Spirits in Culture, History, and Mind, 8-10


pp. 173-193 – 8. Harvey Whitehouse : "Experience of Spirits in Dadul". [a Mali Bainin village in eastern New Britain]

pp. 175-177 deities seen in dreams

p. 175

"Sega are thought to look like humans, although few people have actually seen any, except in dreams. ... Those who ... have encountered sega describe ... that they saw something unworldly. They sometimes add that the apparition disappeared when they averted their eyes, or that it had not been heard approaching. Ordinarily, however, sega are invisible to human eyes ... . A special kind of "sight," available to anyone while dreaming, is required to perceive them, and indeed most people have encountered sega when asleep. Stories are told of gifted individuals who are able to visit the sega at will in their dreams and thereby sustain regular relations with them. Such people are called agungaraga, and their abilities are held in high esteem; they sometimes learn from the sega reasons for human problems, such as illness or crop failure. A typical cause of such misfortunes might be that a person inadvertently damaged the

p. 176

home of a sega in the forest, or walked through its "garden," mistaking it for undergrowth. ...

Villagers think that hunting successfully is virtually impossible without the sega’s assistance {‘victory’ (/SiEG/ in German) in the hunt being attained by means of the SEGa}, which is solicited through the performance of magical rites. Some of the most powerful spells contain the names of specific sega [these "specific sega" including "two helpers, Basir and Sordem"]; it is assumed they were revealed in dreams and passed down through the generations."


A "man in the village had a dream in which he visited a "house" (abuga) built in the base of a large tree. {cf. "rite of entering the root of a tree." (LN12-MT, p. 104)} This was the house of a sega, and around it had been planted flowers. ...

p. 177

In this dream, a man was able to "see" the door and windows of a house in the base of a tree. If he had visited the site while conscious {awake}, it would have looked like any other tree. The dreamer could also see flowers ... which, in his wakened state, would have looked like undergrowth".

LN12-MT = Sommai Premchit & Amphay Dore’ : The Lan Na Twelve-Month Traditions. Chiang Mai, 1992.

pp. 178-179 physical control by deities of, or through means of, ritual paraphernalia

p. 178

"Funerals in Dadul begin at dusk at the house of the deceased, where the corpse is laid out. ... At the door of the house, a fire is kept burning to keep out the sega. ...

The evening after a funeral is sometimes devoted to the performance of a divination. In divinations, a large section of bamboo is carried by a team of boys and young men, and, in response to questions from an older man, the bamboo moves so as to indicate "yes" or "no" answers. The aim is to elicit from the deceased the reason(s) for his or her death. It usually takes some time for the deceased person’s spirit to gain control of the bamboo, for the earth is believed to weigh heavily on him or her. During the first part of the divination, therefore, it is sega who cause the bamboo to move. The boys holding on ... seem to be pulled along with it."

p. 179

"The Baining are best known ... for their ... extraordinarily large and intricate dance masks. ... It is even possible for sega to possess one or more of the dancers, so that the man inside the mask loses his control over his bodily movements and (like the boys at a divination) feels himself to be pulled this way and that on the dancing ground."

pp. 179-180 experience of spirits in the Pomio Kivun movement (a cargo-cult)

p. 179

"Morally pure ancestors are usually invisible to the living, but they appear to one another ... . Their white skins are ... unblemished ... . ... The home of these ancestors is ... located underground and connected to the earth’s surface by invisible holes, described as "eyes." The ancestors travel widely, and every living person is under continuous surveillance by one or more of them. They constantly scrutinize not only people’s behavior, but their thoughts".

p. 180

"A particular village official (... "witness") keeps vigil in the temple ... . His task is to look for signs of ancestral visitation (e.g., knocking sounds, interference with the offerings by unseen hands)."


pp. 195-212 – 9. Francis X. Hezel & Jay D. Dobbin : "Spirit Possession in Chuuk". [C^uuk = Truk island]

pp. 196-197 e’nu’ (‘numinals’)

p. 196

"the trinity –

Anulap, "Great Spirit," the uncreated being who lives remote from mortals and their affairs;

Lukeilang, "Middle Heaven," son of Anulap and lord of all in the realms of spirits and mortals; and

Olofat, the eldest son of Lukeilang, a trickster god".


"gods -- ...

Semenkoror, "Father of Wisdom,"

Sinenap, "Skilled one"; and

Aremei, "Achiever" ... .

One of the most popular and most often supplicated is Inemes, the goddess of love ... . She is implicated in the love magic".


"sea spirits (oos) ... lived in the open ocean but were believed to come ashore to sleep at night ... . One of the best known ... was Anumwaresi {cf. Maori /ANiWA/ ‘rainbow’}, the spirit of the rainbow, who is still thought to afflict pregnant

p. 197

women ... . Spirits known as che`nu`kken resided on the reefs and shallows inside the lagoon. Mostly female, they were often named –

Inepeitan and Ineauoch were identified with shoals near Toloas,

while Ineaun was believed to live off a section of Uman ... .

