African DiasporaDivination And Spirit Possession
Devotees seek divine will and understanding through divination, which also serves as means of diagnosing illness and misfortune. A common divination system is the dilloggun, which draws on esoteric texts of the tradition that speak to the problem of the devotee. Guidance is also sought through the oracle.
Spirit possession is an important aspect of ADR. In possession, a spirit takes control of a devotee, provides direction, and imparts knowledge. When possessed, "the individual's executive faculties are temporarily placed in abeyance as the deity takes over … habitual functions. When the possession is ended the devotee is again himself with ordinarily no recollection of what has happened" (Walker, p. 36). The spirit would also possess devotees who surrender their lives to a deity or spirit. Thus, possession is a moment for submission to the suggestions of the spirit. In Candomblé, possession by the spirit is described as incorporar (to incorporate), pegar (to seize or grab), or manifestar (to manifest). In Winti religion, spirits control the conscience of an individual and reveal things to him. The spirit that possesses an individual might assume one aspect of that person's personality. Some spirits may appear only to certain people. In Trinidad, Ogun appears only to stout women, while Osian, the quiet god of the forest, appears only to slim men and women.
Songs and drum rhythms can invite possession. Possession can also take place during the initiation of a devotee. The drummer often releases the tension of monotony with breaks. Sometimes possession may come through hypnosis, periods of intense stress, pain, fear, or difficulties, which some interpret as a psychodrama or psychotherapeutic event through which the individual works out life's problems as they interact with other people. Possession may be a wild drama during which the possessed speaks on behalf of the deity, or it may end spontaneously, or when the community shifts emphasis to another deity. Possession establishes a spiritual bond, creating a communitas. In possession, liminality replaces normalcy, making room for public excesses that express social desires, and may offer an opportunity for the spirit, who speaks through the voice of the possessed, to criticize unsocial behavior.
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