Spirit-Possession and Trance







Lucy Huskinson & Bettina E. Schmidt



Somali Saar

Marja Tiilikainen



Taking Possession of Santo Daime

Andrew Dawson



Spirit Attacks in Northern Namibia

Kim Groop



Divine Possession

Crystal Addey



Waking the Entranced

David Gordon Wilson



To Perform Possession

Sarah Goldingay



1. (pp. 1-15) “Introduction”.

p. 4 Possession

Oesterreich ... postulated three principal external ways in which spirit possession manifests itself :

where the physiognomy of the person changes (such as the distorted feature of the face or body);

where the person’s voice changes (for instance, when ‘the feminine voice is transformed into a bass one’, 1930, p. 20); and

where the person adopts an ego-personality that is ‘opposed’ to the ‘normal’ one (1930, p. 21).”

Oesterreich 1930 = T. K. Oesterreich : Possession : Demoniacal and Other. London : Kegan Paul.

pp. 6-7 Garifuna

p. 6

the buyei (shaman/priest) ‘exhibit features

p. 7

of both entasy and ecstasy :

they alternatively are controlled by spirits who arrive to possess them (entasy) and control spirits as they travel “out” to meet them (ecstasy)’ (Johnson 2007, pp. 104-5).”

Johnson 2007 = P. C. Johnson : Diaspora Conversions : Black Carib Religion. Berkeley : U of CA Pr.

p. 7 Mayotte

(with reference to spirit possession in Mayotte, an island in the Mozambique Channel), possession comprises beliefs and practices ... of creativity and comedy (Lambek 1989, p. 53).”

Lambek 1989 = M. Lambek : “On the Conceptualization Trance and Spirit Possession”. In :- C. A. Ward (ed.) : Altered States of Consciousness. Newbury Park : Sage. pp. 36-61.


7. (pp. 117-33) “Somali Saar”.

p. 117 an instance of sar spirit-possession

Somebody bangs a drum ... . A woman is dancing ... . Suddenly something happens : her eyes seem to turn around and her neck bends backwards. ... The woman continues dancing in a trance. ... Others explain ... that mingis, the spirit inside the woman is ... angry because the woman had not taken care of it ... by burning special incense”.

p. 120 spirit-possession generally

In Somalia saar, which includes many different cults and spirits, for instance, mingis, boorane, wadaaddo and numbi, is common ... . Different spirits, however, have their own specific ritual practices, which may also vary in different areas and groups. Healing rituals often include special incense types, different dance styles, music ... (Antoniotto 1984, p. 164; Ahmed 1988, pp. 241-2 ...).”

Antoniotto 1984 = : “Traditional Medicine in Somalia”. In :- T. Labahn (ed.) : PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2ND INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF SOMALI STUDIES. Hamburg. pp. 159-69.

Ahmed 1988 = A. M. Ahmed : “Somali Traditional Healers”. In :- A. Puglielli (ed.) : PROCEEDINGS OF THE 3RD INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF SOMALI STUDIES. Roma. pp. 240-7.

p. 127 zar

Founders of the S[.]ufi brother hoods have parallels in zar spirits, and in the beginning of zar rituals ..., they are called before the other spirits (Boddy 1989, pp. 275, 278).”

Boddy 1989 = J Boddy : Wombs and Alien Spirits : Women, Men, and the Zar Cult in Northern Sudan. Madison : U of WI Pr.


8. (pp. 134-50) “Taking Possession of Santo Daime”.

pp. 134-6 ayahuasca religions

p. 134

Santo Daime emerged in the Amazonian state of Acre among the ... community led by Raimundo Irineu Serra (1892-1971). ... Santo Daime emerged as a recognizably distinct religious entity in the late 1930s.

Subsequent to Irineu Serra’s death a breakaway organization known as Cefluris (Eclectic Centre of the Universal Flowing Light Raimundo Irineu Serra) was founded by Sebastia~o Mota de Melo (1920-1990) and his followers. ... Headquartered at Ce`u do Mapia` [spelled “Ce`ci do Mapia`” on p. 146] in the state of Amazonas, Cefluris now led by Alfredo Grego`rio de Melo and Alex Polari ... .

p. 135

On the back of the organizational expansion of Cefluris, Santo Daime reached Brazil’s major conurbations ... in the early 1980s before spreading to Europe, North America and Australasia (Couto 2004 ...).

