Possession cults were a major religious form in Central Ethiopia before christianization. Since then, they survived repression which occured from time to time in the Ethiopian state.

Considered for a long time devilish, then pathological, possession has slowly been acknowledged as a religious, cultural and social fact. But even among scholars suspicion is obvious: they systematically question the sincerity of possessed people. And although they speak about an "ecstatic union" of the spirit and his devotee they don't bother examining possession crisis within the continuity of a cultual relation. The sacrifice of "transcendant" religions has been much studied, but the sacrifice of possession cults has been neglected. In fact possession cults are still considered an inferior religious form.

The article will present research on the symbolism of the rituals of possession cults. The commonly admitted "ecstatic fusion" of the god and its devotee during trance will be questioned through a study of the nuptial and royal metaphors developed in the zar cult. The purpose is to identify the mediations cultually developed between the devotee and his god, and ultimately between the devotee and his society.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 127-148
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.