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

By Morton Klass; Maxine Weisgrau | Go to book overview

11
Hypnosis and Trance Induction in the Surgeries of Brazilian Spiritist Healer-Mediums 1

Sidney M. Greenfield

This chapter documents the surgical procedures performed by Brazilian spiritist healer-mediums, during which both healer and patient enter into an altered state of consciousness. Although the healer enters this state with public ritual, the patient, Sidney Greenfield argues, is also in an altered state of consciousness, precipitated without ritual by intensely held beliefs about the power of the healer and the positive outcome of the surgery. -- Editors' Comment


Introduction

In Part I of this paper I describe several surgical procedures performed by José Carlos Ribeiro, Edson Queiroz and Antônio de Oliveira Rios, three of the many Brazilian Spiritist 2 healer-mediums I have observed and studied since the early 1980s. What is unusual, if not spectacular, about these surgeries, at least from the perspective of Western science and medicine, is that the healer-medium actually cuts into the flesh of the patients, extracting human tissue without either anesthesia or antisepsis. 3 In spite of this, most patients experience little if any pain, bleed but minimally if at all, and few if any cases of infections or other complications have been reported. 4

While performing these surgeries the healer-mediums are in an altered state of consciousness (ASC) which they enter during a brief ritual usually participated in by their followers and supporters. The patients, I shall argue, also are in an ASC. However, there are no rituals in which they participate during which they can be seen to enter a trance state. Furthermore, the healer-mediums do not consciously

____________________
The Anthropology of Conciousness 2(3-4) ( 1991): 20-25.

-211-

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