Santo Daime is the oldest and most geographically dispersed of Brazil’s ayahuasca religions (the other two being Barquinha and the Vegetable Union). ... the generic term ayahuasca denotes the combination of the vine Banisteriopsis caapi and the leaves of the shrub Psychotria viridis (Dawson 2007, pp. 67-98). ... Ayahuasca is regarded by daimistas as an ‘entheogen’; that is, an agent whose properties facilitate (‘catalyse’) the interaction of humankind with supernatural agents or forces. Known popularly as ‘incorporation’ (incorporac,a~o), spirit possession in Santo Daime has developed through ... the formative influence of what Yoshiaki Furuya calls ‘Afro-Amazonian’ religiosity; here, a mixture of Afro-Brazilian ... and indigenous components (1994, p. 27). ... .

... oral history ... evidences the centrality of spirit-oriented activity to the early religious repertoire of Santo Daime (... Labate and Pachecho 2004 ...). ... In keeping with existing forms of popular healing (curandeirismo), then, early daimista activities involved ...

regular consultation with spirit guides (e.g. regarding the cause of a particular illness or run of bad luck),


p. 136

engagement with spirits (e.g. in the case of spirit infestation) and

co-optation of spirit intervention (e.g. to treat illness or ward off spirit assault).

From the late 1940s onwards, the religious repertoire of Santo Daime was progressively modified as a result of Irineu Serra’s increasing attraction to ... the Esoteric Circle of the Communion of Thought (Ci`rculo Esote`rico da Comunha~o do Pensamento) (Moura da Silva 2006, pp. 225-40).”

Couto 2004 = F. de La R. Couto : “Santo daime : rito da orden”. In :- B. C. Labate & W. S. Arau`jo (edd.) : O Uso Ritual da Ayahuasca. 2nd edn. Campinas. pp. 385-411.

Dawson 2007 = A. Dawson : New Era – New Religions ... in Contemporary Brazil. Aldershot : Ashgate.

Yoshiaki 1994 = “Umbanizac,a~o does cultos populares na amazo^nia”. In :- H. Nakamaki & A. P. Filho (edd.) : Possessa~o e Procissa~o. Osaka : Nat. Mus. of Ethn. pp. 11-59.

Labate & Pachecho 2004 = B. C. Labate & G. Pachecho : “Matrizes maranhenses do santo daime”. In :- B. C. Labate & W. S. Arau`jo (edd.) : O Uso Ritual da Ayahuasca. 2nd edn. Campinas. pp. 303-44.

da Silva 2006 = “O caso do ci`rculo esote`rico da comunha~o do pensamento (1908-1943)”. In :- A. C. Isaia (ed.) : Orixa`s e Espi`ritos. Uberla^ndia : EDUFU. pp. 225-40.

pp. 136-7 Cefluris

p. 136

By the time of his conversion to Santo Daime in the mid-1960s, Sebastia~o was a practicing medium in the Brazilian Kardecist tradition ... (Cavalcanti 1983). Although acting as medium for some of the most exemplary spirits of Barzilian Kardecism (e.g. Bezerra de Menezes and Antonio Jorge), Sebastia~o continued to employ ... components of the popular spiritism of caboclo ... culture; which ... involved recognition of the spiritual agency of certain animals. ...

p. 137

Upon failing to gain control of the movement, Sebastia~o split fromj the originating daimista community of Alta Santo and, taking a sizable tranche of established practitioners with him, founded a separate branch of Santo Daime known today as Cefluris. ...

By the 1970s, the community of Padrinho Sebastia~o had established ... the supernatural agency of certain animals ... . Interaction with these animal spirits ... continues”.

Cavalcanti 1983 = M. L. V. de C. Cavalcanti : O Mundo Invisi`vel : ... Espiritismo. Rio de Janeiro : Zahar.

pp. 137-8 Umbanda’s influence on Cefluris

p. 137

Umbanda complements Brazilian Kardecism’s traditional concentration upon spirits of deceased Caucasian with ... those of deceased Amerindians (caboclos) and African slaves (pretos-velhos). ... By the time of Sebastia~o’s death in 1990, Umbanda-inspired possession rituals

p. 138

were being practiced in nascent daimista communities throughout Brazil. ... Subsequent to Sebastia~o’s death ..., beliefs and practices appropriated from Umbanda made their way ... towards the repertorial core of Santo Daime (Guimara~es 1992).”

