Nubian <i>Zār</i> Ceremonies as Psychotherapy

John G. Kennedy

in Nubian Ceremonial Life

Published by American University in Cairo Press

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9789774249556
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781617970955 | DOI:
Nubian Zār Ceremonies as Psychotherapy

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This chapter describes the form and content of the Nubian zār ceremony and attempts to account for this therapeutic effectiveness. The Nubian zār ceremony is essentially a means of dealing with the demonic powers of evil, variously called gour (Mahas Nubian), shayṭan 'afrīt, iblīs, jinn (Arabic) or zār spirits, who may cause illness. The whole direction of the ceremony is towards propitiation and persuasion of spirit beings rather than coercion of them. Zār ceremonies vary considerably in detail according to the idiosyncrasies of the practitioner or “sheikh of the zār” and to the type of illness being treated. This chapter tries to single out those factors of the Nubian zār that could account at least partially for its curative effects on mental illness. Here, the essential emphases are on emotional rather than intellectual techniques.

Keywords: Nubian zār; ceremony; gour; shayṭan; 'afrīt; iblīs; jinn

Chapter.  9600 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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