “May the Gods Protect Us : a contribution to Nilgiri religious infrastructure”. J OF THE AMER ORIENTAL SOC 120.2:178-89.



Assam (at Kamakhya)

pp. 139-142

p. 140 Aghau {= /Oghavant/ in the Puran.a?}

“ “supernaturals,” including the Sema aghau, equivalent to the Angami ropfu, a personal familiar … all persons are potentially possessed of aghau … .” [Hutton 1921b, p. 193]

Hutton 1921b = J. H. Hutton : The Sema Nagas. London : Macmillan.

pp. 140-2 deva-dhvani

p. 140

festival [spirit-]possession at Kamakhya, the great temple complex near Gauhati” : “a festival or “ritualistic dance” called Debaddhani or Deodhani, a local term derived form the Sanskrit devadhvani (sound or

p. 141

echo of the deity). This yearly festival is … the annual worship of the Goddess Manasa, a popular snake deity of Kamakhya. … As sites of divinity, the possessed individuals …, in an initiation ceremony conducted by the principal priest (daloi) of the Manasa temple, accept ritual paraphernalia …, and are paid only in … ornaments, sweets, and fruit. … After several rounds of dancing .., the performers are made up and dressed with garlands, bouquets, ritual insignia, cloth, swords, and other items reminiscent of the possessing deity. … the possessing deities … are … Mahadeva (S`iva), the ceremonial leader …; Kuvera, “the traditional store-keeper” of Mahadeva; and the goddesses Kali, Kamakhya, and Calanta. The possessing deities bestow bija and other meditation (dhyana) mantras on the possessed, as well as visionary and oracular abilities.”

[quoted from Viswa Shanti Devi Yajna (2004) – vis`va-s`anti-devi-yajn~a (“world peace sacrifice to the goddess”) :] “he demands raw flesh of balck pigeons … and he takes these uncooked; he drinks the fresh blood of animals.

p. 142

he yawns frequentlyand roams about aimlessly solely at at the … direction of the deity of possession. … The dance of the Deodhas consists of very vigorous movements interspersed with shrill shrieks. They run like mad men”.

p. 167, n. 4:178


Frederick M. Smith : The Self-Possessed : Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature and Civilization. Columbia U Pr, NY, 2006.