Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Spirit possession in Guinea-Bissau and Senegal  

Author:

Maria Teixeira (umr1123 ECEVE - Inserm - Université Paris Diderot)

Paper short abstract:

Possessed Manjak women discover misfortunes that threaten their society and, by the same way, offer it a means to counter witchcraft by specific divinatory and therapeutic ritual. The ritual action is accomplished by the irruption of a divinity with whom an immediate communication is possible.

Paper long abstract:

Possession exists in so many societies that it seems banal. However, each society gives to this phenomenon a particular place and meaning within its religious system. The assignment of one or the other sex to the possession, its more or less spectacular forms and more or less organized rituals, show its great diversity. However, I argue that it is possible to have a more global comprehension of this phenomenon. In order to defend this argument, I will use the Manjak example, analyzing the language of the possession and its various codes by the projection of a short audio-visual document. In this paper, I will describe a relatively recent possession cult, which appeared a hundred year ago. In this cult, possessed persons prove to be women although men rank among its leaders. Manjak trance is seldom spectacular even though emotions could overflow and make the possessed women become more violent, threatening, or in tears. The control of the possession is done gradually but without any formal initiation, nor recourse to psychotropic substances. Possessed persons discover misfortunes that threaten Manjak Society and, by the same way, offer it a means to counter witchcraft by using specific divinatory and therapeutic ritual. Officiants give a meaning to misfortune by creating answers which symbolism is recognized by all. The ritual action is accomplished by the irruption of a divinity with whom a direct and immediate communication is possible.

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Rethinking spirit possession