Where Humans and Spirits Meet, 7-8 [Unguja, i.e. Zanzibar]

p. 111 exemplary punishment by a spirit

When a women who "is known to have ... spirits from Madagascar" was harassed by her brother’s demanding money from her, her male spirit promised to have the brother "punished". Thereupon, the brother’s "feet were stuck to the ground. He stood in the middle of the road and could not move ... . When he eventually moved, he went ... and started to bang his head on the wall." Thus, he became a "lunatic", and had to be kept "tied to the bed".

pp. 114-115 marriage, or sexual affair, of human with spirit

p. 114

[A certain man] "says that he has two wives : one human wife, whom he met first, and one spirit wife, whom he married in the country of the spirits. The two wives know about each other and have accepted each other. However, ... his spirit wife has denied him another human wife or mistress." {Is having a spirit-spouse the origin of monogamy amongst humans?}

p. 115

[A certain woman] is married in the human world, but also "has a sexual relationship with a spirit. She explained :

My ruhani is like my husband; he is my lover. My husband knows about this, and he accepts it. I had the ruhani before I met my husband. ... every Thursday I sleep in a room of my own. I ... put jasmine flowers in the bed. I wear a white nightdress and perfume myself with the incense udi, and douse myself with ... hal-ud and my ruhani arrives while I am asleep (usingizini). In these situations my male spirit ... has turned his own body into a human body but I cannot see his face."

pp. 115-116 "human beings divorce, while divorce is unknown to spirits."

pp. 116-118, 140, 144 homosexuality, female & male; transvestites, female & male


homosexuality & transvestism


"while human beings may be homosexuals, there is neither homosexuality nor cross-dressing among the spirits."


"msagaji (female homosexual)" : "The term msagaji (pl. wasagaji, lit. grinders) denotes female homosexuals. ... Wasagaji dress and adorn themselves as other women, and participate in activities defined as feminine."


"homosexual men ... wear male clothes ... . ... They spend most of their time in the company of women, and, moreover, they are welcomed in many contexts where other men are excluded."


There "are unmarried women and men in Zanzibar Town ... who dress and behave as the opposite sex and spend their time with friends of the opposite sex."

144, n. 8:8

"In Zanzibar Town there are a few young women who dress and behave as men, and spend most of their time with other young men."

pp. 123-124 origin of, & marriages among, ma-s`e^t.ani ya ki-buki


ma-s`e^t.ani ya ki-buki


"masheitani ya kibuki originate from worms (funza) {This would be another reason for regarding them as Christian, for Christian commentators (such as Wesley and Matthew Henry -- http://bible.cc/psalms/22-6.htm) identify the "worm" in Thillli^m 22:7 as Christ; and with the 3 crucified at Golgotha, cf. the statement in the Bao-pu-zi that in the 57th day (of the cycle of 60), "the three worms ascend to heaven and file a report" (K3W)} in the skeletons of dead people of the Sakalava kingdom of Madagascar who then become transformed into spirits." ["Many of the names of the trumba spirits are also names of famous masheitani ya kibuki." (p. 143, n. 8:1)]


"in the lives of spirits, as in the lives of human beings, there are some who are less successful in marriage. There are male masheitani ya kibuki whose wives are not present in Zanzibar Town, such as the wife of the spirit Ndamadils, or others who have failed in marriage, such as Ndamaro who is a lunatic. There are also female spirits among masheitani ya kibuki who are not married; they are mostly known as commoners or slaves ... . Kalmane, for instance, is a young, unmarried, female slave whose duty it is to announce rituals as well as to inform the community about illness." {with Kalmane cf. Hestia}

K3W = http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/monkey-koushin-p3.html#koushin This is the ‘Metal Monkey’ day : cf. [Hellenic] metallic anthropoid TALoS = [Cymry] TALieSin.

pp. 124-126 a particular noma ya ki-buki

p. 124

"On the ground straw mats were arranged ..., and two big wooden chairs were placed in the centre; one for the king and one for the queen of the masheitani ya kibuki. At one end of the room – the end {qiblah} said to point toward the spirits’ place of origin, that is Madagascar – there

p. 125

was a table decorated with the herbs these spirits used to prepare their special healing water. ... I had taken off my shoes, my glasses and my black wristwatch. this was necessary because masheitani ya kibuki do not tolerate the colour black, nor shoes nor glasses – these spirits particularly dislike glasses. ...

p. 126

When the procession was over, all present ... sat down on the floor. The ritual leader said a prayer to masheitani ya kibuki ... in the language of kibuki ... . While the ritual leader was saying the prayer, all present ... repeated ‘Kwesto’, a term that ... has the same meaning amin ... (amen, so be it). The ritual leader, ... said to know the kibuki language ..., ... is known as an authoritarian woman ... . ...

