An epidemic of ghosts
2010 08 30

By Vaughanbell | MindHacks.com



Mozambique is being ravaged by an epidemic of spirit possession. These ‘outbreaks’ have traditionally been dismissed as superstition by commentators from afar, but it is becoming increasingly recognised that different cultures have different ways of expressing mental distress and social anguish – to the point where a team of medical scientists have just published the first large scale epidemiological study on spirit possession and its link to mental and physical illness in post-civil war Mozambique.

In this form of possession, the person feels as if their normal identity has been ‘pushed aside’ by a ‘spirit’, who takes control of their body and typically communicates with other people. After the possession episode, the person usually has amnesia for the episode.

In Western medicine, this is usually understood through a psychological process called dissociation – where normally integrated mental processes become disconnected. It’s like the psychological equivalent of when two teams in a company can’t communicate very well, so they start operating independently rather than as an integrated organisation.

"Demon Possessed Man with Evil Spirits"

Video from: YouTube.com


In many societies around the world the concept of spirit possession plays an important role in understanding and explaining both the forces of nature and the psychology of individuals, to the point where it has both positive and negative effects.

Ethnographic studies have found that, during possession, ‘spirits’ may offer opinions or solutions to moral crises and may protect the individual from trauma and despair during times of violence.

However, negative possession states can causes problems or illnesses that are thought to be triggered by the harmful spirits, which can include anything from fertility problems, to family break-up, to physical aches and pains.

As times change, new spirits appear and old ones fade, each having different effects, benefits or risks. One legacy of the Mozambique war was the emergence of a new type of spirit that had a particular interest in the personal and social legacy of the conflict.

In the late twentieth century, as a result of the Mozambican protracted civil war, gamba spirits emerged. They became the principal harmful spirits and source of diagnosis. Gamba refers to the spirit of male soldiers who died in the war. Possession by gamba is a trauma of a double derivation. First, the host and patrikin [family on the father’s side] were severely exposed to warfare that led to vulnerability; and, second, to address that war-related vulnerability, the host’s patrikin were alleged to have perpetrated serious wrongdoings.


The person possessed by a gamba spirit publicly re-enacts the events of war, sometimes violently, and through the possessed person, the spirit demands public acknowledgement of the injustices they suffered. Spirits who are not appeased continue to torment the possessed person to the point of serious illness.

The study, led by medical anthropologist Victor Igreja and published in Social Science and Medicine, surveyed the extent of possession in two districts in central Mozambique and see how it was linked to trauma and physical health.

They used local criteria for the definition of spirit possession and validated interviews to assess trauma – such as the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire – developed to be used across cultures.

Households were selected at random, and out of 941 people evaluated, 175 (18.6%) reported some form of spirit possession while 5.6% had experienced multiple simultaneous spirit possession.

People who had been possessed were more likely to be women and have symptoms of physical illness but less likely to have had a baby. Those who went into trances as part of their possession were more likely to be experiencing psychological trauma, have fertility problems, have had a child die during their life and to suffer nightmares

One particularly striking finding was that the severity of psychological and physical symptoms was directly related to the number of spirits that a person had been possessed by, with more serious problems being associated with greater numbers of intruding spirits.

While the effects of spirit possession can be seen to have some relation to the Western diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety, there are also many distinct features that reflect a more local concept of how a distressed person can express their mental anguish.

For people familiar with diagnoses drawn from the DSM and World Health Organisation ICD system, it is tempting to think that established descriptions are the ‘real’ disorders while cases of spirit possession are simply a local interpretation of them.

What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that both our personal experience of psychological distress and how we express that to others, is shaped by our culture. In other words, diagnoses such as PTSD may be as much wedded to a particular culture as spirit possession.

Sadly, this new study is locked behind a pay-wall, but if you have access to the full thing I recommend giving it a read through as it is a curious combination of traditional statistical epidemiology applied to the ‘diagnosis’ of possession.