Two separate spirits sharing the name Niipecheefo`ch, "One-Legged Spirit," were thought to live just off the islands of Fono and Pis".


"On the land, especially in crevices and fissures, lived the spirits of the soil, each with its own name ... . In addition were the spirits of breadfruit trees (anumumai), among them Seningeruu, who was known to sow discord among people".

p. 197 a good & an evil spirit in each person

"Chuukese believed that two spirits inhabited each individual : a good spirit and a bad spirit.

At death, the bad spirit would hover around the grave of the deceased, sometimes taking the form of a fruit bat ... . The bad spirit could attack people and "bite" them, the effect of which might be to ... cause temporary insanity ... . But ... the bad spirit ... stalked only at night, and could be frightened off by light. ...

The good spirit, which had the power to roam more freely before it eventually drifted up to its abode in the sky, was a source of blessings for its former family. ... it could reveal a wealth of valuable information on new kinds of medicine, ideas for dances, and the location of good fishing grounds."

pp. 197-198 spirit-mediumship early in the 20th century (1910s-1920s)

p. 197

"mediumship in Chuuk ... normally occurred in a lineage meeting house in which was hung a model double-hulled canoe (na`a`n), 30 to 50 centimeters long, that served as a vehicle for the spirit. A spirit medium (termed variously souawarawar, wa`a`tawa, or wa`a`naanu`) was seated in the midst of the family, smeared with fragrant perfume. As the family chanted the name of the dead relative with whom they wished to speak, the medium "mumbles to himself, begins to moan, breathes several times with his mouth wide open ...".

p. 198

As the trembling became more violent, the family, recognizing that the medium was now in a state of possession, began asking questions of the spirit. The medium ... spoke in a special "spirit language" that had to be interpreted by someone knowledgeable in this form of speech."


[on the island of Namoluk :] "Before performing his duties, the Waitaua partakes of ... the fruit of the seir {cf. [<ibri^] /s`<or/ ‘barley’; /s`a<ir/ ‘satyr’} tree, which it is believed carries the spirits, which they like to eat. ... The sorcerer ... enters a state called merik; the spirits open his mouth ... and speak through him. First one, then another spirit speaks, ... but in a special language, different from the ordinary, the spirit language. The merik state does not last long, about 15 minutes ... . ...


[on the island of Fefan :] "the deceased’s ... spirit was said to ... take residence in a na`a`n, "miniature double-hulled canoe" ... . ... a person acting as medium would tremble, ... and feel the heaviness of the spirit sitting on his houlder. Often his head jerked back and forth, ... and his hands began to quiver. Then the spirit began to speak. After the episode the spirit returned to its miniature canoe ... . The chosen host ... now became wa`a`naanu`, canoe of the spirit." Henceforth the wa`a`naanu` called the spirit from the canoe when people had questions or were sick."

pp. 204-205 features of spirit-possession late in the 20th century (1960s-1980s)

p. 204

"Possessed women are often described as able to point out exactly where lost or hidden objects are to be found. ... Possessed women have been known to predict the deaths of relatives. ...

For Chuukese, one of the most dramatic and telling signs of possession is the change in voice that occurs when the spirit begins speaking. ... The timbre and tone of her voice and her speech patterns become those of the dad person; these are accompanied by corresponding changes in gestures, facial expressions, and other mannerisms. When one stooped old woman began speaking in the voice of her brother, she walked around the house ramrod straight – the first time anyone could remember her doing so ... . ... At times a possessed person may adopt the personae of two or three spirits in an evening."

p. 205

"Possessed women ... flaunt their sexuality in the presence of male relatives".


pp. 213-235 –10. Douglas Hollan : "Cultural and Experiential Aspects of Spirit Beliefs among the Toraja". [central Sulawesi]

pp. 215-216 creation of ancestors; withdrawal of access to the deities

p. 215

"Puang Matua, the "old Lord," used his bellows to create the ancestors of humans and of certain plants and animals, who later descended from the Upperworld to the Earth ... . The first humans ... lived in close contact with the gods and enjoyed direct access to the upper world via a ladder or staircase. Later, however, after ...

p. 216

brother-sister incest ... the ladder to the Upperworld was destroyed. The gods then became "inaccessible," "unapproachable," and "not to be behold." They became "enclosed behind a curtain" and "enfolded within a wall"; they were "sleeping ones" and "slumbering ones" who had to be aroused and awakened by prayers".

pp. 218-219 rites for the dead; rites for the deities

p. 218

"Traditional Toraja religion is organized around two separate and distinct ritual spheres :

"smoke descending" (rambu solo<) rites, addressed to the souls of the newly dead (bombo) and ancestor figures (nene<) ...; and

"smoke ascending" (rambu tuka<) rites, addressed to the gods and spirits (deata) {[Skt.] devata}".