Those of us who made up the audience sat in a half-circle opposite he table where all the various remedies were placed. Mwele [p. 161 : "mwele (pl. wele) – person to be healed during a ritual"], the one preparing for her spirits, sat on her stool in the middle of the circle, her head and face veiled with a white shawl. ... Diagonally across her chest she was wearing two necklaces of stones in different colours (mrindo) that are also used by both male and female ritual leaders in order to provide them with strength when confronted by spirits of various makabila. Her two spirits, one after the other, rose to her head from time to time ..., while sitting on the stool, swinging the mwele’s arms and stamping her feet. When the male spirit arrived, the shawl was worn in a way special to male spirits of this kabila : wrapped around the lumbar region, up under the arms and then draped over the shoulders. When the female spirit arrived, the shawl was worn to cover the hair and lower part of the face.

Then suddenly the ritual leader...’s legs started to shiver, and two women who belonged to the ritual group came rushing to assist her. Her spirit was on his way. He was entering her through the feet. They started to rub her legs with brandy while [she] was making sounds ... . [Her, the fundi]’s spirit is prepared for, and so she does not scream when he arrives. As the spirit arrived in her head, [the fundi]’s head was sprinkled with the special water {holy water} ... . Her spirit is a king (mfalme) who is called Babu, although his real name is Ndamadizirivo. His wife is Mzinzarivo, also called Barera. {Babu and Barera are mentioned in "HST".} As a king, Babu wanted his feet on a stool and the sceptre in his hand. As a sign of respect all of the spirits and persons present greeted Babu in the prescribed way : they knelt in front of him and, then, Babu put his hand on their heads. All who want to be present during the ritual should, as they arrive, greet the ritual leader ... by kneeling in front of her and Babu when he has arrived. Then they should move on to greet the great ones (wakubwa) among the masheitani ya kibuki."

"HST" = Marie-Pierre Ballarin : "How spirits travel along the Western Indian Ocean rims: the example of the Sakalava tromba from north-western Madagascar". AZANIA : ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESEARCH IN AFRICA, Volume 42, Issue 1 2007 , pages 53 – 67.

pp. 127-131 various aspects of a noma ya ki-buki

p. 127

"no one becomes a ritual leader unless she embodies a king among the masheitani ya kibuki. ...

Male and female spirits move differently, are dressed differently, and have different facial expressions : male spirits have an air of authority, while female spirits have smiles on their faces and douse people in the audience with perfume. Male spirits hold spears in their hands, while females cover their heads and sometimes the lower parts of their faces with a shawl. Those who are not inhabited by spirits neither cover their heads nor hold spears while dancing. ... People in the audience interact with the spirits, and often the interaction is initiated by the spirits. Children between the age of six and twelve years participate by playing the rattles and dancing with the spirits. These are often the children of women belonging to the ritual group. Usually, only children above the age of twelve will become inhabited by spirits. If the spirits are attracted to someone in the audience ..., the spirit will empty the cup on the head of that person. ... the act of emptying a cup on the head of a person ... [is] part of the programmed performance. [This befell the authoress, when a female spirit "emptied a cup of brandy over my head." (p. 136)] ... The spirits demand that people in the audience dance with them, play the instrument called kayamba [p. 160 : "kayamba – a rattle instrument"], as well as sing their songs. Songs are sung in the kibuki language ... .

p. 128

... the king may call on certain people in the audience when he recognizes that they have a spirit. The king will then, through the use of incense, call on their spirits until they climb to their heads.

Usually when a spirit blows the shell in order to call for spirits who have not yet arrived, some people in the audience will jump and make a sudden scream. This is said to be a sign that a spirit is passing through their bodies. ... As people’s spirits climb up to their heads they will start to move the upper part of their bodies in a circle and eventually get up on their knees and make their way to the centre of the room, where they will dance on their knees until the spirits decide to leave again. When the spirits leave, the persons whom they have inhabited are usually ... in pain, with bleeding knees and partially destroyed clothes ... . They receive medication for their knees".

p. 129

"Heterosexual men who are present at ngoma ya kibuki stress the entertainment aspect of the ritual. They talk about ... how spirits often joke with and make fools of people present."

p. 130

"In a ritual context ... the spirits appear in couples, and the same human body continuously changes between being inhabited by female and male spirits. When it becomes clear whether it is the female or male spirit who arrives, humans or spirits present will make sure that the human body is dressed correctly according to the gender of the spirit. ...

