Summoning the Spirits, 0-I



Andrew Dawson

1 to 22

pp. 3 & 9 definitions of "spirit-possession"

p. 3

[quoted from Boddy 1994:407] Spirit possession "commonly refers to the hold over a human being by external ... entities more powerful than she. These forces may be ... divinities ... or entities ontologically ... alien."

p. 9

[quoted from Bourguignon 1976:7] "possession exists, when ... a given person is changed in some way through the presence in ... him of a spirit entity ..., other than his own personality, soul, self, or the like."

Boddy 1994 = J. Boddy : "Spirit Possession Revisited : beyond instrumentality". ANNUAL REVIEW OF ANTHROPOLOGY 23:407-34.

Bourguignon 1976 = E. Bourguignon : Possession. San Francisco : Chandler & Sharp.

p. 17 definition of shamanic soul-flight

"Within locomotive forms of ... possession, the human self ... (... soul, astral body or inner self) undertakes a journey comprising both a dislocation from its physical moorings and a relocation to a dimension ... or space understood as categorically different from the material world ... . ... shamanic soul-flight and the ecstatic relations it enables with guardian spirits are typical of traditional locomotive forms of ... possession."

p. 18 description of expanded consciousness as hybrid

"Perhaps the most typical of the hybrid representation of self-spirit interface is ... expanded consciousness. On the one hand, the connection established with the spiritual sphere results from the expansion of consciousness toward something ... beyond ... the self. ... On the other hand, the self-spirit connection established by expanded consciousness does not require locomotion on the part of the subject concerned."

p. 18 emancipation [moks.a] of the soul from social trammels

"in Brazil ... non-mainstream spiritualities are principally oriented toward the annihilation of the ego -- understood as socially formed and thereby spiritually impure -- and the resulting emancipation of the inner higher or true self which remains untained by relations with the material world."

{There are at least two sorts of spiritual emancipations to be achieved : (1) from trifling personal thoughts; and (2) from materialistic misunderstandings (including atheism) promoted by the ploutokratic ruling-class.}


Contents of Part I -- "Possessing the Praesent : Local Negotiations of Transnational Processes"






Vietnamese-American Spirit-Possession

Karen Fjelstad & Nguyen Thi Hien

23 to 39


Embodied Spirit(s) among Congolese

David Garbin

40 to 57


Spirits & Slaves in Central Sudan

Susan M. Kenyon

58 to 73


Trance & Possession in Diaspora Hindu Sites

Ann R. David

74 to 89



Vietnamese-American Spirit-Possession Rituals

Karen Fjelstad & Nguyen Thi Hien

23 to 39

pp. 25, 27 deities of the Dao Mau

p. 25

"the Vietnamese Mother Goddess religion (Dao Mau) ... worships goddesses of Four Realms of the Universe (Tu Phu) -- sky, earth, water, and mountains and forests. ... Spirits descend into mediums in established sequences ... . During the highly stylized incarnations the spirits like to dance, read fortunes, listen to songs, and distribute blessed gifts (loc). Spirits call mediums into service and ... mediums with a heavy calling (can nang) cannot escape their destiny. After initiations, mediums must have {perform} at least one (in the USA) or two (in Vietnam) ceremonies".

p. 27

"there are nine hierarchical ranks of spirits including

four mother goddesses,

one Saint Father with his three royal ladies and a young boy,

ten mandarins,

twelve ladies,

ten princes,

twelve princesses,

ten or twelve young princes, and

two kinds of animal spirit.

In addition, the pantheon includes the Taoist Jade Emperor and

two Star Spirits ... .

There is a possible total of seventy or seventy-two spirits, but only thirty-nine of these spirits actually possess mediums."

p. 27 temples

"Approximately half of the spirits have active principal temples, which are located throughout Vietnam ... . The [principal] temples are situated in areas where the spirits once lived or died ... . Master mediums organise pilgrimages to primary temples ... and there is an annual cycle of pilgrimages that begins in Hanoi during the lunar New Year".

pp. 27-9 incorporation into the pantheon of deities of ethnic minorities

p. 27

"Most of the ethnic minority spirits are female, and many are linked to the spiritual Realm of the Mountains and Forests to the northern and central highlands of Vietnam. ...

When the fairy princess Au Co married the Dragon King they had one hundred offspring. She took fifty to the mountains and he took fifty down to the sea. According to legend, this is why the ethnic minorities are associated with the highlands of Vietnam and the Viet (or Kinh) majority dominate the coastal and delta areas. ...

p. 28

Ethnic minority spirits who occupy the Realm of Mountains and Forests ... are herbalists, ... fortune-tellers, and ... having compassion for the ill and infirm. For example, the Ninth Prince (Ong Chin) in a collector of herbal medicines. Whenever he is incarnated in possession ceremonies he carries a knife used to collect wild roots in the forest. He 'sells' these plants, represented by potato slices, ... at the ceremony.