Guimara~es 1992 = M. B. L. Guimara~es : : A ‘Lua Branca’ de Seu Tupinamba e de Mestre Irineu. Masters thesis, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

p. 139 disembodied trips, disincarnate journeys

The daimista ‘spirit idiom’ (Crapazano 1977, p. 11) also permits the expression of possession as an ecstatic process involving dislocation of the self from its physical moorings. Employing esoteric ... astral flight, some daimistas talk of disembodied trips across the globe ... to interact with other ... personalities. Indigenous shamanic ... soul flight ... describe disincarnate journeys to assorted spiritual realms populated by supernatural agents of both human and non-human provenance.”

Crapazano 1977 = V. Crapazano : “Introduction”. In :- V. Crapazano & V. Garrison (edd.) : Case Studies in Spirit Possession. NY : Wiley. pp. 1-39.

pp. 143-4 varieties of voluntary spirit-possession

p. 143

private possession comprises an act of charity in which the lower spirits incorporated are prayed with, instructed in the ways of Daime and exhorted to accept their allotted path. {This process (of instructing and admonishing the possessing-spirits) is likewise customary, within Japan, in the c^inkon-kis^in practice of Omoto religion and its successors.} As with the merit earned by staying firm in the face of trial, the performance of charity towards the incorporated spirit is held to generate credit or ‘karma’ {properly, /punya/ ‘merit’ -- /karman/ is ‘work’ (including of charity)} which is subsequently drawn upon in this life or a future incarnation.”

p. 144

The higher spirits incorporated expressively tend to be the spirit guides of the possessed individual. ... that expressive possession usually involves the incorporation of caboclo and preto velho spirits ... . ... When asked to explain the purpose of expressive possession, the responses offered by daimistas most commonly include ... the spirit serving to protect against the unwarranted appearance of inferior spirits”.

pp. 144-5 varieties of acts of charity by spirit-media

p. 144

On occasion a skilled medium may relieve a less experienced colleague or untrained daimista by assuming responsibility for a troublesome spirit by transferring it to her body. The possessed medium then works with other mediums (possibly incorporating higher spirits for assistance) who help to instruct (doutrinar), enlighten (iluminar), reassure and guide the incorporated spirit”.

p. 145

Interactive possession might also be practiced as an act of charity towards one’s fellow daimistas. Here, mediums possessed by higher spirits move among their peers to distribute astral energy by way of the ‘pass’ (passe) ... . A traditional practice of Kardecist Spiritism, the pass involves the incorporating medium passing her hands over the head, up and down the limbs and around the torso of another person. In doing so, the medium helps to reinforce or recalibrate the vibrational field of the pass’s recipient.”

p. 145 oracle

interactive possession exists in oracular form. Restricted to the most senior mediums, this mode of interactive possession intends the edification of ritual participants through the implantation of wisdom, instruction or admonition.”


9. (pp. 151-70) “Spirit Attacks in Northern Namibia”.

pp. 155-8 Owambo supernaturalism

p. 155

the traditional Owambo spirit world essentially consisted of ... :

(i) High God (Kalunga),

(ii) ancestor spirits (omuthithi, pl. aathithi),

(iii) witches (omulodhi, pl. aalodhi), and

(iv) diviners (onganga, pl. oonganga) (Savola 1924, pp. 165-88).”

the Owambo ... drew no clear line between spirits associated with human beings and nature spirits (Salokoski 2006, pp. 133, 147-50).”

p. 156

Finally, ... three classes of spirits ..., namely the ounhikifa, oipumbu and the oilulu (all of which are in the plural) ... were believed to be ... spirits of deceased humans”. [p. 168, n. 4 : “When asked today what an oipumbu is, most people, apart from the Kwanyama, have never heard of it.”]

p. 157

both bad and good magic (aatikili and oonganga) ‘were considered ...’ ”.

p. 158

ombepo was considered to be ... wind or breath (including the breath which ‘abandoned’ the body when a person died [Salokoski 2006, pp. 144, 168]).”

the oilulu were ... ghosts ... . These ghosts could be seenh at night, especially near cemeteries.”

Savola 1924 = A. Savola : Ambomaa ja sen Kansa. 2nd edn. Helsinki.

