Healing words: Becoming a spirit-host in Madagascar

Mack, John (2011) Healing words: Becoming a spirit-host in Madagascar. Anthropology and Medicine, 18 (2). pp. 231-243. ISSN 1469-2910

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In discussion of healing processes in sub-Saharan Africa, emphasis is characteristically placed on the role of performance. Yet in spirit mediumship, speech is also an important element in therapeutic practices. In Madagascar, the spirits (tromba) are often of exotic origins (frequently in time as well as space) and the language used is likewise exotic. A complex of techniques of enchantment is employed: amongst them, music, changes of dress, the burning of perfumes and incense, rum, putting matches in the mouth, or the use of herbal medicines. Sometimes artefacts, such as – in the case discussed – a large model ship, are employed. Although the setting is shrine-like, the techniques are at once both dynamic and eclectic, collapsing time and space into a single embodied moment when the spirit speaks through the vehicle of the medium. Such ‘spirit-speech’ is itself empowered and empowering, cathartic and curative.

Item Type: Article
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Art History and World Art Studies
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Centres > Centre for African Art and Archaeology
Depositing User: Katherine Humphries
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2012 09:57
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2023 12:30
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/39997
DOI: 10.1080/13648470.2011.591199

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