The Little Dark Princess (Co Be Den) is an ethnic minority who ... became a healer who travelled from village to village to help ... ill, wounded people.

Other forest spirits bestow their mediums with divinatory powers; e.g. the Chua Boi spirits who are a group of female forest spirits associated with healing and divination.

p. 29

... The Seventh Prince (Ong Bay) is an ethnic ... spirit who lives near the Chinese border. Because the Chinese influenced him he likes to drink dark tea".

p. 31 ethnic stereotypes

"Vietnam is often represented in ... videos as a rural country full of rice paddies and water buffalo where many of the people are ethnic Viet females wearing traditional dresses (ao dai) and conical hats.

Ethnic minorities are portrayed as residents of the highlands who wear indigenous clothing ..., while caves, waterfalls ..., and ... wild animals surround them."

pp. 32-4 spirit-mediumship & temple-rites [instance of activities by a woman of European ancestry who hath become possessed by spirits of the Dao Mau]

p. 32

"She went to the temple ... . ... Looking about the altar, ... she could tell the spirit was coming into her because she had mediumistic and divinatory abilities since she was seven years old. ... During subsequent visits to the temple [she] was possessed by several other spirits. ... [She] learned about the spirits by talking to mediums and watching their incarnations at possession ceremonies ... . When she meditates she receives messages from several different spirits including the Young Prince, the Ninth Princess and Little Dark Princess. ...

p. 33

Although [she] has dreams about the Ninth Prince, ... The Ninth Princess (Co Chin) also incarnates into [her]. Known to be compassionate and loving, the spirit embodies ... feminine ... wearing pink clothing and using pink feathered fans."

"she likes to burn incense in her home, ... by her Chinese-Nicaraguan husband."

"she is able to divine, and ... was chosen by the spirits to help the temple where, on weekends, she read fortunes for people of several ethnicities."

p. 34

"during the New Year ..., she asked to perform a .. ritual to ... the temple ... . ... The New Year ritual involved the use of myrrh, dried flowers and cinnamon that were placed in various locations throughout the temple."



Embodied Spirit(s) among Congolese in London

David Garbin

40 to 57

p. 45 Kibangu-ism

"Mokoko Gampior characterizes Kimbanguism as an 'independent African religion born in the Belgian Congo out of ... mystical and political reconstruction of the Kongo Kingdom' (2004:49)."

Mokoko Gampior 2004 = Kibanguisme et Identite' Noire. Paris : L'Harmattan.

pp. 40, 47, 49 molimo

p. 40

"the phenomenon of the molimo (plural, milimo) ... comprises the ritualised embodiment by several female mediums of the spirits (milimo)".

p. 47

"The first spiritual manifestation occurred when several women ... started prophesying in their native language of Lingala. In an unconscious state of ecstatic trance, these women were possessed by the spirits ... . Prophesying (mbikudi) took the form of revelations about what Kimbanguists often refer to as 'secrets;' i.e. the otherwise hidden past ... or messages about the future."

p. 49

"The spirits appeared during beko (prayer ...) ... and se'ances became gradually organised and ritualised over time. Through the female mediums (mamans basadi) the milimo ... were conveying 'messages' directly to the worshippers or through encadreurs who would write them down. Male and female, encadreurs were also responsible for making sure that the bodily trance of the medium remained 'controlled' during both the possession and the critical moment of the departure of the spirit from the body of the medium -- the liminal stage between the end of the possession and the regaining of a 'normal' state of consciousness."

pp. 50, 53 restriction of molimo to private, instead of public, practice

p. 50

"The Docklands milimo gradually stopped appearing in public ... . ... Among followers of the milimo, some viewed the diminution of their appearance as a confirmation that the milimo were indeed 'real' and of divine nature".

p. 53

"the Docklands ... in which the female mediums were communicating messages ... were keen to draw clear-cut boundaries between molimo possession involving public performances of healing and divination and other more individualised types ... practised in the private sphere."

pp. 53-5 holy centre at Selembao vs. holy centre at Nkamba

p. 53

"While visions and dreams allow Kimbanguists to connect spiritually with Nkamba ... one of the charismatic gifts par excellence among Kimbanguists is the gift of receiving songs ... which -- in addition to the prophecies ... -- represent the

p. 54

other essential source of Kimbanguist theology (Mokoko Gampior 2004:99)."

