Possession
   Shamans are sometimes distinguished from other religious or cultural leaders by their ability to deliberately enter a trance that is sometimes considered to be equivalent to possession. Mircea Eliade and Luc de Heusch categorically distinguish the two phenomena because they defined possession as involving a loss of control to spirits and a concomitant inability to master the spirits. If trance is defined as an altered state of consciousness, then possession can be defined as either “being controlled or directed by an otherthanhuman person or spirit” (from an experiential perspective) or “the performance of culturally recognizable signs that someone is a vehicle through which another being is acting.” While some interpreters see trances as permitting and leading to possession, others are insistent that both are sets of practices or behaviors—performances rather than states of mind. Caroline Humphrey notes that the important matter for shamans and their communities is rarely the individual’s inner state of mind (which is considered inaccessible to others), but the fact that particular actions identifiable as possession or trance indicate that the shaman is communicating with helpers or journeying to gain knowledge and abilities beyond those of other people. Ioan Lewis counters Eliade’s and Heusch’s schema by pointing to the regularity with which the “classic” shamanic initiatory and biographical accounts from Siberia and the Arctic include possession. He also details the parallels between “possession cults”—for example, the Zar, Sar, and Bori in Africa and Vodou in the Caribbean— and shamanism. Noting that phenomena understood as evidence of possession in one culture may be interpreted as madness or hysteria (sometimes caused by mushroom ingestion or “tarantism”), Lewis undermines the notion that these are entirely psychological experiences. Finally, he demonstrates that Eliade’s and Heusch’s formula is derived from their wider, religious perspective rather than from the data themselves. It can be concluded, therefore, that possession is an aspect of the election of shamans by otherworld persons who wish to communicate, help, or empower initiated individuals and continues to form a mode of relationship between shamans and their helpers. This help may include aiding others who are possessed or who have suffered “soul loss” under assault by powerful other-thanhuman persons. In Lewis’s concise formulation, shamans may seek to cure these forms of illness by “soul projection.” He also draws on the work of Sergei Shirokogoroff to conclude that shamans may be either (or both) “hostages to the spirits” and their sexual and/or marital partners. Shamans might, then, be defined as people who welcome possession as an aspect of (sexual/marital) relationship with spirits and be distinguished from the victims of unwanted possession, who may be the subject of exorcism by shamans (or other religious specialists, where there is no notion of acceptable possession).

Historical dictionary of shamanism. . 2007.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • POSSESSION — Observée dans des contextes culturels très divers, la possession par des entités divines – » esprits », « génies », etc. – est un phénomène social d’une grande fréquence, qui a suscité des interrogations et reçu des interprétations multiples. Une …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • possession — pos·ses·sion /pə ze shən/ n 1: the act, fact, or condition of having control of something: as a: actual possession in this entry b: constructive possession in …   Law dictionary

  • possession — pos‧ses‧sion [pəˈzeʆn] noun 1. [countable] something that someone owns: • It s vital to insure your possessions for the journey to your new home. 2. [uncountable] the state of having or owning something: • What happens if the buyer has… …   Financial and business terms

  • possession — et heritage, Possessio. La possession et terre d aucun, Dominatus. Une grande possession et heritage, Latifundium. Possession vuide et vacue, Vacua praedia. L art de musique est devenu en la possession de peu de gens, Ad paucos recidit ars musica …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • possession — Possession. s. f. Joüissance, estat de celuy qui possede quelque chose. Possession legitime. possession injuste. possession immemoriale & non interrompuë. possession d an & jour. possession bienfondée. estre en possession. se mettre en possession …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Possession — Pos*ses sion, n. [F. possession, L. possessio.] 1. The act or state of possessing, or holding as one s own. [1913 Webster] 2. (Law) The having, holding, or detention of property in one s power or command; actual seizin or occupancy; ownership,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Possession — (englisch und französisch für „Besitz“ oder „Besessenheit“) ist der Name einer Insel im Indischen Ozean, siehe Île de la Possession dreier Inseln in der englischsprachigen Welt, siehe Possession Island der Gemeinde La Possession im Norden von… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Possession — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Possession Título Possession Ficha técnica Dirección Joel Bergvall Simon Sandquist Reparto Sarah Michelle Gellar Lee Pace …   Wikipedia Español

  • possession — [n1] control, ownership custody, dominion, hold, occupancy, occupation, possessorship, proprietary, proprietary rights, proprietorship, retention, tenancy, tenure, title; concepts 343,710 Ant. lack, need, want possession [n2] something owned;… …   New thesaurus

  • possession — [pə zesh′ən] n. [OFr < L possessio] 1. a possessing or being possessed, as by ownership or occupancy; hold 2. anything possessed 3. [pl.] property; wealth 4. territory ruled by an outside country 5. control of oneself: rare except in SELF… …   English World dictionary

  • Possession — Pos*ses sion, v. t. To invest with property. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”