Salokoski 2006 = M. Salokoski : How Kings are Made -- ... in ... Owamboland, Namibia. U of Helsinki.

pp. 161-2 assaults on human by praeternatural beings

p. 161

at Mumbwenge : “During the attacks ... many ... were deleriously fighting a dark creature, carrying ... a rope, who they believed was trying to strangle them. Some ... screamed at the beast to leave them alone, whereas others set off running ... in a desperate attempt to escape ... death.”

at Ondukuta : “The character in the hallucinations at Ondukuta was a woman and she was typically holding a snake. This

p. 162

woman was reported to call ... to come and swim in the oshanas (pools or water)”.


10. (pp. 171-85) “Divine Possession ... in the Graiko-Roman World : Iamblikhos”.

p. 177 divine possession

the human soul rises to the gods while simultaneously the gods descend to the human soul to possess it.”

thus the human soul, when possessed, sees through the eyes of a deity. Crucially, however, this is only possible because the soul contains a reflection of the divine”.

pp. 177-8 earthly & heavenly musics

p. 177

earthly music : “states of divine possession which occur in cults where musical instruments (such as pipes, cymbals, tambourines, etc.) are used”.

p. 178

heavenly music : “before it gave itself to the body, the soul heard the divine harmony. And accordingly even when it entered the body, such tunes as ... preserve the divine trace, ... it ... is reminded by them of the divine harmony ... (Mysteries, 3.9 [120 ...])” “

Mysteries = Iamblichus (transl by Clarke; Dillon; Hershbell) : On the Mysteries. Atlanta, 2003.

p. 179 location of universe within deities

For neither is it the case that the gods are confined to certain parts of the cosmos, nor is the earthly realm devoid of them. On the contrary, it is true of the superior beings in it that, even as they are not contained by anything, so they contain everything within themselves (Mysteries, 1.8 [28.11-29.1])”

the gods are transcendent in a causal and essential sense : they exist in a superior, eternal realm and so do not ‘move’ from one location to another ... . However, through their causal superiority and power, the gods are also immanent throughout the lower world, the material cosmos, through their divine illumination which permeates all things, even material objects (Mysteries, 3.12 [128.8-129.11])”


11. (pp. 186-204) “Waking the Entranced : Reassessing Spiritualist Mediumship through a Comparison of Spiritualist and Shamanist and Spirit-Possession Practices”.

p. 197 varieties of mediumship

In “a 1938 account of mediumship by the well-known medium Horace Leaf, we find a wide variety of ‘forms’ of mediumship, including psychometry, telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience, healing, telekinesis, direct voice [p. 202, n. 9 : “ ‘Direct voice’ is ... a form of oracular mediumship where the medium is overshadowed by spirit to the point where the sound of the medium’s voice changes. ... the changed voice is that of the spirit communicant and ... this indicates a closer ‘link’ ... information can more readily be relied upon as being the ‘authentic’ voice of spirit.”], materializations, automatic and impressional writing, controlled speaking, and astral projection or traveling.

To the list ..., we might also add psychic art (of which Coral Porge was a noted exponent)”. [p. 203, n. 10 : “See ... her biography, Living Images (Polge 1985).”]

Leaf 1938 = What Mediumship Is. London : Spiritualist Pr.

pp. 198-9 mediumship as channeling of spirits

p. 198

Burgess states that :

I define spirit possession for a shaman as a conscious and voluntary choice to enter a trance-like state in order to unite with a spirit in ... experience of intimate partnership that facilitates communication with the spirit. ...

p. 199

(2008, p. 97)”

Roger Walsh’s The World of Shamanism (2007) ... includes ... mediums as ‘channels for the spirits’ ”.

Burgess 2008 = MaryCatherine Burgess : A New Paradigm of Spirituality and Religion : Contemporary Shamanic Practice in Scotland. London : Continuum.


12. (pp. 205-22) “To Perform Possession and to be Possessed in Performance”.

p. 206 rescuing souls of the dead

some people do get stuck after death and remain ‘earth bound’ until they are rescued ... by a rescue group on earth. ... (Evans 1997, p. 1)”

the living rescue group then facilitate the soul’s ... move on into the Realm of Spirit.”

Evans 1997 : Michael Evans : Billy Grows up in Spirit : a Cockney Lad Returns after Death to Tell His Story. Exeter : Whole Being Centre.

pp. 211-2 spiritist activities of actresses

p. 211

statement by woman J : “I’ve had messages from my guides – I’ve had automatic writing”.

p. 212

statement by woman B : “transcendent. ... I felt very strongly that I had to plug into ... a cosmic energy”.


Bettina E. Schmidt & Lucy Huskinson (editrices) : Spirit Possession and Trance. Continuum Publ, London, 2010.