"In the particular context of ... the urban landscape of the Congolese capital, ... Selembao ... became known for its intense spiritual activity -- attracting many

p. 55

non-Kibanguists eager to consult the milimo for healing, prophecy ... . Through visits and phone calls, some links were indeed established between the Docklands ... and Selembao, with prophetic revelations from each group occasionally coinciding. Because of the existence of such transnational ... linkages, ... members of the Dockland ... established their 'holy centre' at Selembao instead of Nkamba. ... certain discourses were constructing an imaginaire of two transnationally connected urban hubs ... -- London, a global city of powerful spirits, and Selembao, an area where fe'ticheurs ... were ... active (Garbin, 2010 ...)."

Garbin 2010 = D. Garbin : "Symbolic Geographies of the Sacred : Diasporic Territorialisation ... in a Transnational Congolese". In :- G. Hu:welmeier & K. Krause (edd.) : Traveling Spirits. London : Routledge. pp. 145-65.



Spirits and Slaves in Central Sudan

Susan M. Kenyon

58 to 73

p. 59 zar

"The type of spirit possession commonly known as zar (also, zaar or sar) is found throughout northern Africa ... . ... More formally, zar is known as the 'Red Wind, al rih[.] al-ah[.]mar, and the spirits known as dastur, 'hinge' {cf. Cardea the Roman hinge-goddess} or 'constitution,' suggesting the articulation of differences, including worldviews."

p. 60 categories of zar spirits

"the possessing spirits in Sudanese zar represent variously powerful figures in ineteenth-century Egypt, grouped into seven categories ... :

al-Darawish, S[.]ufi holymen;

haughty Pashawat, Egyptian/Ottoman clerks ...;

aloof Khawajat, European administrators ...;

al-Habbashi, Abyssinians ...;

wild [<]Arab tribesmen, brandishing short sharp knives;

al-Sudani, coarse Black warriors, wielding ancient spears and shields; and

the female slaves, al-Sittat, mysterious grandmothers, coquettish concubines and glamorous girls.

Some spirits are identifiable (such as the Darawish spirit [<]Abd' al-Qadr al-Jilani), others are family groups (the Habbashi Awlad Mama, children of Mama), but most are nameless ... . ...

The Sudani, for example, represent ... slaves taken by force to the markets of Egypt."

pp. 61, 65-7 the 3 (or 4) sibling slave-spirits

p. 61

"lowly slave/servant spirits -- ... the siblings named 'Bashir,' 'Luliya' and 'Dasholay'" : "Unlike in the past, these slave spirits help people today by directly relaying messages between the 'Big' (i.e. important ...) spirits and their human guests. This development ... began when one of the zar leader[esse]s had a dream in which the spirit Bashir instructed her to prepare coffee so that he could 'come down' to cure/examine (khashf) women suffering from zar disorders. ... Subsequently, Bashir's sister spirit or twin, the prostitute/bride spirit Luliya, also began to possess women ..., offering spiritual help with reproductive matters. ... Bashir and Luliya have been joined in this type of 'work' by their older half-brother spirit, Dasholay -- or Azrag ['Blue'] as he is more casually known."

p. 65

"Dasholay is one of four siblings, of whom Josay rarely appears. ...

p. 66

When Dasholay 'comes down,' he may possess several women at the same time ... . ... Even as he jokes with his guests, they greet him formally -- kissing the head of the woman he's possessing as they ask for advice. Both Bashir and Dasholay are served ... coffee ... . ...

p. 67

Dasholay is always described as the '... oldest' sibling. However, ... some of the songs for him are in an unknown language. ... Dasholay's language is ... rutana, one of the archaic languages associated with peoples to the south. The language of Bashir, said to be Ethiopian, ... while it sounds different from that of Dasholay, the two spirits can communicate with each other. ... Dasholay is ... a Sudanese spirit. Although he has the same unnamed Ethiopian (Habbashi) mother as his siblings in zar ..., he has a different father -- a black Sudanese named Buruna (Buruni). ... 'Burun' was how Arabic-speakers referred to those people whom they enslaved from the Upper Blue Nile (Funj) region. ... the Uduk were major targets of slave raids."

p. 71 subaltern possessing-spirits

"Pashawat (Ottoman) spirits exude authority, even arrogance, but can be diverted by a pretty girl ...; and black female spirits wear symbols of servility (ankle bracelets) as they strut proudly around the maidan (place of zar).

p. 72 Ewe vodun (according to Rosenthal 1998) [in Togo]

"the spirits of former slaves possess the descendants of former slave owners, remembering an ongoing 'sacred debt' and mutual obligations".

Rosenthal 1998 = J. Rosenthal : Possession, Ecstasy and Law in Ewe Vodun. Charlottesville : U Pr of VA.