"Each sphere has its own set of directions, time of day, plants, food, vocabulary" :

pp. 218-9


pp. 218-9 -ascending

p. 219 -descending



p. 218 rice, poultry

water-buffalo meat, sweet-potato



p. 219 white, pink, green, turquoise, and especially yellow




north, east, right, up

south, west, left, down

pp. 219, 221 bombo (‘souls of the recent dead’)

p. 219

"According to traditional belief, bombo are thought to linger among the living until funeral ceremonies are held for them. after which they begin their journey to the Afterworld."

p. 221

"In many dreams, deceased relatives ... convey special talents or powers (such as the ability to heal or knowledge of amulets." "if we’re sick, and then we dream that the dead person comes bringing us water, we quickly recover!"

pp. 222-223 journey, by the living in a dream, to visit the world of souls of the dead; swearing of oath to return to the world of the living after one’s death

p. 222

"attempts to visit his deceased parents in the Afterlife, ... going to Puya" : "I went to Puya. ... when I was dreaming, ... I went up a mountain first, and then descended [the other side]. I came to a forest ... and after that there was some barren ground. A desert. And then I arrived in Puya. There was a person who came to meet me ... . The person grabbed me [saying’, "If you meet with your father and mother, you will die!" ... The person pointed out my father’s house. ... It was in the mountains. ... I wanted to go to his house, but the person forbid {forbade} me! ... Then I left Puya."

p. 223

"If I were to ... die, ... there is ... a kind of oath. "... I will come back [as an ancestral spirit] and take you [i.e., kill you], ... all of your children and your wife, I will take them all." It is also said [by dying persons]".

p. 224 divine chicken of madness

"Ma<maro ceremonies" : "Some of the feats reportedly performed by ritual specialists involve crushing eggs and crabs that then become whole again, and chickens that are killed and eaten but from the pile of bones are brought back to life."

"ma<bugi (a ritual very similar to the ma<maro)" : "According to the ritual verses, the ancestor of chickens, Puang Maro (Lord of Maro or Madness), constantly pecked".

pp. 225-228 caerimonial spirit-possession

p. 225

"Made of bamboo poles and decorated with the red leaves of the tabang plant (Cordyline terminalis) and heirlooms such as swords and cloths thought to possess magical powers, the bate is used like a lightning rod to attract and hold the attention of the spirit world throughout the ceremony. The bate is first erected in the hosts’ courtyard and later moved to an open ritual field. In both places participants become possessed, in conjunction of the rhythmic chanting of paired verses called gelong. When gelong are performed as a prelude to the arrival of the spirits, they are accompanied by the driving beat of a drum. They are performed while a group of participants hold hands and dance, initially circling slowly, then increasing the tempo of their movements as the tempo of their singing increases. The gelong call upon the deata of the Upperworld, Earth, and Lowerworld to gather at the site of the ceremony, promising submission if they do :"


[quoted from "SS", p. 106] "Spirits here in this village ...

Come here, let us be together jumping {cf. jumping Siberian shamans},

Spirits surround/cover my body

Lord at the edge of my outside {cf. [Aztec] Tloque Nahuaque}

Do not go far from the jumpers".

p. 226

"mountains are pressed down and valleys are lifted up ... while

rivers reverse direction".

"The cataclysmic geophysical imagery ... is ... a sign of the powers of the arriving spirits ... as people invite and are taken by the spirits".


"As the deata draw near and "close to the skin" {merging into the perispirit} ..., certain ... relatively younger men and older women, enter into a state of possession called ma<deata in which they beat others and themselves with sticks and branches, cut or poke the skin with knives and swords, walk on fire or burning embers, and behave or move in sexually provocative ways. ...


Once participants are "with" (sisola) or "taken by" (diala) the deata, the deata are said to order them to perform specific behaviors. ...

p. 227

Many participants beat themselves on the forearms or backs of the legs with sticks and branches ... . .. Still other use small knives to prick wounds on their foreheads".


"While most people claim to have amnesia for the period that they are possessed, in a few instances participants report visualizing the deata."

[One such participant said :] "I could see them! They looked like humans. But they had very small bodies. And their hair was blue".

p. 228

"A similar vision was reported by another man who claimed that he, too, had seen tiny humanlike figures (no larger than the end joint of his smallest finger), though in his case the deata appeared to have blond hair." {"Valakhilya(s) pygmy sages sprung from Prajapati" (PS`, p. 484)}


"people ... handle the blades or branches quite delicately, leaving no physical marks. ... blades are held to the skin, but ... the swords and knives used to cut or poke at the skin appear to be quite old and blunt."

"SS" = INDONESIA, vol. 31 (1981), pp. 89-112 = Charles Zerner : "Signs of the Spirits".

PS` = Stella Kramrisch : The Presence of S`iva. Princeton U Pr, 1981. http://books.google.com/books?id=cjqfkgD6YCAC&pg=PA484&lpg=PA484&dq=%22pygmy+sages%22&source=bl&ots=g9p5Le6QoB&sig=lmxtV9Cg3s8i8ZixKLf5WOudK4I&hl=en&ei=bZ2rS_bKKM2Qtgejs5XDDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CBQQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=%22pygmy%20sages%22&f=false


Jeannette Marie Mageo & Alan Howard (eds.) : Spirits in Culture, History, and Mind. Routledge, NY & London, 1996.