The paper demonstrates that spirit possession can be studied scientifically and makes as much sense as studying any other psychiatric problem that is defined by unusual or unhelpful behaviour, such as schizophrenia or panic disorder.


Article from: mindhacks.com



Also tune into:

Bob Curran - Dark Fairies, Folklore, Spirits & Creatures

Bob Curran - Earth Lights, Modern Interpretations, Tomtar & Troll

Anthony Peake - Cheating The Ferryman & The Daemon

Anthony Peake - Quantum Weirdness & Precognition

Michael Wynn - The Necronomicon, Magick & Hollywood

Patrick Heron - The Nephilim and the Pyramid of the Apocalypse

Barbara Lamb - Crop Circles Revealed

RedIce Webcast:

Christopher Moors - Halloween Special - The Living Dead - Segment One







Related Articles
"Devil Possessions" Swept England After Invasion, Study Suggests
Incantations for rain by KGB priests produce devilish greenish fireballs, priests report
Pope sees the Devil Behind Timing of Sex Abuse Crisis ... Exactly!
Mother says devil made her stab and decapitate her baby
Return of the Devil’s Bible to Prague Draws Crowds of Curious Czechs
The Devil worshippers of Iraq
Spirit World - Alien Kabbalah (Video)
Psychic Photography - Capturing spirits
Milosevic grave attacked to expel evil spirits
The new face of Malaysia’s Islamic witchdoctors
Easter - when Sweden’s witches come out to play
Poor Women in Nepal Subjected to Horrific Witch Hunts
Human sacrifices ’on the rise in Uganda’ as witch doctors admit to rituals
TV Psychic to be Executed for Witchcraft
Abuse of child ’witches’ on rise, aid group says
Medical explanations of bewitchment
Man Kills Wife During "Exorcism"
The exorcism of St. Petersburg’s parliament
Relatives convicted in ‘bizarre’ exorcism death
The Story of a Modern-Day Exorcist
Haunted hospital calls in exorcist
Glossolalia - Speaking in Tongues (Video)
Modern shamans all the rage in South Korea
Dealing With The Devil: Demonic Possession


Latest News from our Front Page

Your Smartphone Broadcasts Your Entire Life To The Secret Service
2014 09 23
Intelligence services collect metadata on the communication of all citizens. Politicians would have us believe that this data doesn’t say all that much. A reader of De Correspondent put this to the test and demonstrated otherwise: metadata reveals a lot more about your life than you think. Ton Siedsma is nervous. He made the decision weeks ago, but keeps postponing it. ...
Scots were tricked into voting ‘No’ – Salmond
2014 09 23
London politicians gulled Scottish voters out of independence by making a false “vow” to grant Glasgow extra powers, First Minister Alex Salmond has said. He also raised the prospect of another referendum, saying the break-up is inevitable. Alex Salmond, leader of the ’Yes’ campaign and the outgoing head of the Scottish National Party (SNP), told the BBC’s Sunday Politics program that ...
The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola
2014 09 23
The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity. Suspected Ebola patient Finda “Zanabo” prays over her sick family members before being admitted to the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on Aug. 21, 2014, near Monrovia, Liberia. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has spiraled out of control, affecting thousands of Liberians, Sierra Leonians, and Guineans, ...
Man bitten by Ebola patient flown to Switzerland
2014 09 22
Swiss authorities say a male nurse who was bitten by an Ebola patient while working in West Africa has been flown to Switzerland as a precaution. The health ministry says the unidentified man was working for an international organization in Sierra Leone when he was bitten by a child infected with Ebola on Saturday. The ministry says the nurse was wearing protective ...
Climate March in New York City Reveals Communists Demanding ’Revolution, Nothing Less’ - Trash the City With Garbage
2014 09 22
Tens-of-thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of New York City Sunday to demand political leaders take action on climate change. While the protest remained peaceful, much of the “People’s Climate March” appeared to be made up of fringe elements of the political left. Dozens of signs denouncing capitalism were spotted at the demonstration, often held by self-proclaimed socialists. “Capitalism is destroying the ...
More News »