Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures

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Spirit Possession: South Asia
(1,249 words)

Spirit possession refers to the hold exerted over a human being by a supernatural entity. In India, these spirits are called djinn, bhut, parhet, preta, and bala. Spirits are thought to come from an “unpacified soul” who died an untimely or violent death. In addition, a victim may believe that her food was doctored leaving “the body unprotected and therefore open to lingering spirits” (Pfleiderer 1981, 221). Women and men, Hindu, Muslim, and Christian, high and low caste members, rich and poor may become possessed.

In patriarchal, patrilocal villages, women are particularly vuln…

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Moore, Erin Patrice, “Spirit Possession: South Asia”, in: Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures, General Editor Suad Joseph. Consulted online on 26 September 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1872-5309_ewic_EWICCOM_0206c>
First published online: 2009

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