Click the star to add/remove an item to/from your individual schedule.
You need to be logged in to avail of this functionality.

Accepted Paper:

Walking through fire in La Réunion: a walk toward the past, a walk toward the future  
Loreley Franchina

Paper short abstract:

By taking into account the complexity of the fire-walking festival in La Réunion, this paper reflects on how this ritual cycle and the negotiation with the divine can be a way to be linked to the ancestors' migratory past, and how it can be a great resource for the transformation of one's life.

Paper long abstract:

La Réunion is a French overseas department situated in the Indian Ocean. Its society has been founded since the seventeenth century by multiple migrations which have led to a Creole universe. The Indian migration played a major role in the settlement, especially due to coolie trade. Indians bought to La Réunion their divinities, practices and myths. Among the religious rituals, there was the fire-walking festival in honour of Pandialy, a divinity better known in India by the name of Draupadī. This ritual cycle, grounded on mythology, lasts eighteen days during which practitioners commit themselves to the divinity and at the end walk barefoot on hot embers in order to obtain all kinds of well-being in their lives. The fire-walking festival has been on the rise and has become a strong symbol, not only to define the Hindu sphere, but it has also become a great emblem of efficacy.

Based on my ethnological fieldwork on the island, this paper questions firstly the place of Indian descendants in a Creole society, then it reflects on the ritual efficacy. Crossing the historical, mythological and performative aspects of the festival, it takes into account the individual's life trajectories. This paper finally suggests that fire-walking can take different meanings. By negotiation with the divinity and her story, the ritual can symbolically establish bridges with the migratory past, but also, by putting the self in danger walking through fire, it can be a resource of transformation to have a hold over one's life.

Panel P103
Religion and refugee: interdisciplinary discussion on humane-divine interactions
  Session 1 Tuesday 14 August, 2018, -