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spell


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A culture-bound syndrome widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and among African American and Latino communities in the southern United States and elsewhere, characterized by brief episodes of personality change during which the person experiencing the spell believes that some form of communication is taking place with dead relatives or their spirits. A person with this pattern of experiences is endowed locally with dignity and respect, and usually considers it a privilege resulting from being appointed by dead ancestors as a diviner; hence this disorder is distinguished sharply from ufufunyane, which is feared and despised and is associated with evil spirits. Also (in southern Africa) called thwasa. [From Old English spell speech, from spellian to speak or announce]

Subjects: Psychology.


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