Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures

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Spirit Possession: Sub-Saharan Africa: West Africa
(1,853 words)

Although the literature regarding female spirit possession in Muslim West Africa is strikingly poor, in most of these Islamized societies where cult possessions take place it has been noted that women constitute the majority of the possessed. Among the Songhay of Niger, Stoller (1989) relates the fact that, during the holle hori (better known as the holey possession ceremony), the possessed mediums (called bari, horses of the spirits) are predominantly female, while male mediums participate occasionally in the possession troupes. Women can also become zima, priestesses of the p…

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Berliner, David, “Spirit Possession: Sub-Saharan Africa: West Africa”, in: Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures, General Editor Suad Joseph. Consulted online on 26 February 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1872-5309_ewic_EWICCOM_0206f>
First published online: 2009

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