Exorcising the Spirits

Lesley A. Sharp

in The Possessed and the Dispossessed

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 1994 | ISBN: 9780520080010
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520918450 | DOI:
Exorcising the Spirits

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This chapter discusses an alternative form of healing offered by an unusual group of vahiny in northwest Madagascar. Protestantism and exorcists serve as a final option in a locally conceived hierarchy of resort, especially for problems associated with spirit possession and madness. A wide array of indigenous practitioners (including tromba, kalanoro, moasy, mpisikidy) play key roles in diagnosing and treating the symptoms associated with these categories of experience. However, if their repeated efforts fail to improve the health status of a patient, she may seek treatment from other healers whose training is derived from nonindigenous sources. Two factors account for this reluctance on the part of Sakalava patients and their kin to consult with Protestant exorcists. First, ethnic factionalism is key. Second, Protestants embrace a competing view of reality and, more specifically, of possession. Since they consider tromba spirits to be evil, few Sakalava are willing to seek out their treatments.

Keywords: healing; vahiny; Madagascar; Protestantism; exorcists; spirit; possession; Sakalava; factionalism; tromba

Chapter.  13171 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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