The Varieties of Spirit Possession

Robert M. Torrance

in The Spiritual Quest

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 1994 | ISBN: 9780520081321
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520920163 | DOI:
The Varieties of Spirit Possession

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Communication with the divine through spirit possession is widespread in tribal (as in other) societies from almost every part of the globe. Sometimes, as among the highly centralized Ashanti of Ghana, the spirit speaks through his priest. More commonly, in Africa and elsewhere, the office of medium or diviner is distinct from the priest's, although the same person may hold both. In some tribes, the diviner is identical with the medium, whom some anthropologists call “shaman.” Where the two are distinguished, it is through the medium that the spirit speaks directly, whereas the diviner, though he may at first be empowered by unpredictable possession, thereafter interprets signs such as the patterns of scattered stalks or winnowed grain in accord with strict rules and conventions.

Keywords: communication; divine; spirit; possession; Ashanti; Ghana; diviner; shaman

Chapter.  6399 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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