Trance & Possession in Diaspora Hindu Sites in East London

Ann R. David

74 to 89

pp. 79-80 instance of a man possessed by a goddess

p. 79

"In ... East Ham, east London, ... The Melmaruvathur Centre ... is a religious 'temple' where Tamil Hindu devotees -- predominantly ... women -- worship an individual guru ... . The man, named Bangaru Adigalar ..., becomes possessed by a female goddess, Sakthi {/S`akti/ < */S`ac-ti/} ... . When possessed, he {his body} talks, walks and acts as a woman and {the goddess in him} is referred to as 'she.' His is an oracular form of possession -- in trance, possessed by the divine goddess he {his body} will give guidance to those who come to get his {the goddess's} blessing and his {body's} words ... come directly from the divine. Adigalar sees himself as the humble mouthpiece of the goddess ... . ...

Arulvaakku (Arul + Vaakku means Divine + Utterances) or Oracles are the sayings of His Holiness Adigalaar in a transcendental state in which, AdhiParaSakthi enters his body. ... In that state, S(H)e delivers Oracles to individual devotees, in which S(H)e ... solves unsolvable problems ..., gives spiritual guidance and provides solace (The Spiritual Beacon, 2001:2). ...

p. 80

When going into trance, Adigalar begins by circling the complex of the temple. ... This is followed by ... the performance of arti -- the waving of a lighted flame, often camphor ... . Further circumambulations take place accompanied by full body prostrations. Arriving at the main shrine of the temple, he talks to the goddess and then gently and quietly becomes possessed by her ... .

p. 81

Through his/her oracular pronouncements, Adigalar has evolved new and detailed forms of rituals and ways of conducting worship (puja). This neo-Hindu approach allows worshippers of all castes, of all ages and both genders to engage fully in religious ritual"

pp. 81-2 gendred devotions at the temples of AdhiParaSakthi

p. 81

"One of the group's atypical features is that women are trained to carry out public puja and fire sacrifices, called yajnas or hommams. ... Bangaru Adigalar ... has declared a mission to elevate women's status in society ... by giving them preference and priority in their spiritual activities as well as in their secular and social roles."

p. 82

"There are no barriers of caste, gender or age, so widows, menstruating women and low-caste devotees may all take part, and are not prohibited from the ritual, as in many Hindu temples."

pp. 82-3 gendred worship in other feminist religious denominations in India

p. 82

"we can find other examples of the reversal of gender roles, such as ...

p. 83

Tamil men encompassing 'femaleness' while possessed (Kapadia, 2000:183). ... Certain folk or rural practices of Hinduism also permit women ... as religious specialists (Sugirtharajah, 1994 ...)."

Kapadia 2000 = K. Kapadia : "Pierced by Love : Tamil Possession". In :- J. Leslie & M. McGee (edd.) : Invented Identities. Oxford U Pr. pp. 181-202.

Sugirtharajah 1994 = S. Sugirtharajah : "Hinduism". In :- J. Holm & J. Bowker (edd.) : Women in Religion. London : Pinter. pp. 59-83.

pp. 84-5 trancing practices of devotees

p. 84

"At the orthodox S[`]aivite London Shri Murugan Temple ... in London ... at their annual Tai Pusam celebrations" : "As people move around in trance, family members or supporters chant the name of the deity to them and protect them from hurting themselves or falling from down. ...

The unpredictable nature of possession -- in that it can happen during puja (worship) or while singing bhajans (devotional songs) or in receiving darshan from the deity -- allows it to be accepted and honoured in Hindu society,

p. 85

demonstrating that it is possible for a devotee, albeit briefly, to become united with and entered by his favoured deity. This is the sought-after intimacy between worshipper and deity which is the common goal of Hindu worship. ... When devotees enter possession trance ..., they are seen as embodying the divine by other participating devotees, who will try to touch their feet or actively seek out their gaze".

p. 200, n. 4:4

"Discussion of the relation between trance and possession in Tamil contexts is undertaken by Bastin, 2002 ...; Nabokov, 2000; and Ward, 1984".

Bastin 2002 = R. Bastin : The Domain of Constant Excess : Plural Worship at the Munnesvaram Temples in Sri Lanka. NY : Berghahn Bks.

Nabokov 2000 = I. Nabokov : Religion against the Self : an Ethnography of Tamil Rituals. Oxford U Pr.

Ward 1984 = C. Ward : "Thaipusam in Malaysia : ... Ritual Trance, Ceremonial Possession". ETHOS 12.4, pp. 307-34.


LIBRARY OF MODERN RELIGION, 15 = Andrew Dawson (ed.) : Summoning the Spirits : possession and invocation in contemporary religion. I.B. Tauris, London, 2011.