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Nature volume 134, pages 256257 (18 August 1934) | Download Citation



Possession among the VaNdatu M. H. Ph. Junod describes in Africa, 7, 3, a case of VaNdau possession. The VaNdau established themselves among the Bathonga, well known from the description of them written by the late father of M. Junod, as a result of the reduction of the tribes of southern Mozambique in the course of last century. For a long time considered an inferior race and reduced to slavery, they, or rather the spirits of their deceased, have become a terror of the Bathonga, whom they seize in possession. The spirits of the dead VaNdau roam about seeking vengeance on those who have ill-treated them during life. They enter the living and torment them to such a degree that they are prepared to do anything that the spirit wills. Hence the Thonga have devoted themselves to the study of the means whereby these spirits may be propitiated. Many classes of the Ndau ancestral spirits are recognised, to each of which an appropriate chant or song is addressed. Many of these are full of obscene terms. This shows that the state of possession is assimilated to certain periods of life when the ordinary restraints are relaxed. There is no hesitation in abusing the spirit, as for example, in one chant, in which the daughter of a chief is addressed as a prostitute. The exorcist, an office which is not easy of attainment, is either ‘called’ or may be initiated officially. The period of initiation is six days, on the last of which the real ceremony takes place. It is an introduction to a spiritual knowledge and to a mystic state comparable to that of the mysteries of the beginning of the Christian era. The exorcist may be a man or a woman; and it is evident that they are well versed in taking advantage of the weaknesses of the people.

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