Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures

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Spirit Possession: Sub-Saharan Africa: East Africa
(2,049 words)

There are a number of spirit possession complexes in Islamic societies in eastern Africa. Among the best known are the zar/saar found throughout northeastern Africa, the pepo or shetani complex found throughout the Swahili coast, and the trumba complex of the Comoro islands and Madagascar. Local names for the spirits, the belief systems, and therapeutic practices and organizations, however, can vary widely. Moreover, there are often no clear boundaries between types of spirit possession, and possession beliefs and practices overlap, penetrate, and influence one another.


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Giles, Linda L., “Spirit Possession: Sub-Saharan Africa: East Africa”, in: Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures, General Editor Suad Joseph. Consulted online on 01 December 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1872-5309_ewic_EWICCOM_0206e>
First published online: 2009

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