Constantinides ( 1977) contrasts public and private ritual but this ignores the fact
that anyone can attend all types of rituals (although for parts of the formal ceremonies,
only the leader, her patient, and the troubled zar spirit(s) are involved). The big difference
between formal and informal ritual is that in the former drums are beaten to bring down
all the spirits, and these lead to various dramatic dances/dramas/enactments of historical
Coffee is the desired beverage of most Habbashi spirits, a choice paralleled by the
local experience that Ethiopia produces the best coffee.
Such refreshments are always distinctive and express the demands of the different
spirits. Coffee has historically been very important in zar in Ethiopia as well as Sudan
(Messing 1958) and in Sennar is served to Ethiopian spirits. It is important that it be
served without sugar. Non-Muslim spirits frequently demand alcoholic drinks, while female spirits like Luliya prefer sweet drinks such as Pepsi Cola.
In otherwords, Luliya comes only if there is a need. See
Kenyon 1991a for a description of a parallel development in zar tumbura.
Zikr (lit. "remembrance") refers both to the type of ecstatic prayers practiced by Sufi
Muslims and, more colloquially, to the groups or brotherhoods associated with those
prayers. Such groups are all male.
Traces of this can perhaps be seen in the practice zar devotees still adopt of daubing
on their brows and cheeks the blood of an animal sacrificed to the zar spirits. However, actual drinking of the blood has not been practised at least since 1960, since the death of the
"Grandmother of Sennar Zar."
This woman was actually possessed by Shirumbay, the "new" spirit in tumbura zar
who has many similarities to Bashir. In tumbura it appears that the trend discussed here is
even more pronounced. Certainly much larger sums are given away.
This phrase was suggested to me by Sharp.
Male leaders in burei zar are not unknown (see, for example. Constantinides 1972; El-Nagar 1980) and as noted above, in tumbura, a male leader is the formal head (sanjak)
of any Box. However, no one would presume to make the sort of claims of dominance being discussed here. Boxes in burei are autonomous and no larger formal organization or
hierarchy is recognized. In tumbura I was told there is a loose centralized organization
based on Khartoum North but no one knew of a single head.
As Last ( 1991) noted happened with bori in Haussland. Here, I would disagree with Last ( 1990: 366), who appears to be suggesting that the zar cult has continued to thrive in Sudan because of the efforts of Sheik Hullu and the support of the university. This view ignores the very autonomous nature of each Box in zar.
Significantly, another term for zar is dastur, one meaning of which is a hinge or constitution. It is in this sense that we can see how effectively the zar spirits work to connect
the human and non-human domains.