Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Debunk possession

  1. Feb 20, 2004 #1
    This is of course not something which has been or could be (if it exists) studied in a lab. But I'm interested in your thoughts, scientifically-oriented or not.

    By possession, of course, I mean the supposed invasion of a physical body by a spirit one. It's something rarely claimed to occur in the Western world, but in primitive areas of Africa, it occurs on a daily basis.

    Did anyone read the Nat'l Geo. article in Jan '04 concerning the African tribe which still lives (mostly) like they always have? I forget their name -- something like Hrindi. Anyway, the anthropologist who has spent the most time with them casually mentions that she has seen the women of the tribe being possessed and becoming 'three times stronger than ordinary'. It is a nightly ritual among the women to sit around the fire and wait for possession. The men simply watch respectfully. In fact, a 'possessed' woman can order around a man.

    Your thoughts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2004 #2


    User Avatar

    Sounds like a simple ritual, methinks. The ceremony no doubt has a role in their society of empowering the females in an usually male dominated world. I am rather doubt about the 3 times stronger claim - I can't quite picture her asking the possessed women to pump iron...

    More likely the feeling of strength is metaphorical of the women feeling freed from normal expectations, into a more dominant role, or of developing a trance like state where brain activity is different from normal.
  4. Feb 20, 2004 #3
    The story of the African tribe reminds me of Vodun (Voodoo) and Santa Ria, which were brought by African captees to the new world and still exist in modified form.

    In this case "possession" is being "mounted" by a "god". The god takes the body over and controls it like a man would mount and control a horse: the persons spirit or soul is not absent, just not in control any more. The various gods speak through the mounted ones giving spiritual advice and so forth.

    In ancient Greek theater it was believed that the actor who wore the mask of a god actually became that god in some real and important way. I heard this explained thus; that wearing the mask freed the actor from himself such that what was divine about him might come forth and manifest itself.

    With these things in mind it is likely that these Africans etc are in fact working themselves into an altered state of consciousness where they feel freed from their limited everyday selves and able to enjoy the feeling of being much larger than life. In that kind of state of mind they may well be able to focus such that they can be three times stronger than normal via what we would think of as self hypnotism.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2004
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook