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Book chapter Book chapter Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue
Title:The Case of the Butcher's Wife: Illness, Possession and Power in Central Sudan
Author:Kenyon, Susan M.
Book title:Spirit possession: modernity & power in Africa
Editors:Behrend, Heike
Luig, Ute
City of publisher:Oxford/Kampala/Cape Town/Madison, Wisconsin
Publisher:James Currey/Fountain Publishers/David Philip/University of Wisconsin Press
Geographic term:Sudan
Subjects:Cultural Roles
Religion and Witchcraft
spirit possession
Abstract:This chapter describes the course of action adopted by a Sudanese woman to deal with ongoing health problems, drawing on her own narrative to show how she became involved with the spirit possession activities known as 'zar'. The account is based on taped interviews made by the author in 1981-1982 and her field notes from a 'zar-burei' ceremony held in the town of Sennar, Central Sudan, in August 1981. Several themes emerge from this description of one woman's encounter with 'zar'. Besides detailing the course of a single 'zar' ritual, it illustrates indigenous attitudes to health and sickness; the process of different curing systems and the decisions associated with choosing one over the other; and the richness of belief and practice associated with the system known as 'zar'. In addition it offers insights into the contradictions and complexities of ideas about a woman's individual identity, autonomy and power in relation to possession by spirits. Furthermore, the description of the culminating ceremony shows that, while fraught with tensions, it is a complex and empowering event for many women, and one which is redolent with symbolism reinforcing female power and control in the wider social world. Bibliogr., notes, ref.