A male spirit who was dancing around suddenly started to tear off his clothes. His wife (a female spirit) was about to rise to the head of the woman who had until now been inhabited by her male spirit. The female spirit who was about to appear in this woman’s body tore off the male clothes and threw away the spear. Some of the women in the ritual group got hold of the female spirit’s clothes and started to dress her in female clothes ... . The woman, now inhabited by a female spirit, moved around in a totally different way, covering her face with the shawl, moving her hips as she danced, moving her right hand in a gracious way as she walked about on her toes. This female spirit is known to love high heels – hence the tiptoe. ... Another woman’s female spirit was about to leave as her male spirit arrived and rose to the woman’s head. As it happened, it seemed important to change the outfit in a hurry and especially to get the earrings off. This became difficult, and some women from the audience rushed to help with the changing of clothes ... and to give the male spirit his spear as soon as he arrived. ... Only when their dresses are in accordance with the sexual identity of the spirit can the spirits again concentrate on the celebration. Those who form

p. 131

part of the ritual group will always bring two sets of clothes on the last day of the ritual (kutoka nje) [p. 160 : "kutoka nje – to come out, to be introduced to the public"], one for the female spirit and one for the male spirit. ... they have dressed either to welcome their female spirit in a long, pink dress ..., or to welcome their male spirit in ... a white and pink loin-cloth ... . ...

Male spirits express authority by demanding that the people present ... dance with them and sit on their laps. ... Rank is important for male spirits and is expressed through ... what sort of spear or sceptre they hold. ... the sceptres are only for the kings, and there are smaller sticks for queens. ... Female spirits ... sit on people’s laps and they ... kiss and rub someone’s cheek and smooth[e] someone’s hair. Female spirits may suddenly rush after a person and force people who are watching at a distance to come into the centre of the ritual space. Among the male spirits only Ndamaro, who is said to be a lunatic, behaves in such an impulsive way."

pp. 132, 135 male spirits’ flirtation with authoress


the flirtation


"A male spirit approached me and said that he liked me ... . His name was Dezu. As we sat talking his wife, a female spirit called Safi, inhabited a woman ... . As this happened Dezu told me, ‘Now my wife is coming. She is jealous.’ When the female spirit Safi appeared, she came directly to where Dezu and I were sitting and sat down on her husband’s knee. She told me that she felt jealous because he was talking with me. ... after a while another male spirit, called Ndamadils, approached me. He told me directly that he liked me very much and wanted to marry me. ... He showed me to Ndamadizirivo, the king among masheitani ya kibuki, who approved of his wish but said that there could be no wedding until I had at least performed the preparatory ritual called kupiga nyungu. Then, as the male spirit Ndamadils accompanied me back to where I was sitting, Ndamadils suddenly flung his leg around the back of my thighs, holding me close. People in the audience started to laugh, and one woman jokingly told me that I had to be careful or else I would become pregnant. Later on another male spirit came over to where I sat ... . He decided that he also wanted to introduce me to Ndamadizirivo. As we approached Ndamadizirivo, Ndamadils came and told ... the other male spirit that he should stay away from me. Their dispute seemed entertaining to those in the audience who could observe and overhear them. People made funny remarks and laughed ... . ...


The women who sat with me advised me not to oppose Ndamadils’ wish to marry him and to go with him in order to be introduced to the king among the masheitani ya kibuki. They told me that ... if I said no, ... it could be dangerous for me. ... ‘You don’t know what he will do’, they told me. ‘Masheitani ya kibuki are not like people; the spirits ... get what they demand. Just go, afterwards he will forget.’ ... In their advice to me, the women emphasized the importance of adhering to the ways of the spirits during rituals."

pp. 136-138 comedy by spirits




"there are elements of parody as well as comedy within the ritual context. The interaction between humans and spirits may result in comic situations that evoke laughter among the people present. ...


The laughter may also be related to the fact that human bodies inhabited by spirits may suddenly become the reversal of what they usually are : that is, a female body becomes male when inhabited by a male spirit. ... Comedy finds its specific movement in the juxtaposition of opposites, in the linking of categories of experience and knowledge which in the everyday cultural world are seen as located in different domains, for instance, when spirits openly flirt and make sexual approaches in public – conduct which belongs to the private domain. Comedy achieves its dynamic in the actualization of contradictions such as the distinctions between the human world and the spirit world, between women and men and between the value of concealment and the threat of disclosure. The ritual invites those who attend to see such juxtapositions, oppositions, and contradictions for what they are : absurd, impossible, and inappropriately linked in terms of common typifications and understandings of the everyday world. ... Within the context of ngoma ya kibuki, gender images are caricatured to the extent of parody. ...


Events like this portray what women and men do and experience, but should not reveal. Through their interactions with spirits their own transgressions of rules, norms and etiquette may become less threatening or rather, more conventional and acceptable to themselves. ... When male spirits have disputes in front of people, for instance about women, this is comic to people because it shows the foolishness of jealousy and of revealing one’s thoughts in public. ... human beings laugh at spirits when they disclose their thoughts and feelings. ... Despite all the similarities between human beings and spirits, through the process of contextualizing each other they eventually represent what the other is not. During the rituals, differences between humans and spirits are emphasized through laughter."

SOCIAL IDENTITIES, Vol. 5 = Kjersti Larsen : Where Humans and Spirits Meet : ... Identified Spirits in Zanzibar. Berghan Books, Oxford, 2008.

http://folk.uio.no/kjersla/ authoress’s homepage at University of Oslo