Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion

By Morton Klass; Maxine Weisgrau | Go to book overview

Giles, and Lesley Sharp for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this text; to the anonymous reviewers of Anthropological Quarterly; and to Dr Phyllis Chock for her patience and assistance throughout.

1.
The term "cult" is problematic in discussing zar since it implies greater centralization and cohesion of beliefs and activities than is actually found. Here I use the term simply to refer to those organized activities associated with zar beliefs.
2.
See Kenyon 1991a for details of this fieldwork. Although most of my data are drawn from Sennar, I also conducted research into zar in Nyala (Darfur Province) and in Khartoum during this period.
3.
During zar ceremonies (both burei and tumbura), the various spirits are summoned by their own distinctive drum-beat or "thread") played on large tambourine drums by the leader and her assistants.
4.
See Kenyon 1991a and 1991b for a brief discussion of these. Further discussion is forthcoming in Kenyon nd.
5.
In sum, it is described as being masculine, while burei is feminine, a good example of engenderment within zar. Sharp (personal communication) notes that this is very like tromba, which expects people to be "strong" even though the spirits like women because they are easy and weaker targets than men.
6.
Giles (personal communication) has observed a similar phenomenon in field sites in east Africa, where it is referred to as the Bag (mkoba in Swahili).
7.
Again there are significant parallels with the other cases described in this volume. Sharp, for example, notes that tromba inhabit the wind (tsioka).
8.
I am still in process of analyzing this and the referents are not entirely clear. However, it would appear to go back until the mid-nineteenth century at least.
9.
Here the parallel with the tromba spirit Mbotimahasaky is striking ( Sharp, personal communication, 1993: 173).
10.
Many people may be possessed by manifestations of the same spirit at the same ceremony at the same time, but no two individuals are ever possessed by different spirits simultaneously. This differs from both the other locations described in this volume, where different people do not become possessed by the same spirit. Giles (personal communication) found in East Africa that individual spirits are associated with a particular person, and although they may visit others occasionally, it would be very strange to have two people possessed by the same individual spirit. Sharp (personal communication) stresses that no two people are possessed simultaneously.
11.
This woman remained married to her husband of many years and they were both religious in the orthodox Muslem sense, spending a great deal of time in prayer and at the mosque, and having made the pilgrimage to Mecca several times. She also had children whom she did not involve in zar activities. These were kept quite apart from her personal life. The other umiyat all worked from their home, but kept at least one room reserved for zar locked when it was not in use. These women were divorced and shared their homes with their children and/or siblings and their families, all of whom were involved in zar.
12.
Most important of all, domestic space is separated from the place of sacrifice to the zar, the mayanga, which is associated with each house of zar ( Kenyon 1991a: 198).
13.
Such a group would include her close relatives and friends as well as those senior members of a particular zar Box who act as her mentors and supporters.
14.
The month of Rajab is a popular time for celebrations of all sorts, coinciding with sacred events in the life of the Prophet, and coming the month before preparations begin for Ramadan (the fasting month).

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