4. (pp. 129-177) Anne P. Leonard : "Spirit-Media in Palau".

p. 134 social organization

"Palauan society is stratified by two classes, nobles (meteet) and commoners. ... Each person belongs to ... a localized, matrilineal clan, called a kebliil. ... A number of clans ... will be associated into a larger group {phratry} called klebliil. ... . ... each kebliil had a totem – a fish or bird".

pp. 140-1 distinction between female & male deities; communication with the dead

p. 140

"the gods of the clans, or chelid a blai, gods of the house," are female, whereas

the gods of the villages are male."


"spirits of the clan dead were able to communicate with the living members of the clan through dreams and were consulted about family matters. ... Before the housewarming a dead relative might ... through a dream ... tell

p. 141

... about special medicines for sickness in the new house. Clan gods and spirits do not possess people, however."

p. 143 spirit-possession trance

"the Palauans ... believe that trance is caused by a spirit or god entering or possessing the individual and taking over his being. The key elements of such possession in Palau are trembling, dissociation, and amnesia – that is, the person does not recall what he said or did while he was possessed. ... Possession trancers in Palau act as agents for contacting the gods and spirits of the dead, hence the term "medium." ... The closest to a general term for the office of "traditional" medium is kerdelel chelid. One informant translated this term as "standing between god"; another as "god’s chair," a rather free translation."

p. 143 terminology pertinent to spirit-possession (as per unpublished Palau-English dictionary by Edwin McManus)


its meaning


god {cf. Skt. /CELa/ ‘disciple’}





kerrodel a c^elid

possession by a spirit

kerrodel dil


p. 144 terminology pertinent to spirit-possession (as per other sources)

This last (/kerrodel dil /) "was given by informants as the title of the medium at Ngetkip.

The term korong used by Barnett (1949:205ff.) for the shaman, or medium, is the same as the title of the medium at Ngchesar. ... .

... the term tengellel a chelid, or "descending of the god," ... refers to the event ... . ...

There is another term ... – odong. This term refers to the signs of being possessed. When the god enters, the medium becomes odong. Odong may also refer to the signs of the god[’s] leaving at the end of a possession ceremony."

Barnett 1949 = H. G. Barnett : Palauan Society. Eugene : U of OR Pr.

p. 144 non-possession

"In Modekngei, the god, or gods and spirits of the dead, do not possess people. They speak by a strange, whistling noise that the noise that the medium, or leader, then consciously "translates" to the people."

p. 145 sis^ of relative by bladek

"The sisch ceremony was observed on the third day after death. ... On the third day a special bouquet of brilliant flowers was prepared. ... The bladek, or spirit of the dead person, was believed to be in this bouquet. The nearest female adult relative of the dead person whispered the name of various gods who might have caused the death into the "ears" of the bouquet. ... When the name of the god responsible was whispered, the bouquet started turning around, "dancing." ... At this point, sometimes it happened that the spirit of the dead person would leave the bouquet and "climb the body" of a close female relative. ... The woman trembled and swayed, but did not speak or make any noise. She remained seated while the spirit caused her to "dance" like the bouquet. ... (For a detailed description of the old funeral rites, see McKnight and Obak 1960:15-16)."

McKnight & Obak 1960 = R. McKnight & A. Obak : "Taro Cultivation in Palau". ANTHROPOLOGICAL WORKING PAPERS, No. 6.

pp. 146, 149-50 village-deities & their media

p. 146

c^elid belu (tutelary god) : "there was a medium with a special title who served the god of each village. .... In Ngerkeseauol and Ngerchelong, ... the medium is always a man. These villages ... had a "wife of the god" in addition to the medium, but she did not act as a medium. The woman belonged to the same kebliil as the medium, and the god selected

p. 149

her by dropping a betel nut in front of her as she sat ... . .. The god came to visit her at night, and made his presence known by whistling." {In New Zealand, there were " ‘the ... whistling gods of the Maori’ (nga atua ... Maori whiowhio), the ancestral atua who spoke in strange shimmering voices through a medium." (RS, p. 465)} {In the Sandwich Islands, "There were night noises which the natives attributed to ... Akua-hokio (whistling gods)." (HLG&G-G, p. 251)} {In Jammu, the "whistling god" Sindhu Bir "can be directed by anyone who has mastered his charms to cohabit with any woman ... in a dream." (GT&CP&N-W, p. 316)}

"Melekeyok has a female medium whose title is Mlechei. Ngetkip, in Airai, also has had a female medium for several generations. . ... these mediums are considered to be wives of their respective gods."

p. 150

"Mediums, whether men or women, ... marry and have children."

RS = Judith Binney : Redemption Songs. Auckland U Pr, 1995. http://books.google.com/books?id=kJJYgyR2MAAC&pg=PA465&lpg=PA465&dq=%22whistling+gods%22&source=bl&ots=OevvvgCvHB&sig=pwhlpVsxRZ16uDYWvp3gwb3_A-M&hl=en&ei=A8hBTZGPOcnGgAfBlaWAAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CC8Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=%22whistling%20gods%22&f=false

HLG&G-G = W. D. Westervelt : Hawaiian Legends of Ghosts and Ghost-Gods. Boston : Ellis Press, 1916. http://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/hlog/hlog27.htm

GT&CP&N-W = H. A. Rose : A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Volume 1. http://books.google.com/books?id=-aw3hRAX_DgC&pg=PA316&lpg=PA316&dq=

pp. 147-148 (Table 1) name of deity and of deity’s medium, for each village




medium’s title

sex of medium














Uc^el-c^elid (Uc^el-rubesan)









































Yec^adera edukel



















Obak el Sec^el

Kerrodel dil







p. 151 strange experiences; choice of new spirit-medium by possessing-deity

"Members of the special kebliil are prone to having "strange experiences" : premonitions, fits of crying, sudden shouting".

"After the death of an old medium, the new medium-to-be will suddenly speak in the voice of the god. He will become odong (possessed). He, or she, may say in the voice of the god, something like, "Do you not recognize me?""

pp. 151-2 modes of selecting an official possession-medium at specific localities

p. 151

In Netkip, "She began ... jumping up and down, and trembling. People asked if she was going to become a medium".

p. 152

"in Ngerkeseuaol, ... the medium is chosen by a group of old chiefs and old women of the village. Once elected, the new medium will begin to experience possession trance if he has not done so before."

pp. 154-7 performance of deity-possession

p. 154

In Ner-keseuaol, "The medium sits ["crosslegged, with their feet tucked in their legs, yoga fashion" (p. 153)], but leans forward on his arms ..., with his palms on the floor. ... As the people begin ... explaining what they want, he makes low moaning noises. He raises his head, his eyes roll up. He then speaks in the voice of the god. The god asks, "What do you want? I am very busy up here [in "heaven" where the gods live]." ... The god stays until all the questions are answered, which is usually not longer than thirty minutes. When the god leaves the medium, the medium is dizzy and sleepy; but the people ... pour water on him and massage him ...; then they let him sleep."


At Netkip in Airai, "the medium ... is an old woman ... . ... this medium has a special small house in back of her living house,

p. 155

called the ulengang, where she goes when the god possesses her. Under the ulengang are the special sacred stones associated with the god. These ... form the sacred area called ileakllolloed, the place where the god lives when he is in the hamlet."


In Airai, carried by a client during consultation with the female spirit-medium : "the "amulet" was a kind of stick that was considered to be an actual piece of the god. The Palauan term for this sacred aid is mengkerengel. It must be kept up high ... . ... Those seeking her assistance approach the medium ... . ...

p. 156

She has an assistant ... to interpret the answers. ... She starts to tremble and to speak faster. .... She perspires freely during the trance. Her eyes gaze straight ahead and look "strange." ... When all the questions have been answered, the god leaves the medium. The possession may last twenty or thirty minutes in the case of a group consultation ... . ...

p. 157

After the clients have left, the medium will shout loudly, once or twice, what sounds like "Oi!" {cf. the shout of "Kwats" in Zen} She will then lie down and go to sleep ..., and when she awakens, she does not remember what she said during her trance."

pp. 160-1 origins of the Modeknei cult

p. 160

"a man named Rdiall ... set himself up as a herald of future changes ... . In 1905 ..., he was able to gain a following through his shamanistic activities ... . He did ... set a pattern for ... the later development of Modekngei. ...

Modekngei, which means "get together," was founded by a man named Temudad, who came from ... the hamlet of Ol in Ngaraard. ... In 1916 he ... related that he had "contacted" the village god (chelid belu) of Ol and that this god had given him

p. 161

special powers to change ... taboo. At times he appeared to be "possessed," according to ... Barnett (1949:216). ... Some strange events were arranged; for example, .... Ongesii made the spirit of a dead boy play his harmonica. However, ... the god spoke to the leader in whistling noises, which the leader then interpreted to the people."

pp. 163-4 female spiritual practitioners in the Modeknei cult

p. 163

se’ance conducted by a female practitioner : "a whistling noise started in the lefthand corner of the room. behind them. It gradually grew closer to the medium and grew louder. The son had written out the questions ... on a piece of paper,

p. 164

which he placed on the table. The medium was able to answer these questions, or rather, to translate the whistling of the dead".


"In Kayangel there is a woman ... who, it is said, can stop typhoons by beating the ocean with a special paddle held traditionally by her family."

pp. 156, 165 opposite-meaning speech in spirit-possession

p. 156

"some mediums, and this one [at Netkip] in particular, speak the opposite of what they means in answering the clients’ questions; ... in this case it is the question and not the answer that must be couched in opposite terms."

p. 165

In Niwal and in Nc^esar, a temporary spirit-medium will "get "hot"; he will begin to tremble and the god will enter. ... The person so possessed will say the opposite of what he means."

pp. 165-6 praemonitions

p. 165

"people, who are known for their premonitions, are regarded with awe by the

p. 166

Palauans, and anything they might say is carefully interpreted. ... During the German occupation in Ngaraard ... there was a man "to whom the gods came." When this happened, he would ... not speak, but would act out things or draw pictures of coming events. ... This man ... held no title, but the people of Ngaraard believed that he was like a "professor" and that he could foretell the future."

pp. 167-8 spirit-possession by a spirit of opposite gendre from that of the possessee

p. 167

"sometimes a male spirit will become interested in an attractive woman and enter her ... .


The reverse case, a goddess entering a man, can also happen ... . A man may become "possessed" by a goddess from the sea. When this happens, he acts like a woman; at the same time

p. 168

he is enabled to catch a lot of fish and will want to go fishing all of the time."

p. 175 summary

"Operating within this system was the traditional spirit medium. This was a man, or woman, whom the appropriate god would enter in a possession trance to speak to the people. In this state, the medium could diagnose the causes of misfortune or illness and predict the outcome of various events."

Erika Bourguignon (editrix) : Religion, Altered States of Consciousness, and Social Change. Ohio State U Pr, Columbus, 1973. pp. 129-177.